Bakersfield, CA (KGET) – One of Bakersfield Sound’s last founding shareholders has passed away. His family announced on Facebook that Dallas Fraser, the famous country songwriter behind songs like “Elvira” and “Beneth Still Waters,” passed away on January 14.
He was 82 years old.
Frasier was born on October 27, 1939, in Spiro, Oklahoma, but was raised primarily in Kern County—first on a farm near a ranch labor camp at Pumpkin Center and then in Bakersfield after winning a talent contest at Rainbow Gardens—now the Kern County Basque Club. – Where Ferlin Husky’s group, Termites, was the home band.
Frasier finally moved in with Husky, his wife, and another young star, Tommy Collins, who would become a lifelong friend. Frazier went on to appear as a regular on Cousin Herb Henson’s “Trading Post,” debuting in 1953 when he was 14 years old.
Frazier had just signed with Capitol Records and recorded two minor songs: “Ain’t You Had No Bringin’ Up at All” and “Love Life at 14”.
Frazier said in his book “Bakersfield Sound: How a Generation of Displaced Okies Revolutionized American Music.”
But Fraser was learning a lot about live TV. His voice was polished, but his theatrical demeanor really gave him the child he really was: Older Bakersfield viewers might remember Frazier as a handkerchief-clad kid singing with one end of his neck handkerchief in each hand.
As he wandered through a tune, Frazier kept time by pulling the handkerchief in a shoe-shine motion to the back of his neck. Some might have considered it a nervous spasm, but Frazier says he picked up the habit from Husky, his first teacher at Bakersfield, who somehow seemed dashing.
At the age of 15, Frazier joined Cliff Stone’s “Hometown Jamboree”, a popular Los Angeles television show featuring stars such as Tennessee Ernie Ford and Tommy Sands, whose star was on the rise.
In 1957, Frazier wrote “Alley Oop”, which became the number one pop single in 1960 for Gary Paxton – another recording artist associated with Bakersfield – and a combined Paxton band called Hollywood Argyles.
A series of songs written by Frazier but recorded by others followed, and in 1976 Frazier was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Greater fame, none greater than the Oak Ridge Boys’ version of “Elvira,” would follow, a massive crossover hit.
Driven by its indelible ‘oom-papa-mow-mow’ bass on Richard Sternban’s deep band sound, the song was a 1981 smash, topping the country chart and breaking the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100,” Rolling Stone magazine said.
“We lost a dear friend today,” the Oak Ridge Boys wrote on Facebook Friday. “Dallas Fraser had an influence on our country music career from the beginning. … He wrote “Jesse’s Baptism” but his influence was even greater in the ’80s when we recorded his song “Elvira.”
Merle Haggard has recorded three of Frasier’s songs: “California Cottonfields”, “Love has a mind of its own” and “Too Many Bridges to Cross Over”.
“Dallas Frasier is among the greatest songwriters of all time,” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement. “He could relay contagious fun with Elvira, then write something astonishingly true and sad like ‘Beneath Still Waters.’ He was a kind, generous and faithful man, who overcame a cruel upbringing to bring smiling gifts to us all.”
Finally, Frazier wrote at least 300 songs. I understand the formula. In Bakersfield Sound, Frazier said Nashville had “this commercial treadmill where you can develop a sense of what can be sold and write that feeling.”
Among Frazier’s other hits were Ferlin Husky’s “Timber I’m Falling” in 1964, Charlie Rich’s “Mohair Sam” in 1966, and chart-topping Jack Green’s “There Goes My Everything” in 1966 also earned Frazier for a Grammy nomination.
George Jones and Connie Smith have both recorded entire albums of Frasier’s work, and country stars Willie Nelson and Moy Bundy have also put tracks on his songs.
Frazier won a Grammy for Best Country Song in 1970 for “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)”, which Charley Pride ranked number one. Emmylou Harris took No. 4 in 1980 with Frazier’s devastating song “Beneath Still Waters,” which he originally wrote in 1967.
Services are not announced.