Spectropop remembers

FELICE BRYANT (1925 - 2003)

One of the most successful and prolific songwriters in music history

Legendary songwriter Felice Bryant died on April 22nd at her home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, she had been diagnosed with cancer. She and her late husband Boudleaux are credited with writing more than 800 songs - including 'Raining In My Heart', 'Wake Up Little Susie' and 'Bye Bye Love' - that resulted in international sales estimated at more than 500 million copies. The couple's compositions played a key role in the Everly Brothers' career, and their songs have been recorded by a wide range of artists including Eddy Arnold, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughan, the Grateful Dead, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Elvis Costello, Count Basie, Dean Martin, Ruth Brown, Cher, R.E.M. and Ray Charles.

Born Matilda Genevieve Scaduto on August 7th, 1925, in Milwaukee, Felice Bryant began her songwriting journey as a child when she began composing lyrics set to traditional Italian melodies. In 1945, she was working as an elevator operator at a Milwaukee hotel where Boudleaux, a classically trained violinist, was performing. They eloped just two days later and remained married until the death of Boudleaux in 1987. She adopted her professional name, Felice, from a pet name her husband called her.

Boudleaux Bryant toured with jazz and country bands before the couple settled in his hometown of Moultrie, Georgia, where they began to concentrate on their songwriting. Legendary music publisher Fred Rose pitched one of the Bryant's songs to Little Jimmy Dickens. In 1949, 'Country Boy' became Dickens' second Top 10 hit. At Rose's urging, the Bryants moved to Nashville in 1950. In doing so, they were among the first to relocate in Nashville solely to pursue a songwriting career. The Bryants are also credited as early pioneers of song promotion and self-publishing in Nashville. They formed their own company, Showcase Music, in 1954 before striking a deal with Rose's company, Acuff-Rose Music Publishing. In an unprecedented move, the Bryants' contract with Acuff-Rose stipulated that the publishing rights to their songs would eventually revert to their ownership. When their Acuff-Rose contract expired in 1966, they assumed ownership of their song catalogue to launch their own music publishing company, House of Bryant Publications.

The couple reaped the financial benefits when rock'n'roll was born in the '50s. They co-wrote most of the Everly Brothers' early hits, including 'Bye Bye Love', 'Wake Up Little Susie', 'Problems' and 'Take a Message to Mary'. Buddy Holly recorded their composition 'Raining in My Heart' during his final recording session in 1958. Their other hits include 'Baltimore' for Sonny James, 'Got a Hole in My Pocket' for Ricky Van Shelton, Jimmy Dickens' 'Out Behind the Barn', Carl Smith's 'Hey Joe', 'Blue Boy' for Jim Reeves, 'The Richest Man in the World' for Eddy Arnold and Chet Atkins' signature instrumental, 'Country Gentleman'.

Although Felice Bryant preferred to co-write, one of her solo compositions, 'We Could', was recorded by a variety of artists, including George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Kitty Wells, George Morgan, the Louvin Brothers, Charley Pride, Al Martino, John Prine, Reeves, Dickens and others. She wrote the song as a birthday gift to her husband.

The Bryants moved to Gatlinburg in 1978 and operated the Rocky Top Village Inn in the Great Smoky Mountains. Their song 'Rocky Top' was soon adopted as Tennessee's official state song. In the early '50s, the couple had recorded four singles for MGM Records, but their only album as performers, A Touch of Bryant, was released in 1979. Inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1991, the Bryants are also members of the National Academy Of Popular Music, The Songwriters Hall Of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame.

Felice is survived by two sons; real estate executive Dane Bryant of Nashville and BMI executive vice president Del Bryant of New York.

Calvin Gilbert - http://www.cmt.com/news/feat/fbryant.042203.jhtml

Matilda Genevieve (Felice) Bryant, songwriter: born August 7, 1925 – died April 22, 2003.