Random Thoughts

Opportunity knocked again, part 4

 

September 24, 2021



Soon after its release in 1967, “The Letter” and the airplane featured in it roared to No. 1 on the Billboard Magazine rock charts and stayed there for four weeks. Songwriter Wayne Carson, who originally did not appreciate The Box Tops’ version of his song, decided that he liked it after all.

The single sold over a million copies and became a certified gold record. It was also a major hit in numerous other countries, peaking at No. 1 in Canada, No. 4 in Australia, and No. 5 in Great Britain and Germany.

The song garnered Grammy nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Best Performance by a Vocal Group,” but it did not win either award.

In addition, “The Letter” was recorded by numerous other artists and made the Billboard or British charts five more times, most notably by Joe Cocker (whose rendition was a No. 5 hit in the United States in 1970).

Moreover, The Box Tops released two more of Wayne Carson’s songs as singles. “Neon Rainbow” peaked at No. 24 and “Soul Deep” went to No. 18 on the Billboard rock charts.

Several years later, Carson began work on another song inspired by a phone conversation he had with his wife, who complained that he should be home more often. He protested that he was working and that he was always thinking about her even when he was unable to see her.


Realizing that what he had just said had potential as a song, Carson grabbed a pen and started writing. After several days, he was still wrestling with the lyrics and enlisted the aid of two of his songwriting friends to help him with it.

The resulting tune was “You Were Always on My Mind,” which was first recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972. The song became only a minor country hit. But a few years later, Willie Nelson got hold of it and created some more musical history.

We will conclude our look at Wayne Carson’s songwriting career next week in part five of this article.

 

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