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Album: Fancy FreeReleased: 1981Charted:
Elvira is a girl's name, but the song is not about a person. Ray Baker, who worked on this track, told the story in a Songfacts interview: "My background in the music business before I retired in the late '90s here in Nashville was mostly as a producer, having produced many of the recordings by George Strait, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride and many of the Opry acts. I produced George's first gold album, Right or Wrong, and had the pleasure of producing many of Merle's recordings on Columbia including his Grammy winner 'That's The Way Love Goes.'
Before I got into producing though I started out as a music publisher. I first met Dallas Frazier who wrote 'Elvira,' 'There Goes My Everything' (the first CMA Song Of The Year award winner in 1967) and many other big hits, in a little beer joint named The High Hat in Madison, Tennessee. At the time I was working for Jim Reeves Enterprises, but was thinking about leaving since Jim had been killed in a plane crash in 1964 and things had changed there for me.
Dallas was a young, good looking kid who had just moved here from California and was working for Ferlin Husky in a gas station that Ferlin owned. We became instant friends and he sang me a few of his songs. I was really impressed and so on the strength of his talent, I started my own publishing company with some borrowed money and a $25 a month office rent in June of 1965. I was definitely out of the High rent district of Nashville's music row but still just a short drive from suburban Madison, Tennessee. Dallas and I were driving in my car in East Nashville one afternoon and I almost ran a red light at the intersection of Gallatin Road (a main thoroughfare) and a side street called Elvira Street.
I stopped in time and while we were sitting there drinking beer and having a good time, Dallas looked up and noticed the street sign. Immediately he started singing the chorus to what would become the song 'Elvira.' He had a strong R&B background from California and thought it would be clever to rhyme Elvira with the word Fira, as some black artist might have sang it. He wound up recording it himself for Capitol records and it was a regional hit in several places like Houston, Texas back in 1967.
Years later, The Oak Ridge boys recorded it and of course it was a big hit. I have thought many times about how me stopping in time at that red light was a very fateful event in so many lives. We've kidded and said many times how it does pay to obey the law. Dallas and I were young and full of it back then. He went on to write many more big hits like 'The Son Of Hickory Hollows Tramp' by O.C. Smith and 'Johnny One Time' by Brenda Lee and of course many others.
I always worked up the arrangements on his songs as we demoed them and that was sparking a real interest in me for producing. I stayed in publishing but sold out to Acuff Rose in the '70s and started producing records full time. Dallas got a call from the Lord and quit the business of songwriting in the late '70s and became an ordained minister. He has his own church up in White House, Tennessee, and we still see each other regularly as we don't live too far apart."
Kenny Rogers recorded this in 1970, and his version has appeared on several of his greatest hits compilations. The Oak Ridge Boys version featured distinctive bass vocals by Richard Sterban, and became a rare country song to cross over to the pop charts.