New Exhibit Honors Bryants’ Songwriting Legacy
September 27, 2019
Last night, during the opening of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s newest exhibition, We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, it was announced that the Bryants’ sons, Del and Dane, have donated a comprehensive collection documenting their parents’ careers, which includes 16 songwriting ledgers, as well as personal correspondence, awards, photographs, demo recordings, draft manuscripts, musical instruments and artifacts, to the museum.
“At the heart of the Bryant Collection are the songwriting ledgers containing the bulk of the couple’s catalog. Written in their own handwriting, these volumes illustrate the creative process by revealing early versions of lyrics, Boudleaux’s hand-drawn musical notations capturing timeless melodies, abandoned song ideas, edits, doodles and Felice’s loving dedications written on the inside covers. Spanning over 35 years, it is an archive that represents one of the most complete bodies of work of any songwriter,” said the museum’s Vice President of Museum Services Brenda Colladay. “The donation is an incredible gift to the museum, to scholars who will be able to study the Bryants’ lives and work, and to the world—as we fulfill the museum’s mission to preserve and share this important musical legacy in perpetuity.”
“We are delighted that Nashville’s first full-time professional songwriters and 1991 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees will have a home here in perpetuity,” said Dane and Del Bryant, Boudleaux and Felice’s sons. “We are honored to acknowledge that we have gifted their belongings to the museum so that their impact on the industry and ability to inspire new generations of songwriters, music scholars, and fans, will never be lost and moreover, will be celebrated.”
In addition to the donation announcement, the evening included special tribute performances of some of the Bryants’ best-known songs. Taking the stage to honor the Bryants were Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua performing “Country Boy;” Jason Isbell and Alison Krauss performing “Love Hurts;” and Bobby Osborne ending the evening with “Rocky Top,” a bluegrass standard named one of Tennessee’s state songs and a favorite at University of Tennessee sporting events.
We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant tells the story of Nashville’s first full-time professional songwriters, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. The exhibit opens tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, and runs through Aug. 2, 2020.
Items featured in We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant include handwritten lyrics, music and personal artifacts. Some highlights:
- Complete collection of bound ledgers containing the Bryants’ original, handwritten lyrics and music for most of their songs, including “Bye Bye Love,” “Out Behind The Barn,” “Love Hurts,” “Come Live With Me,” “Rocky Top” and other classics
- 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 satin and lace dress worn by Felice Bryant when she and Boudleaux attended a BMI awards dinner in New York in the late 1950s
- Awards presented to Boudleaux and Felice Bryant when they were elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972
In support of the exhibition’s opening, the Bryants’ youngest son, Del, 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.
We Could: The Songwriting Artistry of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant is presented by the Willard & Pat Walker Charitable Foundation, Inc. Care and management of the Bryant Collection, as well as public access to its contents through digitization, are made possible through a generous grant from the Foundation.
More information about this exhibit can be found at CountryMusicHallofFame.org