Songwriter Dallas Frazier, known for penning hits including The Oak Ridge Boys‘ 1981 classic “Elvira,” and Gene Watson‘s “Fourteen Carat Mind,” died Friday (Jan. 14). Frazier was 82.
Frazier was born in Spiro, Okla., on Oct. 27, 1939. At age 12, he was already writing songs and won a talent competition hosted by Ferlin Husky. By age 14, Frazier was recording for Capitol Records. In 1960, Frazier had his first success as a songwriter, when “Alley Oop” became a pop hit for the Hollywood Argyles. Three years later, he moved to Nashville.
In 1967, the Frazier-penned “There Goes My Everything,” recorded by Jack Greene, was named song of the year by the Country Music Association.
Frazier also found success co-writing songs with A.L. “Doodle” Owens, including Charley Pride‘s first No. 1 Billboard Hot Country Songs hit, 1969’s “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me).” Pride also had No. 1 country hits with the Frazier/Owens collaborations “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again,” “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me” and “Then Who Am I.”
Connie Smith and George Jones were also among those who recorded several of Frazier’s hits, such as Jones’ 1967 hit “If My Heart Had Windows.” (Jones also recorded an entire album of Frazier’s songs on Sings the Songs of Dallas Frazier.) Among the Frazier-penned Smith recordings are “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” “Run Away Little Tears,” “Ain’t Love a Good Thing” and more.
Another’s of Frazier’s best-known songs, “Elvira,” was previously recorded by Rodney Crowell before it became a smash hit for the Oak Ridge Boys in 1981. The group’s recording of the song earned the Country Music Association’s single of the year honor.
“I’ve noticed this all my life in writing songs, there’s a thing called feel, and it’s magic when you get ahold of it,” Frazier told journalist Tom Roland in a 2018 interview. “It can make or break a record. You can have a great song and all, but if it doesn’t have that feel, it just doesn’t do anything. ‘Elvira’ had the feel. And The Oaks, what a tremendous cut. With Richard Sterban doing his thing on it and the horns just making it first class…it had so much magic in it, it’d just raise the hair on your arms.”
In 1980, Frazier’s “Beneath Still Waters” became a No. 1 Hot Country Songs hit for Emmylou Harris, and he also wrote Tanya Tucker‘s first No. 1 hit on that chart, “What’s Your Mama’s Name?”
Frazier was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and retired from songwriting in 1990. By 2008, he had begun writing songs again, along with occasional performances.
“Dallas Frazier is among the greatest country songwriters of all time,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “He could convey infectious fun with ‘Elvira,’ and then write something as stunningly sad and true as ‘Beneath Still Waters.’ His songs helped Connie Smith to become a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was a man of kindness, generosity, and faith, who overcame a hardscrabble upbringing to offer smiling gifts to all of us. He lived a beautiful life of a beautiful mind.”
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