During our segment on married songwriting duo Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, we discussed the history of the song “Bye Bye Love” with writer and musician Franklin Bruno. After the show, a listener wrote in with a question, and we asked Franklin to respond.
The county-pop tune "Bye Bye Love" was written by The Bryants, and became a 1957 hit for The Everly Brothers. But -- its story contains a mystery. This caught the attention of listener John Foley, who wrote:
You can't leave us hanging! Your guest said that Chet Atkins disagreed with Boudleaux over a chord change on 'Bye Bye Love'. Was it one of the original three chords or did Atkins want to add one?
Franklin Bruno sent us this response:
Dear John: I wish I knew! Boudleaux said in a 1978 interview with Songwriter magazine that Atkins dropped the song from a Porter Wagoner session when he (Boudleaux) wouldn't agree to a chord alteration, but he doesn't say what the proposed change was. He also added, quite pragmatically, "If I'd had a song that was a little doubtful, or had a small chord change that didn't matter, I'd have been very amenable." Since the song is so simple, I agree that it's hard to imagine what the change could have been -- I just sat down with a guitar and tried out a couple of obvious substitutions, and they all sounded forced. (Then again, I'm no Chet Atkins.)
Maybe I should point out two other things. The famous "choppy" guitar introduction, which does move out of the home key of the body of the song, wasn't written by the Bryants -- it was part of an original of Don's ("Give Me a Future") and was tacked on to "Bye Bye Love" during the recording session. Also, even though "Bye Bye Love" is (other than that intro) genuinely a three-chord wonder, many of the songs the Bryants wrote with the Everlys in mind are more harmonically elaborate than most early rock and roll. "Wake Up Little Susie" is tricky, and the minor hit "Poor Jenny" is downright intricate. The writers said that they could do this because Phil and Don were both excellent rhythm guitarists. Even on "Bye Bye Love," they're playing up the neck and using unusual voicings, as you can see on this live TV clip: