Rick Nelson – ‘Lonesome Town’
Well it is Valentine’s day, after all…
“With only $80 in his pockets of his jeans, songwriter Thomas Baker Knight Jr. moved to Los Angeles to capitalize on an offer of movie role that didn’t pan out. The lonely time he spent prowling Los Angeles, looking for a break, influenced the writing of his most famous song, “Lonesome Town,” a commentary about being lost in a crowd all alone in a strange town like Hollywood.
By the time he had written the song, Knight was down to his last 36 cents. Fate intervened when a mutual friend introduced him to Ricky Nelson, who was carving out a career for himself as a pop star.
“I played a few songs for him,” Knight recalled, “and much to my surprise, his manager called two days later and told me Ricky wanted to record two of the songs. They offered me a $2,000 advance, which was unexpected but most welcome at the time, considering I was flat broke.”
Within six months, Nelson’s version of “Lonesome Town cracked Billboard’s Top 10, peaking at #6, while ts B-side, “I Got a Feeling,” another song written by Knight, charted at #11. Nelson eventually recorded 21 original songs written by Knight.
Knight wrote almost 1,000 songs, which were recorded by over 40 singers, including Elvis Presley, who had a hit in 1970 with The Wonder of You.” Dean Martin had a hits with Knight’s “Somewhere There’s a Someone” and “That Old Time Feelin’” He also recorded the Knight songs “Not Enough Indians” and “If You Ever Get Around To Loving Me.”
Other singers of the first rank who recorded Knight’s work were Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sammy Davis Jr. In 1976, Mickey Gilley won the “Song of the Year” award from the Academy of Country Music for Knight’s “Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time.”
Knight’s song-writing career waned in the 1980s due to health problems, but his work remained as alive and as vital as ever. In 1999, Paul McCartney included a cover of “Lonesome Town” on his album “Run Devil Run.” More significantly, Paul also sang the song at a London tribute to his late wife, Linda.”