Shellman plans festival to honor native son Bryant

SHELLMAN -- One-half of perhaps the greatest husband-wife songwriting team in popular music history will be honored Saturday in the first Boudleaux Bryant Festival at Shellman City Park here.

Bryant and his wife, Felice, wrote songs that were famously recorded by such music royalty as the Everly Brothers, Charley Pride, Simon & Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Tony Bennett, Eddy Arnold and Bob Dylan, among others.

The pair's songs were either ignored or rejected until Little Jimmy Dickens' recording of their "Country Boy" went to No. 7 on the country music charts in 1948. Eventually, more than 1,500 of the Bryants' songs were recorded, perhaps most impressive among them the string of hits they wrote for the Everly Brothers, including "Bye Bye, Love," "All I Have to Do Is Dream," "Wake Up, Little Susie" and "Bird Dog."

One of the most recognizable Felice and Boudleaux Bryant compositions for college football fans -- especially those in the Southeastern Conference -- is "Rocky Top."

"There have been a lot of ideas thrown around over the years about ways we could honor Boudleaux," Shellman Mayor Paul Langford said. "He and Felice had such phenomenal success, and since he was born and raised right here we wanted to come up with an appropriate way to recognize his accomplishments.

"What better way than through music?"

Evan Barber and the Dead Gamblers, High-Strung Hammock, "American Idol" performer Leticia Rice and other artists will perform at the recently restored historic Shellman Railroad Depot during the day of music and fun activities that kicks off at 10 a.m. Other highlights include food and crafts vendors, antique cars and a petting zoo.

There is no cost for festival attendance, which is being sponsored by the Randolph County Veterans Memorial Committee. Any proceeds will be used for committee projects.

"(Albany native) Dewey Hall has been talking to folks here about doing something to honor Boudleaux Bryant for a while, and Dewey got the OK from Boudleaux and Felice's son to hold the festival," Zoral Stubbs, the chair of the Randolph County Veterans' Entertainment Committee, said. "I'm not a native of Shellman -- I moved here in 2003 -- but there's always been talk about doing something like this.

"We finally put a group together that's taken the idea and run with it. We hope this first one goes well and we can turn it into an annual event. Hopefully it will grow bigger each year."

Additional information about the first Boudleaux Bryant Festival is available at the www.rcgvm.org website.