“Always On My Mind” will forever be in my top five favorite songs of all time.
Of course, I’ll always think of it as a Willie Nelson tune (you can read about his version and the origins of the track here), but it was first made extremely popular by Elvis Presley when he recorded it in 1972, two weeks after his separation from his wife Priscilla.
Written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James, it was originally recorded by Gwen McCrae as “You Were Always on My Mind” in 1972.
Elvis initially released “Always On My Mind” as the B-side of his “Separate Ways” single, which was certified gold by the RIAA for sales in excess of one million units. It was then listed as listed as a double A-side single, where it peaked at #16 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Singles chart the year it was released.
Willie released his version 10 years later, and it became the title track to his 1982 album and a monster #1 single on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart that year. His version secured three wins at the 25th Grammy Awards in 1983, as Wayne, Johnny and Mark won Song of the Year and Best Country Song, and Willie won for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
This version also won CMA awards in two consecutive years, including Song of the Year in 1982 and 1983 for the writers. In 1982, Willie won the CMA for Single of the Year for the track, as well as Album of the Year for Always on My Mind.
But with the new Elvis movie coming out this weekend, it has me really into all his good country stuff and the ties he has to the genre. Of course, Elvis is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (1998).
And I happened to come across some really cool, rare footage of him first recording his massive hit in the studio back in the early 70’s with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s exactly what you hoped it would be, with everybody in one room singing, and Elvis in a full white suit and amazing oversized sunglasses belting his heart out.
Hearing him sing it just cuts a little deeper, especially knowing what he was going through in his personal life at the time and what a big success the song would eventually become.