Dallas Frazier, songwriter of ‘Elvira’, ‘Alley Oop’ and many country hits, dies at 82
Dallas Frazier, a songwriter who broke out with pop novelty hit “Alley Oop” and continued on pen country classics like the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira,” died Friday at age 82.
“Dallas Frazier is one of the greatest country songwriters of all time,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “He could convey infectious delight with ‘Elvira’ and then write something as incredibly sad and true as ‘Beneath Still Waters'” – a No. 1 hit for Emmylou Harris. “He was a man of kindness, generosity and faith, who overcame a difficult upbringing to give us all smiling gifts.”
Among those who cut Frazier songs were Charley Pride (who had four No. 1 hits with Frazier numbers), Connie Smith (who recorded an entire album of her songs), George Jones (who made likewise), Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Charlie Rich, Rodney Crowell, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Moe Bandy, Diana Ross, Brenda Lee and Poco.
Born October 27, 1939, in Spiro, Oklahoma, Frazier moved to the country music mecca of Bakersfield, California with his family in his pre-teen years. At the age of 12, he took part in a talent show which had country legend Ferlin Husky as a judge – who was so impressed that he later mentored Frazier in the music business and asked youngsters to write songs for him.
“Then I worked as a television singer in Los Angeles from 1954 to 1958 with Cliffie Stone’s ‘Hometown Jamboree,'” he told the Nashville Songwriters Association International. “So I’m in the business. I actually signed with Capitol Records when I was 14 and wrote some of the material that I recorded. At 14, he recorded his first Capitol single, “Space Command”. Nothing came of it, but he would go gold later with another novelty hit.
In 1957, Frazier was 19 when he wrote “Alley Oop” in his head while working for his father in a California cotton mill. “Cotton was one of the biggest agricultural industries in the San Joaquin Valley at one time, back in the 50s and 60s. … I’m in this big, huge cotton trailer that’s full of cotton. … I’m starting to think of the cartoon character (Alley Oop). I just start riffing with an “Oop-oop”… I wrote this song that day before I finished my shift at the cotton gin.
One of the songs he cut during his own shortened recording career was, indeed, “Alley Oop”, but it only became a hit when producer Gary S. Paxton (also of ” Monster Mash” and Tammy Faye Bakker) recorded it. in 1960 with a makeshift group assembled for the session called the Hollywood Argyles. It was later covered by Darlene Love, the Beach Boys and Ray Stevens as well.
Referring to Paxton’s success in Hollywood Argyles, he said: “It took a lot of guts for Gary to even cut the thing and get it out. It wasn’t what you call ‘orthodox’.
The first song he wrote after moving to Nashville was “There Goes My Everything”, a hit for Jack Greene in 1966, which earned a Grammy nomination for its author. It would later be recorded by Elvis Presley, whose version was released in 1971, and Engelbert Humperdinck.
“He was born out of a divorce, and luckily not mine, but (that of) a good friend of mine, Ferlin Husky,” Frazier said. “That turned out to be my biggest copyright.”
He picked up a Grammy in 1970 for Best Country Song in 1970 for Charley Pride’s rendition of “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)”, one of four No. 1s he had with Pride. In 1980, Harris rose to the top of the charts with “Beneath Still Waters”.
Frazier cut “Elvira” as the title track from his own album in 1966, but again it took a cover to break the tune – not the attempt Rodney Crowell made with it in 1978. In 1981, the Oaks Ridge Boys went to No. 1 in the country format with what remains the vocal group’s signature song, and the track even made it into the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Says Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, “For more than five decades, songs written by Dallas Frazier have impacted the career of the Oak Ridge Boys like no other writer. ‘The Baptism Of Jesse Taylor’ won us a Grammy Award when we were a gospel band in the mid-70s. Then, in 1981, ‘Elvira’ became the biggest song in the music industry, winning every award and selling over two and a half million 45 rpm singles. The Oak Ridge Boys and our families, along with millions of fans and friends who love his music, join in prayer for Sharon and the Frazier family. May Dallas rest in peace in the arms of Jesus.
Other hits he wrote included Husky’s version of “Timber I’m Falling” in 1964, Charlie Rich’s “Mohair Sam” in 1966,
He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
In the late 1980s Frazier left the music industry to enter the ministry, although he later resumed his secular career. His daughter, Melody Frazier Morris, followed him into ministry as President/Founder of Messiah Ministries International, and it was she who announced her father’s passing on Facebook, writing Friday: “Our father passed in the loving arms of Jesus this morning. . Glory to God! No more suffering!”
The funeral is scheduled for Thursday in Gallatin, Tennessee. Frazier had requested that donations be made to the Nashville Rescue Mission in lieu of flowers.
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