Dallas Frazier, the country songwriter known for “Elvira,” “Beneath Still Waters,” and “There Goes My Everything,” speaks about his best-known compositions and explains his thirty-year sabbatical from writing during this Poets and Prophets program, recorded December 10, 2010, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Frazier talks with host Michael Gray about growing up poor, moving from an itinerant farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl to California, where his family became migrant workers in cotton fields. Living in makeshift homes in boxcars and tents, they moved from job to job amid harsh conditions and disdainful attitudes from native westerners. Frazier says that adversity fueled his creativity and hard work.
Frazier moved to Nashville in 1963, then left music in 1976, shortly before his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He quit songwriting amid a spiritual and personal crisis but returned in 2006. “I didn’t know if I could reconcile country music with my Christian faith,” he says. “Some of the folks get by without going through, but I didn’t. I struggled with that for almost thirty years.”
Along with “Elvira” (recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys), Emmylou Harris’s “Beneath Still Waters,” and “There Goes My Everything (Jack Greene), Frazier’s catalog also offers the Hollywood Argyles’ pop hit “Alley Oop” and Tanya Tucker’s first No. 1 single, “What’s Your Mama’s Name.” Country Music Hall of Fame member Connie Smith, in attendance for this program, notes that she has recorded sixty-nine of Frazier’s songs. Fellow Hall of Fame member Charley Pride placed four No. 1 hits with his material, and member George Jones cut whole albums of Frazier songs (1968’s “Sings the Songs of Dallas Frazier”).
Theorizing that songwriters need not feel or experience everything they write, Frazier says, “Songwriters have to make things bigger than life. We dramatize. We take a little seed, and it will turn into a giant redwood tree before we’re done with it. Sometimes there is a thread of truth running through a song, something from your own life. But songwriters can really stretch things.”
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