Always on my Mind composer Wayne Carson dies!
Wayne Carson, who wrote Elvis Presley’s Always on my Mind and Joe Cocker’s The Letter, has died aged 72.
The two-time Grammy winner said he had written Always on My Mind in 10 minutes at his kitchen table in Missouri.
The song gained two further writers, Johnny Christopher and Mark James, when Carson was asked to write an additional bridge section in the recording studio.
Carson had numerous health issues, including diabetes and heart problems, according to his wife Wyndi Harp Head.
“Our music community has lost an immense talent much too soon,” said Recording Academy president Neil Portnow.
Born Wayne Carson Thompson in Denver, the writer’s parents were professional musicians who played under the name Shorty and Sue Thompson.
Carson picked up a guitar when he was about 14 after hearing a recording by Merle Travis, and soon began composing his own songs.
One of those compositions, Somebody Like Me, found its way to producer Chet Atkins who played it to country star Eddy Arnold. Arnold liked the song, but thought it was too short – and phoned Carson to ask him to write another verse.
“So I said, ‘Well, the third verse goes like this’ and I just wrote it right there over the phone,” Carson recalled.
Arnold took the song to number one on the US country charts in 1966, after which Carson became a sought-after writer in Nashville.
He wrote The Letter, Soul Deep and Neon Rainbow for The Box Tops; No Love At All for BJ Thomas and A Horse Called Music for Willie Nelson.
Always on my Mind was originally recorded by Gwen McCrae and Brenda Lee, but it was Presley’s 1972 version – recorded during his divorce from Priscilla – that became a standard.
A decade later, Willie Nelson took the love-lorn ballad to the top of the country charts, winning Carson his two Grammy awards – for song of the year and best country song.
Nelson’s version proved so popular that Always on My Mind was named the Country Music Association’s song of the year in both 1982 and 1983, leading the organisation to change its voting procedures so that a song could win the award only once.
The Pet Shop Boys’ electronic version of the song was the UK’s Christmas number one in 1987.
Carson came up with the bridge in an office above the recording studio in Memphis, after being asked to add a few lines to the song by producer Chips Moman.
He called on Christopher and James, two writers working out of Moman’s studio, for assistance and they came up with the famous line: “Tell me, tell me that your sweet love hasn’t died”.
The writer was philosophical about sharing the credit for his most famous song, observing: “Hell, a hit’s a hit.”
Among the other artists to record Carson’s songs were Conway Twitty, the Beach Boys, Randy Travis, Waylon Jennings and Tina Turner.
BJ Thomas was among the musicians paying tribute, writing on Twitter: “RIP Wayne Carson. My close friend and brother. One of the great writers. Was loved by all and will be missed.”
Fellow Nashville composer Casey Kelly wrote on Facebook: “I doubt the world will ever know another of his calibre, and I am beyond saddened for our loss.”
Carson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997.
He is survived by his wife and their son.