Boudleaux was born in Shellman, Georgia and trained as a classical violinist. He performed with the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra during its 1937-38 season, but had more interest in country fiddling and joined Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys, an Atlanta-based western music band. In 1945 he met Scaduto, whom he called Felice, while performing at a hotel in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they were later married. “All I Have To Do Is Dream” is autobiographical; Felice was an elevator operator at the Sherwood Hotel and when she saw him she recognized him immediately – she had seen his face in a dream she had when she was eight years old, and had “looked for him forever.” She was nineteen when she saw him at a water fountain in the hotel, ran up and accidentally drenched him with water and offered to buy him a drink.
During the first years of their marriage, the Bryants struggled financially, living in a mobile home, where they wrote upwards of 80 songs. They tried to sell their compositions to a number of country music artists but were either ignored or rejected until Little Jimmy Dickens recorded their song “Country Boy”. It went to #7 on the country charts in 1948 and opened the door to a working relationship with Fred Rose at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1950, the Bryants moved to Nashville to work full-time at songwriting. Some of their compositions from the early 1950s included the swinging “Sugar Beet” (recorded by Moon Mullican) and the bluesy “Midnight” (recorded by Red Foley).
The Bryants wrote more songs for Dickens as well as for popular country artist Carl Smith, and at the same time released four 45 rpm singles of their own to modest success. Beginning in 1957 the Bryants came to national prominence in both country music and pop music when they wrote a string of hugely successful songs for the Everly Brothers and hits for others such as Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly. Their compositions were recorded by many artists from a variety of musical genres, including Tony Bennett, Sonny James, Eddy Arnold, Bob Moore, Charley Pride, Nazareth, Jim Reeves, Leo Sayer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan (Dylan’s Self Portrait album has one of Felice’s tracks and one co-written with her husband), and others.
In 1962, The Bryants wrote “Too Many Chicks”, a song that became a hit for Leona Douglas, the first African-American woman to record as a country and western singer. Leona was discovered by Fred Foster of Monument Records. Fred Foster also noticed that Boudleaux had a secretary, a woman named Bobby McKee, and he suggested that Kris Kristofferson use her name in a song, which became Me and Bobby McGee.
The Bryants eventually moved to a home not far from Nashville on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, near friends Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. In 1978, they moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where they had often gone to write songs, including “Rocky Top,” at The Gatlinburg Inn. They purchased the “Rocky Top Village Inn” in the town next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In 1979 they released their own album called A Touch of Bryant. “Rocky Top“, written in 1967, adopted as a state song of Tennessee in 1982 and the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee sports teams. They wrote more than 1,500 recorded songs.
During their career, the Bryants earned 59 BMI country, pop, and R&B music awards. In 1972 they were inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1986 into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, in 1991 into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Boudleaux Bryant is the third most successful songwriter of the 1950s on the UK Singles Chart, Felice the 21st
Boudleaux Bryant died in 1987. Felice Bryant remained active writing songs and in 1991 the Nashville Arts Foundation honoured her with their “Living Legend Award”. She died in 2003. They are interred together in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.
- February, 13, 1920
- Shellman, Georgia
- January, 01, 1970
- Jun. 25, 1987
Cause of Death
- Woodlawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum
- Nashville, Tennessee