Friday Five: The Songs of Boudleaux Bryant

Juli Thanki | February 12th, 2010

Tomorrow would have been Boudleaux Bryant’s 90th birthday. There are few songwriters who’ve been as important to music as Bryant. He and wife Felice are responsible for “Wake Up, Little Susie,” “Bird Dog,” “Brand New Heartache,” “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” and quite a few other classics. Below are some of my favorite renditions of songs that Boudleaux had a hand in writing. This very easily could have been the Friday Fifty, but there was no way I could narrow it down to only five.

  • Sleepless Nights9. “Sleepless Nights” – Patty Loveless

    Loveless named her 2008 covers album after this heartbreaking tune. It was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers, but Patty and Vince Gill’s version is just fine.

  • 16 Biggest Hits8. “(I Got) A Hole In My Pocket” – “Little” Jimmy Dickens

    The Bryants got their foot in the country music door when Dickens recorded “Country Boy” in 1949. “Country Boy” was a Top 10 hit, but I like this wild rockabilly song from 1958. It failed to chart.

  • Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, Vols 1 & 27. “Bye Bye Love” – Ray Charles

    This Everly Brothers tune kicked off Charles’ seminal album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The excellent big band horn arrangement on the song is courtesy of Gerald Wilson, who’s still arranging and conducting at 91 years old. Follow-up album Modern Sounds, Vol. 2 features the song “Midnight,” written by Bryant and Chet Atkins.

  • Sing And Play Their Current Hits6. “How’s The World Treating You” – The Louvin Brothers

    Here’s another one Bryant wrote with Chet Atkins. In addition to Charlie and Ira, there are some good versions of this song from Eddy Arnold (his went to #4), Elvis Presley, and, of course, Alison Krauss and James Taylor, who teamed up for an unforgettable duet on Livin’, Lovin’, Losin': The Songs of the Louvin Brothers.

  • The Essential Carl Smith 1950-19565. “Hey Joe!” – Carl Smith

    Boudleaux wrote this one all by his lonesome, and Smith topped the charts with it for eight weeks in 1953. Kitty Wells recorded a sequel from Joe’s girl’s point of view; her song, also called “Hey Joe,” is worth a listen too.

  • 4. “Change of Heart” – Teddy Thompson

    Another Bryant/Atkins classic. Kitty Wells’ 1957 version is good, but Thompson’s, released 50 years later (on underrated gem Upfront and Down Low) is beautiful. Of course, he’s got good music in his genes.

  • From Rocky Top to Muddy Bottom: The Songs of Boudleaux and Felic3. “Rocky Top” – Osborne Brothers

    Everyone loves Rocky Top, the magical land without smoggy smoke or telephone bills. Everyone, that is, but the revenuers.

  • American Legends2. “All I Have to Do Is Dream” – The Everly Brothers

    Babyfaced brothers Phil and Don are cute as a basket full of fuzzy bunnies on this 1958 tune that simultaneously topped the Billboard Pop, Country, and R&B charts. Brother duos have rarely sounded better.

  • The Complete Reprise Sessions1. “Love Hurts” – Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris

    You cannot go wrong with a song like “Love Hurts.” Unless you’re Nazareth, in which case, shame on you. “Love Hurts” was originally recorded by (surprise!) the Everlys, but Gram’s and Emmylou’s version kills me. Love can’t be so bad if it sounds so dang good.

  1. highwayman3
    February 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I actually just ‘googled’ who orgininally recorded ‘Love Hurts’ a couple days ago and found Roy Orbison did the orgininal. It could have been a wrong source but I just wanted to point it out and the timing that I’ve been diggin this song recently and now this list appears.

  2. Ollie
    February 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I was disturbed to see a version of Sleepless Nights by anyone other than Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris until I saw your choice for No. 1.

    If you wanted to make it an even 10, I’d have added Buddy Holly’s version of Raining in My Heart.

