Wayne Carson, “Always on My Mind” Composer, Dead at 72

Also Wrote No. 1 Hits for the Box Tops, Conway Twitty, Gary Stewart, Eddy Arnold

Wayne Carson, who wrote or co-wrote such massive hits as “Always on My Mind,” “The Letter,” “Soul Deep” and “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” died Monday (July 20) near Nashville at the age of 72.

He was born Wayne Carson Thompson in Denver, Colorado, the son of radio and TV performers Odie and Olivia Thompson, who performed under the name Shorty & Sue. After learning to play the guitar at 14, Carson began working in various rock ‘n’ roll bands.

In 1962, he moved to Nashville and signed to Decca Records the following year. However, he did not chart as a recording artists until 1973, by which time he was on the Monument label.

There and on Elektra and EMH, he scored four singles, including “You’re Gonna Love Yourself in the Morning” and “Barstool Mountain,” the latter of which he co-wrote. It later became a Top 10 hit for Moe Bandy.

Carson’s first major achievement as a songwriter came in 1966 when Eddy Arnold recorded his “Somebody Like Me,” which went to No. 1 and stayed there for four weeks.

In 1967, the Box Tops had a No. 1 pop hit with “The Letter.” More than two dozen artists would subsequently record cover versions, among them Joe Cocker, Tom Jones, the Beach Boys, B.B. King, Dionne Warwick and Al Green. The Box Tops also enjoyed success with “Soul Deep.”

Gary Stewart had a Top 10 country single in 1974 with Carson’s “Drinkin’ Thing” and topped the chart a year later with “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles).”

But it was “Always on My Mind,” which Carson co-penned with Johnny Christopher and Mark James, that brought him his greatest fame. After it was recorded with moderate success by Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson took it to the top of the country charts in 1982.

Nelson’s recording netted three Grammys — song of the year, best country song and best male country vocal performance — and was declared the CMA song of the year (in both 1982 and 1983) and single of the year.

Carson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997. His other hits include Conway Twitty’s “I See the Want-To in Your Eyes” and Johnny Paycheck’s “Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.