Born and raised in Waco, Texas, A. L. "Doodle" Owens wrote sturdy,
tradition-drenched country classics, working with friends Dallas Frazier and
Dennis Knutson to craft hits for Charley Pride, George Jones, Connie Smith,
Jerry Lee Lewis and others.
As an infant, Owens crawled backwards in a way that reminded his uncle of a
doodlebug. He remained "Doodle" throughout his life. Inspired as a child by
movies about Frederic Chopin and George Gershwin, Owens decided to learn to
compose music. In his teen years, he frequented Texas radio stations, seeking
information and entry into the music business. In his twenties, he began
recording music and appearing on television. In 1965, at country superstar Ray
Price's suggestion, he moved to Nashville. In Nashville, Owens and Dallas
Frazier began a prolific writing partnership, penning songs of hard-won
"He was just full of words, full of poetry and full of life, and he couldn't
help but describe it," Frazier told the Houston Chronicle.
One of the duo's earliest compositions, "Johnny One Time," was recorded by
Willie Nelson and then Brenda Lee. Another, "True Love Travels on a Gravel
Road," was never a chart hit but it was recorded by numerous artists, including
Elvis Presley and Percy Sledge. In 1969, Charley Pride took Owens and Frazier's
"All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)" to the top of the country chart. The song was
Owens' first #1 and Pride's first chart-topper as an artist. Its ascent marked
the first time an African-American entertainer had been atop the
Billboard country chart in 25 years of existence. Frazier and Owens also
wrote other Pride hits, including "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again," "I
Can't Believe That You've Stopped Loving Me" and "Then Who Am I."
Later, Owens teamed with Whitey Shafer and wrote Moe Bandy's first three
charting singles, and he and Dennis Knutson wrote Top 10 hits for George Jones
in the 1980s, including "Wine Colored Roses," "Somebody Wants Me out of the
Way" and "The Right Left Hand." Doug Stone scored his second Top 10 hit in 1990
with "Fourteen Minutes Old," a song penned by Owens and Knutson.
Heart and kidney problems slowed Owens' productivity for a time in the 1990s,
but he defied doctors' dire predictions and continued writing. He was inducted
into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999, the year he passed away.