Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

April 23, 2003

Felice Bryant, 77, who with her late husband wrote "Bye Bye Love" and other Everly Brothers hits and the hand-clapping bluegrass standard "Rocky Top," died yesterday at her home in Gatlinburg, Tenn. She had been suffering from cancer, said Caroline Davis, spokeswoman for the songwriters licensing agency BMI.

She and her husband, Boudleaux Bryant, who died in 1987, wrote or co-wrote 800 recorded songs cut by more than 500 vocalists, accounting for approximately 500 million record sales.

Their other big hits include the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie" and "We Could," which was recorded by artists including Jim Reeves and Al Martino, and "Raining in My Heart," which was recorded by Buddy Holly, Dean Martin and Ray Price.

The couple began writing songs together when Boudleaux Bryant set his wife's poetry to music. Their first major success was "Country Boy" by Little Jimmy Dickens in 1948.

The bouncy "Rocky Top" was written in 10 minutes in 1968, about a secluded spot in the Smoky Mountains where there's no "smoggy smoke" or telephone bills. "Corn don't grow at all on Rocky Top, dirt's too rocky by far," the song says. "That's why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar."

Mrs. Bryant recalled she and her husband stumbled on the song when she became tired of writing sad lyrics and refused to continue. Her husband started to strum a guitar tune, and they made up the words.

"Boudleaux accepted every dumb line I said just to get it over with," she said in a 1997 interview. "Ten minutes later, `Rocky Top' was finished. I had my diversion, and we went back to work. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, `What a gem.'"

Mary Christian, who for five months bore the distinction of being the oldest American, died of pneumonia Sunday at a nursing home near San Francisco. Born when Benjamin Harrison occupied the White House and Queen Victoria ruled England, she was 113 years, 312 days old.

Mrs. Christian was certified as the longest-living American in November after family members offered documentation of her age to the Gerontology Research Group, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians studying the aging process.

Until her death, Mrs. Christian was considered the fourth-oldest person in the world, outlived only by two 113-year-olds with later birth dates in 1889 and a 115-year-old - all Japanese women. The oldest American is now Elana Slough of New Jersey, who will be 114 on July 8.

A Massachusetts native who moved to San Pablo, Calif., in 1900, she worked most of her life, starting in 1905 when she was hired to label cocoa cans and make candy at the Van Amden Chocolate Co. That job ended when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the candy factory.

She worked nearly half a century, with jobs as a Macy's department store worker and as a nanny, and retired in 1971 at age 81.

She neither smoked cigarettes nor drank alcohol and enjoyed a hearty diet.

"Meat and potatoes, that's what I like to eat. And broccoli," she told the San Francisco Chronicle last year. She also was fond of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Twinkies.

Married to O.R. Christian in 1907, she gave birth to two sons before the couple divorced in 1922. She outlived her sons and seven siblings. She is survived by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

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