This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
FELICE AND BOUDLEAUX BRYANT wrote several thousand songs, somewhere between three and seven, depending on who’s counting. Here are a few of them that you might recognise.
People of a certain age (that is, round about mine) tend to associate them with the Everly Brothers, as they wrote a bunch of songs for them, most of which were big sellers. There’ll be a few of those today.
The Oxford American Magazine summed up their writing style best...
”If you’re drawn to musicians who salvage their art from tragic romance, addiction, and other personal wreckage, you may as well turn elsewhere now.
“The lives and joint career of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Nashville’s first full-time, non-performing songwriters, offer few attractions for the rubbernecker. By all accounts, their 42-year marital and creative partnership was nearly idyllic, as Boudleaux acknowledged when asked to explain the optimism of many of their songs: 'I suppose it’s because we’ve had such a very wonderful relationship.'”
“'We started writing for the hell of it, for fun,' Boudleaux said, 'and after about 80 songs we thought, this looks like it could be a good thing. But we originally wrote them for our own amusement.'”
I’ll start, appropriately, with the EVERLY BROTHERS and one of their big hits.
As mentioned above, they wrote a lot for the Everlys, and this will not be the only song of theirs. It’s Wake Up Little Susie.
By 1960 there was a fad for teenage tragedy songs. Not just the teenagers (Tell Laura I love Her, Teen Angel and so on) but others as well (by Marty Robbins, Patti Page etc).
The Bryants wrote a song to send up this phenomenon, called Let’s Think About Living and BOB LUMAN was the singer who turned it into a considerable hit.
Bob was from Texas and lived in some wonderfully named towns early on – he was born in Blackjack, grew up in Nacogdoches and went to high school in Kilgore. His father was a good amateur musician and encouraged young Bob.
His first band included the great guitarist James Burton, before he played with Ricky Nelson, Elvis, Emmylou Harris and anyone else who wanted the very best. Anyway, here’s Bob with the song.
BUDDY HOLLY mostly performed his own songs.
However, now and then he’d have a go at someone else’s. This one turned out to be quite a hit for Buddy, Raining in My Heart.
Here is our second dose of the EVERLY BROTHERS.
Their song is Sleepless Nights. This was also performed by the Flying Burrito Brothers, a group that contained Chris Hillman, founder member of The Byrds, and Gram Parsons, himself a member of The Byrds for a short time.
A few people have recorded the song, She Wears My Ring, but the version I like is by JOHNNY O'KEEFE.
Johnny was the first and best of Australia’s early rock and rollers. He started out as a wild one (a song he wrote and recorded) but like many from that time, mellowed over the years.
This song is on the mellower end of his output, but it’s still evident he’s a rocker when you listen to his voice.
Love Hurts was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers. It was later covered really well by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Emmy also did her own version, as have several other performers. One of those is LEO SAYER.
Leo was a bit of a chameleon, changing styles depending on what was popular at the time. However, he always brought a little extra to everything he performed. This one is a little heavy on the celestial choirs and strings but he does a good job.
Some more EVERLY BROTHERS.
It seems they were naughty and got banged up in the slammer. However, they don’t want Mary to know about this. It should become obvious to her when they don’t come home for quite some time, or ever, according to the song. Take a Message to Mary.
When SUE THOMPSON had several hits in the early sixties - she sounded to us as if she were a teenager just starting out. We were wrong as she was was well into her thirties at the time.
This isn’t one of the songs of hers I remember from then, but it was written by our pair today, so it’s included. The song is Have a Good Time.
Doug Dillard, of The Dillards, and Gene Clark, from The Byrds, teamed up to record a couple of fine albums under the name DILLARD AND CLARK.
Doug was a virtuoso banjo player, which will be demonstrated on the song Rocky Top. Donna Washburn is also prominent singing along with them.
Okay, it’s approaching the last dance of the evening, so grab your sweetie for that last dance. Here are the EVERLY BROTHERS to do the honors.
This is what we used to call a “clutcher hugger”, and we blokes really liked these. I don’t what the gals thought about them. The song is Devoted to You.
FELICE AND BOUDLEAUX may have claimed to be non-performing songwriters, but they did make a couple of albums, so we’ll finish with them.
They’re better than they give themselves credit for as they demonstrate on All I Have to Do is Dream, originally a hit for (guess who?) the Everly Brothers.