Elvis Presley: The Argument That Inspired ‘Always on My Mind’

“Always on My Mind” is one of Elvis Presley‘s most famous late-period songs. During an interview, one of the writers of “Always on My Mind” revealed the song was inspired by an argument he had with his wife. Notably, a major country music producer artist turned down the song before Elvis covered it.

Elvis Presley wearing a suit
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

How an angry phone call inspired an Elvis Presley song

Wayne Carson was one of the writers of “Always on My Mind.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the song originated during a trip Carson took to Memphis, Tennessee. Carson had to extend the trip by 10 days. His wife was upset when he told her over the phone how long the trip would be. “She was pretty damned irate about it,” recalled Carson. “So I tried to calm her down.”

The phone call became part of rock ‘n’ roll history. “I said, ‘Well, I know I’ve been gone a lot, but I’ve been thinking about you all the time’ — and it just struck me like someone had hit me with a hammer,” Carson said. “I told her real fast I had to hang up because I had to put that into a song.”

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A country producer didn’t think the world was ready for ‘Always on My Mind’

Parade reports Carson and his friend Tips Smallman offered the song to country music producer Fred Foster. “Tips and I were convinced that it was a No. 1 record,” Carson said in the book Nashville Songwriter: The Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits. “We were just like two school kids with a new invention, you know. I played it for Fred Foster and he said, ‘I don’t think the world’s ready for that.’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be … kidding me.'”

Carson wasn’t happy. “We left there — I mean, we were mad,” Carson said. “So we flew back to Memphis and I remember the last thing Tips said about it was, ‘He’s going to rue the day he ever turned that song down.”

Wayne Carson and a microphone
Wayne Carson | Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The way the world reacted to Elvis Presley’s ‘Always on My Mind’

Elvis covered “Always on My Mind” and released it as a B-side to his song “Separate Ways.” “Separate Ways” reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for 12 weeks. “Always on My Mind” eventually appeared on the compilation album Elvis: 2nd to None. Elvis: 2nd to None hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and remained on the chart for 16 weeks.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Always on My Mind” became even more popular in the United Kingdom. In 1977, the song peaked at No. 9 in the U.K. and stayed on the chart for 22 weeks. In 1985, “Always on My Mind” reached No. 59 and lasted on the chart for five weeks. Meanwhile, Elvis: 2nd to None hit No. 4 and spent 12 weeks on the chart. “Always on My Mind” had an interesting backstory and it became a hit.

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