“Rocky Top,” like “Tennessee Waltz,” is a state song that has enjoyed wide popularity outside Tennessee. This bluegrass standard was written in only ten minutes 1967 by the husband/wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant as a diversion from another writing assignment. “Rocky Top” began its journey to extraordinary popularity when Bobby and Sonny Osborne visited the Bryant’s in search of a song to fill out an album they were working on. The Osbornes quickly realized that the new song would work well as a bluegrass tune and recorded it the next day. Their recording was released on Christmas day in 1967 and became an instant hit. In the two-part video below, Bobby Osborne describes the writing and recording of “Rocky Top”.
Videos included by permission.
Since its release, “Rocky Top” has been recorded by many artists in many different styles and has also become a popular university fight song. The University of Tennessee's bands, including the "Pride of the Southland” Marching Band, play "Rocky Top" at every Volunteers sporting event.
Many have wondered where “Rocky Top” is in Tennessee. Felice Bryant said that the song does not reference a specific mountain peak, but that there are a number of summits in the state that bear that common name. “Rocky Top” became an official state song in February 1982.