Whether you are a Tennessee Vols fan, or you love country music, there is an excellent chance you have heard the song Rocky Top. Recorded by countless artists, most notably the Osborne Brothers, Rocky Top is said to be the number one college football fight song of all time (USAToday). The real question to ask is where did this song originate?
What is a Rocky Top?
Although there is no information from Felice or Boudleaux Bryant where they got the name “Rocky Top,” some think the area called Thunderhead Mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the location of interest that inspired the name because of its rocky peak.
The Origin of Rocky Top
On August 28, 1967, couple Felice and Boudleaux Bryant checked into room 388 of the Historic Gatlinburg Inn. The couple was working on a slow-tempo album for Archie Campbell called the Golden Years. While the couple was writing songs, Felice demanded that they write a more upbeat song for the album. At this point, Boudleaux stated, “Wish that I was on old Rocky Top, Down in the Tennessee hills.” (Gatlinburg.com, 2012). This sparked an idea from Felice and the couple was able to write the song in 15 minutes.
Later that year, on Christmas day, the Osborne Brothers met with the Bryants at their home and were asked to record the song. Moments into hearing the song, Sonny Osborne stated, “I don’t need to hear anymore. I’ll take it.” (Hill, 2014).
The Song’s Popularity
The Osborne brothers were touring around the world presenting the new songs, including Rocky Top. The song first caught popularity when it was played at a University of Tennessee football game in 1972 by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. The song was a huge hit and has been played at almost every UT sporting event since.
On February 15, 1982, the song was elected by the general assembly to be an official Tennessee state song (joining a list with nine other songs). The song is such a sensation that places of business now get named after it and towns like Lake City, Tennessee change its name to Rocky Top (although that’s a whole ‘nother story). We are honored to have had the history of Rocky Top get its’ start at the Historic Gatlinburg Inn. No matter where you are in the world, you can always remember, “Rocky Top, you’ll always be, Home sweet home to me!”