Songwriter Wayne Carson, whose long list of credits run from rock classics like The Letter to the country crossover smash Always on My Mind, died earlier today (Monday, July 20) after a long illness at the age of 73.
Carson was born in Denver, Colorado to two professional musicians. The family moved a number of times before settling down in Springfield, MO where Wayne’s father, Shorty Thompson, became part of the Tall Timber Boys.
Even though his family was more involved with country music, Carson was drawn to the emerging rock scene and, as a teen, formed a number of bands who played around the midwest. In 1962, he moved to Nashville but, by the middle of the decade, returned home to Springfield where he started working with promoter and publisher Si Siman.
Siman was a friend of Chet Atkins and brought a song written by Carson, Somebody Like Me, to his attention. Atkins, in turn, presented it to Eddy Arnold who recorded it and took the song to the top of the country charts in 1966.
The next year, Carson moved from country to pop music, penning the number 1 Box Tops hit The Letter. He would have a long relationship with the group who would also have hits with Wayne’s Neon Rainbow and Soul Deep.
During the 70’s and 80’s Carson had numerous hits on the Country Singles chart including four number 1’s but his signature song would become a top twenty hit for four different artists. Always on My Mind was first released by Brenda Lee but it was Elvis Presley who had the first hit with the song, hitting the top ten in the U.K. in 1972, and reentering the U.K. top twenty in both the 1990’s and the 2000’s. John Wesley Ryles then went to number 20 in 1979 on the Country Singles.
The biggest version, by Willie Nelson, was released in 1982, topping the Country Singles and going top five on both the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts. Finally, the Pet Shop Boys took a dance version to number 4 on the Hot 100 and number 1 in England.
Although Carson was semi-retired in recent years, one of his songs was included on the album I Want Some More by Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach.
Carson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997. He is survived by his wife and a son.
Songs written by Wayne Carson that made the top twenty
Somebody Like Me – Eddy Arnold (1966 / #1 Country / #15 Adult Contemporary (AC) / #53 Pop)
Do It Again a Little Slower – Jon & Robin & the In Crowd (1967 / #18 Pop)
The Letter – Box Tops (1967 / #1 Pop / #30 R&B)
Nine Pound Steel – Joe Simon (1967 / #19 R&B)
Keep On – Bruce Channel (1968 / #12 U.K.)
Something’s Wrong in California – Waylon Jennings (1969 / #19 Country)
Who’s Julie – Mel Tillis (1969 / #10 Country)
The Letter – Arbors (1969 / #20 Pop / #26 AC)
Soul Deep – Box Tops (1969 / #18 Pop / #22 U.K.)
Mary’s Vineyard – Claude King (1970 / #17 Country)
The Letter – Joe Cocker (1970 / #7 Pop / #39 U.K.)
(Don’t Let the Sun Set on) Tulsa – Waylon Jennings (1971 / #16 Country)
No Love at All – B.J. Thomas (1971 / #16 Pop / #4 AC)
Always on My Mind – Elvis Presley (1972 / #16 Country / #9 U.K. // 1997 / #13 U.K. // 2007 / #17 U.K.)
Drinkin’ Thing – Gary Stewart (1974 / #10 Country)
I See What I Want to In Your Eyes – Conway Twitty (1974 / #1 Country)
She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles) – Gary Stewart (1975 / #1 Country)
Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets – Johnny Paycheck (1977 / #7 Country)
Ten Years of This – Gary Stewart (1977 / #16 Country)
Whiskey Trip – Gary Stewart (1978 / #16 Country)
Liberated Woman – John Wesley Ryles (1979 / #14 Country)
That’s the Only Way to Say Good Morning – Ray Price (1979 / #18 Country)
You Were Always on My Mind – John Wesley Ryles (1979 / #20 Country)
Barstool Mountain – Moe Bandy (1979 / #9 Country)
The Clown – Conway Twitty (1982 / #1 Country)
Always on My Mind – Willie Nelson (1982 / #1 Country / #2 AC / #5 Pop / #49 U.K.)
Always on My Mind – Pet Shop Boys (1987 / #4 Pop / #8 Dance / #1 U.K.)
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