Always On My Mind

Album: Always On My Mind (1982)
Charted: 49 5

Songfacts®:

  • This song tells the story of a man who admits he didn't always do the things he should have to show appreciation for his lady, but wants her to know he was always thinking about her. It's a message that transcends genre: Popular versions of the song were recorded by Willie Nelson, Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley and Pet Shop Boys.
  • Wayne Carson, who wrote The Box Tops' 1967 #1 hit "The Letter," came up with "Always On My Mind" when he was working at a recording studio in Memphis. He lived with his wife in Springfield, Missouri, and the trip to Memphis had gone 10 days longer than expected. When he called the missus to tell her he would be there even longer, she let him have it. He tried to assuage her by telling her that was thinking about her all the time - she was "always on my mind."

    "It just struck me like someone had hit me with a hammer," he told the LA Times. "I told her real fast I had to hang up because I had to put that into a song."

    Over the next few days, he finished writing the song with two other writers at the studio: Johnny Christopher and Mark James.

    "All that 'Always' was about was one long apology," Carson added. "I guess there are a lot of people in the world who were looking for a way to say that in a song."
  • Some sources claim B.J. Thomas was the first to record this song, but his version wasn't released until it appeared on a compilation in 1996. Elvis Presley recorded it on March 29, 1972, but his version wasn't released until that November. By then, versions by Brenda Lee and Gwen McCrae (titled "You Were Always On My Mind") were already on the market; Lee's rendition went to #45 on the Country chart September 2, 1972.

    Elvis had recently separated from his wife, Priscilla, making the song apropos. But it was released as a single with a song that seemed more fitting: "Separate Ways," about a divorced dad. "Always On My Mind" later became a key song in his canon, but it reached just #16 on the Country chart, as "Separate Ways" got most of the airplay.
  • Willie Nelson's 1982 recording became the definitive version and the first to make the Hot 100 (#5; it was also a #1 Country hit). Nelson had never heard the song before the song's co-writer, Johnny Christopher, brought it to him and Merle Haggard, who were busy recording the album Pancho & Lefty (Christopher was playing guitar on the session). "'Always On My Mind,' bowled me over the moment I heard it, which is one of the ways I pick songs to record," Nelson recalled in his 1988 autobiography, Willie. "There are beautifully sad songs that bowl me over... haunting melodies you can't get out of your mind, with lines that really stick."

    Nelson figured he and Haggard would do the song together, but Haggard didn't care for it. After they finished recording their album, Nelson stayed in the studio and recorded the ballad solo, just to see what it would sound like. Of course, it sounded like a hit, but Nelson wondered, "We'll never know what would have happened if Merle had really heard the song right."
  • The Country Music Association named "Always On My Mind" Single Of The Year in 1982. It also did very well at the Grammys, taking the awards for Song Of The Year, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song. It was the first country song to take Song Of The Year, and it wasn't until the 2007 ceremonies when another country act got one: The Dixie Chicks for "Not Ready To Make Nice."
  • The Elvis Presley version never made the pop charts in America, but hit the UK singles chart three times. The first release in 1972 made #9. In 1997, it was used in a TV commercial for British Telecom; re-released as a single, it went to 13. In 2007 it reached #17 when it was issued as part of a series of Elvis re-releases.
  • In 1987, the British electronic duo Pet Shop Boys released a dance version of "Always On My Mind" that was a surprise hit, becoming the Christmas #1 in the UK that year and reaching #4 in the US in May 1988. The song entered their universe when they agreed to perform on a BBC Elvis tribute show commemorating the 10th anniversary of his death. Their manager gave them a stack of Elvis cassettes so they could choose a song to cover, and the first one they listened to was the compilation Magic Moments With Elvis. The first track was "Always On My Mind," so they went with it, adding an extra chord and reworking it in their signature style. It went over so well, they released the song as a single.
  • Levi's used this in a 2004 commercial where a guy goes to great lengths to retrieve his jeans. He brings his old girlfriend a flower as a peace offering, then grabs his jeans and leaves while she puts it in water.
  • In the January 2006 issue of Esquire magazine, B.B. King said that this was his favorite song.
  • The Pet Shop Boys rendition was voted the top cover version of all time in a 2014 BBC Music vote. Johnny Cash's interpretation of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" came in second place, followed by The Stranglers' cover of Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By."

