Boudleaux and Felice Bryant Exhibition Opens Next Month

The songwriting mastery of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant will be featured in an upcoming Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibition, opening Sept. 27 and running through Aug. 2, 2020.

As Nashville’s first full-time professional songwriters, the Bryants sold over half a billion records by one estimate, received 59 BMI awards and composed more than 6,000 songs, of which over 900 were recorded by artists in many different musical genres, including country, rock & roll, pop and R&B. Among the Bryants’ hits were the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Additionally, their works include Little Jimmy Dickens’ “Country Boy,” Jim Reeves’ “Blue Boy” and Roy Orbison’s “Love Hurts,” which later became an international hit for the rock group Nazareth. The Bryants also wrote “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass standard named one of Tennessee’s state songs and a favorite at University of Tennessee sporting events.

Items featured in We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant include handwritten lyrics, music and personal artifacts. Highlights include:

  • Complete collection of bound ledgers containing the Bryants’ original, handwritten lyrics and music for most of their songs
  • Violin used by Boudleaux Bryant when he was a young professional musician
  • Felice Bryant’s childhood prayer book, with a handwritten inscription noting her First Holy Communion at Wisconsin’s St. Casimir Church in 1937
  • Felice Bryant’s handwritten recipe for her renowned pasta sauce
  • The 1961 Martin 0-16NY guitar used by Boudleaux Bryant to write “Rocky Top”
  • Wollensak 3M T-1500 reel-to-reel tape recorder, built in the 1950s and used by the Bryants to record song ideas and home demos

The Bryants established an influential benchmark for songwriters when, in 1957, they negotiated a 10-year deal with music publisher Acuff-Rose that returned to the Bryants all publishing rights for their songs at the end of the agreement—the first of its kind in Nashville. During this time, the Bryants began writing for Acuff-Rose client the Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers recorded 29 Bryant songs. In 1967, in accordance with their contract, the Bryants began reclaiming domestic copyrights for the songs they wrote for Acuff-Rose and moved the titles to their House of Bryant publishing company. Today, House of Bryant, owned by the Bryants’ sons, Dane and Del, continues to thrive.

In support of the exhibition’s opening, Del Bryant, musicians and historians Bill C. Malone and Bobbie Malone and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Dennis Morgan will take part in a panel discussion focused on the legacy and influence of the Bryants in the museum’s Ford Theater on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, at 2 p.m. Morgan was the only songwriter with whom Felice worked following Boudleaux’s death.

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About the Author

Hollabaugh, a staff writer at MusicRow magazine, has over 20 years of music business experience and has written for publications including American Profile, CMA Close Up, Nashville Arts And Entertainment, The Boot and Country Weekly. She has a Broadcast Journalism and Speech Communication degree from Texas Christian University, (go Horned Frogs), and welcomes your feedback or story ideas at [email protected]

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