  3. Juli
    February 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Highwayman, I think Roy Orbison was the first to release it as a single, but Richie Unterberger writes that the first version was on A Date with the Everly Brothers in the liner notes of the reissued album:

  4. Bob
    February 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Great songwriter and the Everly Brothers are one of my all time favorite duos. I still have my Cadence 45’s. Love the AK-JT duet and I agree with Ollie on adding Buddy Holly’s version of Raining in My Heart. I also have it by Anne Murray and Leo Sayer.

  5. Rick
    February 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    What an amazing songwriter Boudleaux was, and Felice’s contributions didn’t hurt either. Nashville could sure use some songwriting talent of that caliber these sorry days of AirHead pop-rock schlock country music. Of course even if such a songwriter did exist in Nashville these days their songs would be of too high of quality to appeal to fans of Contemporary/Young Country Radio anyhow…

  6. NHunter
    February 12, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    He didn’t write “If God Made Oklahoma”, it was written by sandy Pinkard & Larry Collins. They used the tune of “Rockytop” and that’s how Boudleaux” and got on there. The song was written about Becky Hobbs.

  7. Roger
    February 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    …watched the Teddy Thompson video from the Letterman Show and have to appreciate them booking an artist with that traditional of a bent….now i am off to itunes to check out more of him….so much good real country music out there but it’s never on the radio… takes sites like this to find it…that’s why i read the daily updates here everyday…thanks 9513!!!

  8. Patrick
    February 13, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t have thee record t look at, but I’m about 95% certain the The Bryants did not write “You’re The Reason God MAde Oklahoma.” As I recall, it was co-written by Larry Collins (“Delta Dawn”) but the rest escapes me. Can someone check?

  9. Brady Vercher
    February 13, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    @Roger, aside from the referenced album, I’m not familiar with Teddy Thompson’s work, but I believe it’s his only country project so far.

    @Patrick, Larry Collins co-wrote it with the Bryants and Sandy Pinkard.

  10. Juli
    February 14, 2010 at 7:42 am

    @Roger, aside from the referenced album, I’m not familiar with Teddy Thompson’s work, but I believe it’s his only country project so far.

    Yep, but it sure is good. If you’re into the singer-songwriter thing, check out Thompson’s Separate Ways (the hidden track is the Bryants’ “Take a Message to Mary”). His most recent album, A Piece of What You Need is more indie poppish, but still pretty good.

  11. Jon
    February 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    A little poking around shows that NHunter’s correct; Collins and Pinkard wrote “You’re The Reason,” and the Bryants’ names were added after allegations (and perhaps litigation) related to the use of the melody of “Rocky Top.” “Co-writing” doesn’t quite capture the essence of that, I don’t think ;-).

  12. Jon
    February 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    And by the way, while this list isn’t a bad one, it’s an awfully easy one, overlooking some of Bryant’s bestest, like “We Could,” or “Take Me As I Am,” or the songs on the terribly under-appreciated, must-have Osborne Brothers’ all-Bryant collection, Rocky Top To Muddy Bottom – like, for instance, “Don’t Ever Tell Me You Love Me” or “Just Another Dream I’ll Have To Learn To Live WIthout.” And while I know it’s heretical to say so around here, the Parsons version of “Love Hurts” is pretty lame when compared to many other versions by, for instance, the Everlys, or the Osbornes, or, more recently, the fabulous Sally Jones, who made it the title track of her first Pinecastle release.

  13. Jon
    February 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    And lastly, let me just point out that the version of “Rocky Top” pointed to by the list is, while fine, a mid-70s remake of a 1967 recording; you can find the original here: .

  14. Ollie
    February 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Also, if you’re taking the time to explore Teddy Thompson’s work, please check out his eponomous debut CD, whose hidden track is a duet with Emmylou Harris on the Everly Brothers’ song, “I Wonder If I Care As Much,” which wasn’t written by the Bryants, but it sounds as though Don could have been heavily influenced by them when he composed this song.

  15. Hubba
    February 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Now why did I think that Gram Parsons himself wrote love hurts?
    And can you do one of these features (or any kind of feature) on Bill and Mary Sharon Rice?

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