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.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #314: Wake up, Little Susie! by The Everly Brothers (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #314: Wake Up, Little Susie! by The Everly Brothers.

The Everly Brothers were a pair of brothers named Don and Phil Everly. As children, they sang with their parents as a group called The Everly Family Singers. But, their singing talent and future marketability came to the attention of fellow musicians, such as Chet Atkins and soon, Phil and Don were signed as a duo to a recording contract of their own and began releasing singles. Their first Gold record came in 1957 as a result of a song called, “Bye Bye Love”. “Wake Up Little Susie” quickly followed and became the duo’s first #1 hit. In 1958, The Everly Brothers released “All I Have To Do Is Dream” which holds the distinction of being the only song by any artist or band, in any genre, in any era, to simultaneously hold the #1 position on every Billboard Singles chart in America. The Everly Brothers ability to sing in such close, sweet harmony with each other helped influence scores of musicians that followed such as The Beach Boys, The BeeGees, The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural year, as well as, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress, too.

The Everly Brothers had a sweet, wholesome image that was very popular in 1950s America. For this reason, you may be surprised to know that their song, “Wake Up, Little Susie!” holds the unfortunate distinction of being one of the very first Rock n’ Roll songs ever to be banned by public radio. It is true! The lyrics to this song describe a scene in which a young boyfriend and girlfriend go to see a movie at their local drive-in, only to fall asleep. They wake up well after midnight and quickly realize the trouble that they will be in with their parents and how their reputations may suffer in the eyes of the community. We may view this as being incredibly innocent but, back in the day, the mere suggestion that they may have slept together or engaged in hanky-panky was enough to bring down the wrath of the radio network censors. As a result, “Wake Up, Little Susie!” was banned in many smaller, button-down communities but, also, in some bigger centres such as Boston, too. None of this managed to hurt the record sales and/or the popularity of The Everly Brothers but, it does give us a sneak peak into the conservative nature of white America in the 1950s.

I know that this next part means more to me than it probably does to you but, just the same, I have previously made mention of a TV series that we watched a lot in our home called Full House/Fuller House and how that show, although it was a children’s show, was a treasure trove for music lovers. The characters on the show were always singing legendary rock n’ roll songs or playing them or else, the show’s writers were concocting whole storylines based upon the storylines of famous songs. In the past, I wrote about how the band, Cheap Trick became legends by playing in Japan and, sure enough, Uncle Jesse and the Rippers from Full House became legends in Japan, too. Uncle Joey (Dave Coullier) is the scorned ex-lover in the song, “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. As well, the writers of the show built a whole episode around “Wake Up, Little Susie!” by having the oldest teenage daughter, D.J., fall asleep at her boyfriend’s new apartment…..while watching a movie….and not waking up until well past midnight! Oh my! That episode resulted in D.J. and her father having a huge falling out, only to have it all resolved by talking it out and having Dad realize that he just has to trust his daughter more when she says that it was all an innocent mistake and that her boyfriend remains an honourable guy. I imagine that, back in the 1950s, if this song was a tv show, that the conversation would have been a little more one-sided and, not in the daughter’s favour.

In all seriousness, I highly encourage all of you who love Rock n’ Roll (especially, the roots of it) to check out the Full House playlist on Spotify. It is encyclopedic in nature and is something you would expect The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame playlist to be like. It is truly amazing. In the meantime, check out The Everly Brothers and their controversial hit, “Wake Up, Little Susie!”. Enjoy….if the shock of it all doesn’t overwhelm you. 🙂

The link to the video for the song, “Wake up, Little Susie!” 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.

Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for supporting all types of music; even the songs deemed to be “controversial”. The link to their website can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2021