Every once in a while, certain songs come along in country music that don’t just become hits, but take on a kind of timeless appeal. “Always On My Mind” has, over the years, scored big for a varied assortment of performers. Brenda Lee charted a country version of it first, in 1972. Then the following year, another country version appeared by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley. His rendition was the song’s first significant chart entry, peaking at #16 (as the “B” side to “Separate Ways”). John Wesley Ryles (whose biggest hit had been his classic recording of Hank Mills’ “Kay” in 1969) nudged the Top Twenty with “Always On My Mind” in 1979.
Three years later, the definitive version by Willie Nelson topped Billboard’s country chart and reached #5 on the pop listings, achieving “Song of the Year” and “Single of the Year” honors from the Country Music Association, a Grammy Award for Nelson, two Grammys (“Song of the Year” and “Best Country Song”) for co-writers Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James, and two ACM trophies. “Always On My Mind” wasn’t done yet, though. In 1988 the British new wave group, The Pet Shop Boys, rocketed into the Top Five of the Billboard Hot 100 with another notable (but incredibly different) rendition of the tune.