Mark James or Francis Rodney Zambon a Texas born songwriter, first came to prominence penning "Hooked on a Feeling", a number five hit for B.J. Thomas. However, his biggest career break occurred when Elvis Presley cut his song "Suspicious Minds", which landed him a monster number one hit around the world and helped resurrect "The King's" career as a recording artist. He also wrote songs for Brenda Lee and she was offered the his gramy winning tune, "Always on My Mind".
Its Only LoveIn 1966 B.J.Thomas had his first hit with a cover of Hank Williams, " I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and soon after he was signed by Sceptor Records. Then he sung a twenty minute set at Elvis 1968 New Years Eve bash supported by Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. It is believed this is where Elvis first heard Mark James, "Its Only Love ". He would later go on and record his version at a marathon session at RCA Studios in late May 1971 which produced three albums. It is believed Elvis had just finished cutting "I'm Leavin" and "We Can Make The Morning" at 4am on the 20th of May when he commenced the recording of "It's Only Love" . There is a vulnerability in his voice and although he follows the B.J.Thomas arrangement but he seems to add a new dimension to each line as it flows and builds in stature.
Elvis and Mark Raised on Rock
Mark and Elvis Meeting
On a bitter cold morning of January 13th 1969 at Chip Moman's American Sound Studios in Memphis, Elvis and Mark, first met. Mark had been told Elvis was coming in to record songs and if he could possibly pen one, that may suit him. Just two days before, he still had'nt come up with anything, good enough. Chips then suggested his back catalogue of songs and straight away, Mark thought of "Suspicious Minds" but after being told Elvis was coming in with forty songs to record , his hopes sunk. Mark stayed away on the first day, thinking Elvis had enough songs and did'nt go to the studio but after getting a call from Chips, saying Elvis liked the song and was going to record it. Mark became ecstatic and even though, nervous about meeting Elvis, got up the courage the following morning to go down and watch the session, as they took a break, he nervously went down and introduce himself. Mark said, " hey Elvis i heard you might cut Suspicious Minds". Mark on the meeting. "He was such a nice person and he later invited me to Vegas to watch him perform Suspicious Minds . That day I remember him getting straight up from the table with Sammy Davis and Andy Williams and coming over to me, shaking my hand and asking me, how i was doing". Mark and Elvis remained good friends throughout the seventies. Mark saw Elvis in concert numerous times during the 70s, one of these occassions was March 13th 1974 at Greensboro North Carolina. Elvis recorded many of his songs including Raised on Rock/Always on my Mind/ Its Only Love and one of his final recordings Moody Blue.Mark said, "After Elvis died, I heard he'd always asked the guys in the studio, 'Did Mark send me any more songs?' Golly, I wish I had known that." Mark James on Suspicious Minds " when I heard how it was embellished later, I was blown away". Felton Jarvis, Elvis's longtime producer was never happy that Elvis recorded at American Studios. It was a control thing. So when Jarvis took the tape of 'Suspicious Minds', he added this crazy 15 second fade toward the end, like the song was ending, and brought it back by overdubbing to extend it.
Mark and Elvis
Elvis,Mark and Session Musicians
Always On My Mind
"Moody Blue" was written and recorded by Mark in 1975 and passed on to Elvis for his final recording sessions on October 1976 which took place in the Jungle Room at Graceland. It would be released in January 1977 and be Elvis last number one country song before his death. He performed it live for the first time on February 20th that year.
Mark James Moody Blue
Mark's tribute to Elvis after his death.
Blue Suede Heaven