Readers Choice: Song #27/250…All I Have To Do Is Dream by The Everly Brothers

Felice and Boudleaux Bryant: the songwriting team behind “All I Have To Do Is Dream”.

“All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers is one of those songs that is exactly what most listeners believe it to be. It is a love song about falling in love at first sight and was written as an autobiographical tale by the authors of the song. “All I Have To Do Is Dream” became a #1 hit for Don and Phil Everly in the 1950s and, in fact, became the very first song to ever occupy the top spot on all of the major music charts at the same time (Country, Pop, R&B). Not only that but this song helped launch The Everly Brothers as a pair of teenage crooners whose singing style would end up inspiring the wonderful harmonizing of future stars The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. However, like many music stars of the 1950s and 60s, The Everly Brothers may have been the singing stars and the face of the music they were releasing under their name, but they did not write their own songs. Back then, they were being fed songs by a songwriting team named Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The Bryants also penned the Everly Brothers hits “Wake Up, Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love”, as well as that 1970s rock classic “Love Hurts” by Nazareth. The Bryants wrote songs for Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Ricky Van Shelton, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ray Price and many more. Felice and Boudleaux Bryant were inducted into the Songwriting Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. So, as much as “All I Have To Do Is Dream” comes across as an Everly Brothers tune, they were really only the singers of the song. The real story of this song belongs to two young lovers who found each other during WWII. This is the true story of how Felice and Boudleaux Bryant met and fell in love.

Here is an example of a USO mixer. This was a dance for African-American soldiers and their wives and girlfriends in World War Two, the United Services Organization in action, February 2, 1943. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

Felice Bryant was born in 1925 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was born into a Sicilian family and grew up surrounded by music and singing. As she matured, Felice began writing her own versions of songs to go along with the instrumental tunes played in her family home. She was only a teenager when WWII broke out. Because of her musical inclinations, she wound up working at her local USO. In those days, USOs were places where soldiers on leave or in training could go at night to see live music or a comedy show. The USOs were designed to act as morale boosters for the brave soldiers who were heading off to war. In many cases, young women from the local area would show up to dance with the handsome uniformed men. Billy Joel referenced this in his song “Allentown”:

Well our fathers fought the Second World War

Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore

Met our mothers at the USO

Asked them to dance, danced with them slow

It was in this atmosphere of music and high emotions that Felice evolved into one of the main organizers of the shows put on at the Milwaukee USO. She was all of nineteen years old when a new band came into town to perform. One of the members of the band was a man named Boudleaux Bryant. Bryant played the fiddle in a Country band called Hank Penny and his Radio Cowboys. Because of her role at the USO, it was Felice who welcomed the band to the hall. When she first saw Boudleaux and he saw her, they instantly fell in love. In fact, they fell so far so fast that they actually eloped before the Hank Penny Band could leave town for their next gig. They were married five days after they first met.

The lyrics to “All I Have To Do Is Dream” paint a picture of a lovesick man who desires to be with his true love but can only do so in his dreams. This was, in fact, the very situation that Boudleaux and Felice found themselves in. Both knew immediately that they had found their soulmate, but both also knew that unless they took drastic action, they were destined to be lovers in their dreams only. If Boudleaux continued on with his band, the chances of them having a relationship would be greatly diminished. So, Boudleaux thanked Hank Penny for having given him the chance to play in his band, to travel across America and, finally, to come to Milwaukee where he met his true love. Boudleaux and Felice became husband and wife. They also agreed to become songwriting partners.

Initially, they had little luck selling any of their songs. Times were tough for the young couple. But then, as fortune would have it, they managed to sell a song called “Country Boy” to a singer named Little Jimmy Dickens. His version of the song made it into the Top Ten on the Country charts and gave the Bryants some credibility in the music business. This success brought them to the attention of a man named Fred Rose who, along with Country star Roy Acuff, owned Acuff-Rose Music, which was a publishing company located in Nashville. The Bryants moved to Nashville and in the decade that followed wrote songs for many of Country music’s established and rising stars. One of those they began working with was Chet Atkins. Atkins, in turn, was working to promote a family of singers known as The Everly Family Singers. In particular, Atkins felt that the two teenage sons, Don and Phil Everly, had a bright future ahead of them, so he went looking for songs for them to sing as a duo. Consequently, it was Chet Atkins who introduced The Bryants to The Everly Brothers. Once Felice and Boudleaux heard the boys sing, they knew that they had the musical stories to go along with those golden voices. “Bye Bye Love”, “Wake Up, Little Susie!” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” were written in quick succession by The Bryants and given to The Everly Brothers, who recorded and released these songs to much acclaim. The rest, as they say, is musical history.

It is a privilege for me to share the stories of great songs such as “All I Have To Do Is Dream” with all of you. This particular song has a great story behind it. As it turned out, The Bryants remained united in their personal and professional lives until 1987, when Boudleaux passed away. Felice continued her songwriting work on her own and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Nashville Arts Foundation in 1991. Felice passed away in 2003. In interviews, both Felice and Boudleaux had spoken about how happy they were to have had their story sung to the world in such a wonderful manner by two singers as talented as Don and Phil Everly. The Everly Brothers, in turn, had a brilliant career with several other #1 hits that they wrote themselves, such as “Cathy’s Clown”, and were among the very first group of artists elected to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986. For more on the back story of The Everly Brothers, please read a previous post written about the song “Wake Up, Little Susie!”. You can find that post here.

It is nice to write a post with such a happy ending for all involved. If you have any songs that you would like to see featured in a future post, feel free to drop me a line in the comments below. Thanks again for reading my words. Have a wonderful rest of your day.

The link to the video for the song “All I Have To Do Is Dream” by The Everly Brothers can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Everly Brothers can be found here.

The link to the official website for Felice and Boudleaux Bryant can be found here.

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