Wednesday, August 16, 2017

'Rocky Top' turns 50 as songwriters of today gather in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The Big Orange Banditos, former members of the University
of Tennessee band, performed "Rocky Top" at the celebration.
(Photo by Rhonda Bletner, The Mountain Press)
It's a big week for songwriters in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Yesterday The Gatlinburg Inn celebrated the 50th anniversary of the writing of "Rocky Top" by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant in Room 388, and tonight the annual Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival begins.

The Bryants offered "Rocky Top" to the Osborne Brothers, a Kentucky-born bluegrass duo, who increased the tempo and made it the B side of a late 1967 single, "My Favorite Memory." Ralph Emery of Nashville's WSM had the Osbornes as guests on his radio show one night, and played "Rocky Top." The switchboard lit up, and a hit was born. Lynn Anderson took it mainstream with a 1970 single, and in 1972 the University of Tennessee marching band started playing it, to great appreciation from Volunteer fans in Neyland Stadium in nearby Knoxville.

The success of the song is a four-legged stool: the writers, who are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame; the initial performers, who improved it; the disc jockey, always an important element of country music, who saw its potential; and a continuing performance in a signature venue of a state. It is a state song of Tennessee and No. 7 on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Songs of the South."

The writer and relatives are part owners of The Gatlinburg Inn.

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