Dallas Frazier, born in 1939, in Spiro, Oklahoma, is one of the defining songwriters of his or any other generation, penning classic songs that remain popular with core country music artists to this day. His lasting impression on the genre will be one of superb perception and purpose that led to a significant number of career-defining hits.
Raised in Bakersfield, CA, Frazier learned to play a variety of musical instruments as taught by his parents. This early start saw him achieve tremendous success in his teenage years. He served as featured member of Ferlin Husky’s band, cutting his first solo single, “Space Command,” in 1954. In 1957, Frazier scored a hit when the Hollywood Argyles covered his “Alley Oop,” a novelty song that nonetheless set his career into a higher gear.
When Hometown Jamboree, a popular TV show in which Frazier starred, was canceled in the late 1950s, Frazier and his wife lived in a number of western towns and eventually settled down in Portland. But feeling the desire to attempt a songwriting career (and prompted by a conversation with Husky), he moved to Nashville in 1963. His first success was writing Husky’s hit “Timber I’m Falling” in 1964. In the next two years, he became one of the most sought-after writers in town, with cuts such as Connie Smith’s “Ain’t Had No Lovin’,” and George Jones’ “I’m a People.”
In 1967, Frazier released his first record, Tell It Like It Is, but it was a song he had written a few years earlier that would become his signature tune. Elvis Presley, Roger Whittaker and Engelbert Humperdinck all recorded the song “There Goes My Everything”, but it was country singer Jack Greene that galvanized the sad story of separation. At the first CMA Awards in 1967, Frazier won Song of the Year for the pensive ballad, and Jack Greene earned the Single of the Year honors as well.
Frazier’s songs soon became staples for artists such as Jones, Greene and Connie Smith. Artists as diverse as Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard also mined Frazier’s song catalog for unique, traditional music, and Charley Pride reached the top of the charts with his “All I Have to Offer You is Me” in 1969. Frazier’s star continued to rise in the 1970s, as he recorded two solo records, Singing My Songs and My Baby Packed Up My Mind and Left Me. In 1972, Smith released an entire album of his songs called If It Ain’t Love (& Other Great Dallas Frazier Songs). Child stars of the past (Brenda Lee) and the present (Tanya Tucker, with the haunting “What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?) continued to develop their career with the works from his terrific pen.
Frazier’s songs continued to hit the charts well into the next decade, with the Emmylou Harris version of his “Beneath Still Waters” becoming a chart-topping smash and helping Harris to her only win as CMA Female Vocalist of the Year. Also, Frazier’s “Elvira”, a song that Frazier had previously recorded, was revived by the Oak Ridge Boys and named the CMA Single of the Year in 1981. Gene Watson cut his “Fourteen Carat Mind” that same year.
With the tremendous talent of Frazier and his ability to seize the moment and give reason to a rhyme was a singular gift, his songs were able to translate to a variety of audiences, and he flourished well into the next decade. Neo-traditional artists such as George Strait, Randy Travis, and Patty Loveless found success with his compositions. Loveless’ version of the George Jones hit “If My Heart Had Windows” became her first Top Ten single in 1988, but later that year Frazier retired from songwriting and left Nashville after bouts with alcohol use and the frustrations of being a key player in the music business. But he has recently planned a return to the craft after many years as a minister, and fans surely anticipate the next traditional tune from the eloquent, understated Dallas Frazier.
The Dallas Frazier Catalog:
- “Ain’t Had No Lovin'”, Connie Smith
- “All I Have to Offer You Is Me”, Charley Pride
- “Beneath Still Waters”, Emmylou Harris
- “Elvira”, Oak Ridge Boys/Kenny Rogers
- “Fourteen Carat Mind”, Gene Watson
- “If My Heart Had Windows”, George Jones/Patty Loveless
- “If This Is Our Last Time”, Brenda Lee
- “I’m a People”, George Jones
- “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again”, Charley Pride
- “Mohair Sam”, Charlie Rich/Peggy Lee/Dallas Frazier
- “There Goes My Everything”, Jack Greene/Ferlin Husky/Elvis Presley/Englebert Humperdinck
- “Until My Dreams Come True”, Jack Greene
- “What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?”, Tanya Tucker
Nice profile! HIs songs have definitely left an indellible mark on country music. I’ve seen his name compared with Harlan Howard rather often, but I prefer the songs of Howard to Frazier.
This is one of those legends that I know the name of but never associated many of these songs with. “Beneath Still Waters” is one of my faves, and I friggin’ love the Rodney Crowell version of “Elvira.”
I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for years for a replacement copy of that Elvira LP by Dallas Frazier. I just found that it has been coupled with another album and has been released on CD under the title “Dallas Frazier R&B Sessions.” Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
I didn’t even know Rodney did a version of “Elvira.” I even like the Oak Ridge Boys’ version of it. I’m gonna go try to find Rodney’s version now.
Ah, I found it. It’s cool and swanky! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it before. I only have all of his albums from this century and a Greatest Hits package that covers his earlier career. I keep meaning to get some actual albums from that era.
I have always regarded Dallas Frazier and Harlan Howard as the greatest country songwriters ever, with my preference being slightly in Frazier’s favor.
Blake, while you article is terrific, even it only scratches at the surface of Frazier’s prowess as a songwriter. George Jones issued at least one album of nothing but Dallas Frazier songs, plus several albums that were at least 50% Dallas Frazier songs.
A few years ago I put started to put together a CD of other artists that recorded hits with Dallas Frazier songs. I wound up with 46 songs between two CDs before running out of energy
BTW – Frzier did not score a cover of “Alley Oop” – he wrote the song
Paul, I’ve done the same thing with songwriters, made CD mixes of songs that they’ve written. Maybe I’ll have to try it with Frazier and Howard.
had the honor and joy of meeting and having an extended visit with dallas frazier tonight. what a nice guy. his song “whats your mamas name child?” is the best.