50 years later: A look at ‘Rocky Top”s roots

Local News

GATLINBURG (WATE) – The song “Rocky Top” is reaching a milestone this month by turning 50 years old. It was written in Gatlinburg all those years ago.

Whether it is at a University of Tennessee football game or on the radio, if you call East Tennessee home, you likely know the song.

“It’s kind of the shrine to the state of Tennessee as well,” said Karen Massey with Kreative Events. Kreative Events is helping celebrate the 50th year of “Rocky Top” in Gatlinburg.

“Rocky Top” had its humble beginnings at the Gatlinburg Inn where it was written by husband and wife Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.

“They checked in in 1967 working on another album project. They wrote the song ‘Rocky Top’ in the midst of all that,” said Gary Bailey, general manager at the Gatlinburg Inn.

The Bryants penned the song in room 388 which is preserved exactly as it was back then. The scribblings of the original sheet music are still on the wall.

The song was actually was born out of bickering.

“They wrote the song pretty much so he could pacify her a little bit. She was tired of writing the slow sad songs. She wanted something upbeat, so they stopped and within 10 minutes they had it on paper,” Bailey said.

A lifetime of success followed those few minutes. The Osborne Brothers recording the song later that same year, followed by dozens of artists throughout the decades.

It was in 1972 that “Rocky Top” got its fame on the football field. The band first used it during a halftime show, and it stuck. Now it is UT’s unofficial fight song, and USA Today called it the country’s best fight song in 2015.

The state also adopted it as one of the state songs.

“A simple little song has gone from a bluegrass song to a state song to, I mean it’s known nationwide,” Bailey said.

Of course the 50th anniversary of “Rocky Top” is something that needs to be celebrated, so that is exactly what they are planning to do at the Gatlinburg Inn. They were setting up on the lawn Monday for a big party to happen Tuesday night from 5:00 until 10:00. It is free and open to the public.

“We’re going to hear a lot of ‘Rocky Top.’ We also have a little surprise with a lot of brass that will be playing ‘Rocky Top,'” Massey said.

While we may never know exactly what peaks the Bryants were referring to as “good ole’ Rocky Top,” we do know the Gatlinburg Inn is the song’s home sweet home.

“That’s what we really hang our hat on here,” Bailey said.

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