The registration book of the Historic Gatlinburg Inn shows that Mr. and Mrs. Boudleaux Bryant checked in at the Inn on August 28, 1967. They were assigned room 388. The rest, as they say, is history.
The husband-wife team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, co-writers of many great songs including many hits for The Everly Brothers, had been coming to Gatlinburg for some time; they enjoyed the beauty of the mountains and the then-quaintness of the little town that billed itself as the Gateway to the Smokies.
Today the Inn carries on it’s musical legacy. Each year the Inn plays host to the Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival as Nashville’s hit songwriters
They were intending on writing songs for an Archie Campbell album called “The Golden Years”. Apparently it was a bit depressing; Felice suggested they take a break and write something a little more up-tempo. “Rocky Top” was penned in 15 minutes. The Bryants returned to their home in Nashville and mentioned the song to their neighbor, Sonny Osborne. The Osborne Brothers gave the song their own treatment and it was released on Christmas Day, 1967. The song was never a major hit, although it charted for both The Osbornes and Lynn Anderson. Not until The Pride of the Southland Band of the University of Tennessee performed the song at a football game in 1972 did it begin to turn into the hallowed tune that it is today.
The Bryants continued to return regularly to the Inn; after the Inn began closing during the winter, owners Rel and Wilma Maples would allow the couple full access to the premises, and they stayed there for as long as they wished, writing songs in room 388.
The Bryants weren’t the first songwriters to stay at the Inn. Many of Nashville’s biggest stars stayed there over the years, including; Ferlin Husky, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Roy Acuff (known as a great entertainer, he also co-wrote “Big Bad John with Jimmy Dean), Eddie Arnold (co-writer of “You Don’t Know Me”), Donna Fargo (“Funny Face”, “Happiest Girl In the Whole U.S.A.”), and Webb Pierce (“I Ain’t Never”, “I Don’t Care”) his silver dollar plated Bonneville a conspicuous sight in the Inn parking lot.
Long before her marriage to Johnny Cash, June Carter (“Ring of Fire”) here with country star Carl Smith in 1962. Don Gibson (“Sweet Dreams”, “Oh Lonesome Me”, “I can’t Stop Loving You”) stayed here until an issue arose with Inn management. Gibson just went down the street and bought his own hotel after that. John Jacob Niles, the dean of American balladeers, would stay at the Inn in his travels throughout the mountains collecting and preserving songs of the Southern Highlands.
Today the Inn carries on it’s musical legacy. Each year the Inn plays host to the Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival as Nashville’s hit songwriters as well as those still searching for their first big break gather at the Inn for a fun, educational and entertaining musical experience like no other. The festival in 2015 runs August 21 – 24.