Comments: 27

  • Coy from Palestine, TexasMark James and BJ Thomas were both from Houston. Elvis admired BJ's distinctive voice and vocals and often went to see him perform in Memphis. The King recorded many songs that were first written by Mark James for BJ Thomas.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThis song's co-writer Wayne Carson died in Nashville in 2015. He was 72.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 28th 1982, "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #88; and fourteen weeks later on June 6th, 1982 it peaked at #5 {for 3 weeks} and spent 23 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on May 2nd, 1982 it reached #1* {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart; also #1 on the Canadian RPM Country chart & #2 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    * Was his eighth of nineteen #1 records on the Hot Country Singles chart; and three of those were duets with Waylon Jennings...
    Willie Hugh Nelson will celebrate his 82nd birthday in two months and one day on April 29th {2015}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 2nd 1973, Muhammed Ali* visited with Elvis in Las Vegas, NV...
    At the time Elvis' "Separate Ways" b/w "Always on My Mind" was at #20 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and that was also its peak position on the chart...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    * Ali presented Elvis with a pair of boxing gloves; on the left glove was prescribed "You're the greatest" and on the right glove "To Elvis, my main man, from Muhammad Ali".
  • Coy from Palestine, TxMark James wrote many other songs for Elvis, including "Suspicious Minds" and "Moody Blue". Wayne Carson Thompson (who for some reason changed his name to "Wayne Carson") wrote "The Letter" and "Neon Rainbow". But who is Johnny Christopher? No one seems to know?
  • Patrick from Spring Lake Heights, NjTo me, BJ Thomas performed the best rendition of this great composition.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhWillie's version: yes, wonderful simplicity. The version by Elvis: yes, wonderful depth. The lyrics speak of emotions and thoughts that have been felt by a majority of people from all walks of life, thus the song's enduring popularity.
  • Mayank from Ranchi, IndiaWillie's version is definitely the best. It didn't win a grammy for nothing. It has the best sound, and my God, what a voice.
  • Json from Wilmington, DeYou people are forgetting Michael Buble covered this song also, which in my opinion is the best. Much more slower and deeper tone
  • Alma from Laredo, TxI think the song is very fitting for Elvis. Willie Nelson speaks for all men with this song as he does sing it with all its simplicity. Both are truly admirable for singing this song with reflection and pensativity. My husband has dedicated this song to me as we had parted ways when we were young. We then reunited and got married. Thank you, Willie.
  • Luis from San Antonio Los Altos, Venezuelasimply an ever lasting beautyfull song for all people all times
  • Peter from Blyth, United KingdomWillie Nelson sings this song very simply and lets the song speak for itself. I think he really liked this song.
  • Ron from Crossville, TnI recently stumbled across a single track with versions by Willie & Elvis on it. Really hi-lights the differences. As to whose version is best...kinda like peaches & plums - both are good, depends on your taste...
  • Alx from Tarragona, SpainAlways on My Mind became a classic thanks to Elvis, for me his version is much better than Nelson's one.
  • Michael from San Diego, CaHeartfelt tune, I like both Willie Nelson's & Elvis Presley's versions of it.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrThere's no doubt, the best version of this song is done live on "Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson:VH1 Storytellers.
  • Dominic from Sarasota, FlAlways On My Mind was a song that Elvis wanted to record because it reflected his personal life and his marriage that was breaking up in 1972. The record/music industry has never given enough credit to him as an artist for this song. In my opinion he added way more depth to this song than Willie Nelson ever could.
  • Bernard from Caracas, South AmericaIt's maybe one of the very few tunes I like by Willie Nelson
  • Steve from Houston, TxI like Willie but I have to go with Elvis' version as my favorite.
  • Kevin from Canada, CanadaOne of my favorite songs to perform. The way Willie sings it is great. The chords are nice and bouncy. Its very heavy. Its a wonderfully written expression of regret. I love performing this song.
  • Erica from Hampstead, NcThis song brings back an emabaressing moment when i was in the back of a shop and i thougt i was alone this song came on and i begane to sing it unaware that be the end of the song there was a crowd of people listen and lauging at the spetical i had made of myself god i was so embarresed but i look back and all i can do is laugh.
  • Jamie from Bethesda, MdI like all three versions. Elvis,Willie and the Pet Shop boys. I have always believed if your going to remake a song...you have to give it personality that it did not already have. Mission Accomplished with this one. Great Tune.
  • Julian from Oakland, ArWillie Nelson's version is much better then Elvis' version.
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaPeople that have covered it so far besides Nelson, Lee,& Presley : Pet Shop Boys, Johnny Cash, B.B. King,
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiathought Willie's version was ok.....
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, MoIn 1971 I met and interviewed Wayne Carson Thompson while I was at KAAY Radio in Little Rock.
    He was a very nice guy...spent some time with him.
    Of course, at that time, his biggest smash had been "The Letter"...1st by The Boxtops and then by Joe Cocker. He also, had some of his songs recorded by B. J. Thomas when Thomas was on Scepter.
  • Rato from Lisbon, Portugal"Always on My Mind" should ever ever be a song associated with Elvis Presley and NOT with Willie Nelson who, like so many other times, just "assassinate" this timeless classic.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Zac Hanson

Zac HansonSongwriter Interviews

Zac tells the story of Hanson's massive hit "MMMbop," and talks about how brotherly bonds effect their music.

James Williamson of Iggy & the Stooges

James Williamson of Iggy & the StoogesSongwriter Interviews

The Stooges guitarist (and producer of the Kill City album) talks about those early recordings and what really happened with David Bowie.

Richie McDonald of Lonestar

Richie McDonald of LonestarSongwriter Interviews

Richie talks about the impact of "Amazed," and how his 4-year-old son inspired another Lonestar hit.

90s Music Quiz 1

90s Music Quiz 1Music Quiz

First question: Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson appeared in videos for what artist?

Kip Winger

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

Ian Anderson of Jethro TullSongwriter Interviews

The flautist frontman talks about touring with Led Zeppelin, his contribution to "Hotel California", and how he may have done the first MTV Unplugged.