‘Rocky Top’ was almost never written

Felice and Boudleaux Bryant wrote “Rocky Top,” but the song almost never happened.
Published: Oct. 22, 2022 at 11:29 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In 1967, at the Gatlinburg Inn inside room 388, Felice and Boudleaux Bryant wrote a song that would later become an anthem for the University of Tennessee.

The song they wrote was “Rocky Top,” but it almost never happened.

Del Bryant, son of the husband-wife songwriting team, said the song was written by accident because they were both hired to work on an album for Archie Campbell, star of the show “Hee Haw.”

With only two songs left to finish the album, Felice Bryant started to argue with Boudleaux Bryant because she wanted to write a more upbeat song.

“My father got a little bit upset with her. So, he grabbed his guitar and started singing, ‘Wish that I was on old Rocky Top down in the Tennessee hills,’ there what do you think?’ She said, ‘I like it. Let’s write it,’ and then about 15 minutes later, it was written,” Bryant said.

The song later became a bluegrass success reaching number 33 on the U.S. Country charts performed by The Osborne Brothers. On Feb. 15, 1982, the song was elected by the general assembly to be an official Tennessee state song.

During the UT homecoming game Saturday, more than 400 alums returned to Neyland Stadium to recreate the 1972 debut of “Rocky Top.” A moment, 50 years in the making, that Bryant said was so special for him and his family.

He said people should notice the songwriters as much as the artists. “Become aware of the people who write the music you like. There are writers behind a lot of that music and root for them also,” Del Bryant said.