Mark James

Induction Year: 2015

Birth Name: Francis R. Zambon

Birth Date: 11-29-1940

Place of Birth: Houston, Texas

Songwriter Mark James is behind some of the most iconic songs of modern times, such as “Suspicious Minds,” “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Always on My Mind.” He has made his mark in the music communities of Houston, Memphis, New York and Los Angeles, as well as Nashville.

James was born and raised an Italian-American in Houston. His father was a contractor who also played mandolin, and his mother was a schoolteacher. The songwriter’s first instrument was the violin, but as a teenager he took up the guitar. By 1959, he was performing locally and had recorded a single called “Jive Note.” During this time, he changed his name from Francis Zambon to Mark James.

Also on the Houston scene was singer B.J. Thomas, who became a friend. James recorded two more regional hits (“Running Back” and “She’s Gone Away”), but his career momentum was halted by military service during the Vietnam War. Upon his return to civilian life, Thomas suggested that James join him in Memphis. At the time, Mark James was still pursuing recording stardom. He made singles for Thomas’s label, Scepter Records, as well as for such imprints as Bell, Liberty and Mercury.

Once in Memphis, James was signed as a staff songwriter to the publishing company of producer Chips Moman. In 1968, Moman produced B.J. Thomas singing the Mark James song “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” which became the songwriter’s first hit. In 1969, Thomas released singles of the songwriter’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and “It’s Only Love.”

Meanwhile, Moman also produced Mark James on Scepter, singing “Suspicious Minds” in 1968. The single went nowhere, but the song reemerged a year later as a No. 1 hit for Elvis Presley. The Presley arrangement was almost identical to the Mark James original, with the exception of the lead vocal.

Like many Mark James songs, “Suspicious Minds” has been perennially popular. It later became a country hit as a 1976 duet by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, a 1986 British pop hit for The Fine Young Cannibals and a 1992 soundtrack success for Dwight Yoakam. Similarly, the Swedish group Blue Swede revived “Hooked on a Feeling” and took it to No. 1 on the pop charts in 1974. His “Sunday Sunrise” and “Raised on Rock” have also been recorded by multiple artists.

The most evergreen of all the songwriter’s works is his co-written “Always on My Mind.” First recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972, it was revived by Presley in 1973 and became a top-20 country hit for John Wesley Ryles in 1979. Then Willie Nelson took it to the top of the pop and country hit parades in 1982, winning it Song of the Year honors from the CMA, the NSAI and the Grammy Awards. Still not through, “Always on My Mind” became 1988 dance-pop sensation for The Pet Shop Boys. It has been recorded by dozens of others.

Mark James continued to write hits throughout the 1970s, but in succeeding decades, he became interested in film scoring. He studied at UCLA and at the American Film Institute. The 2001 film Trade Day has a score by him. His songs have also been heard on the soundtracks of such movies as Reservoir Dogs, Honeymoon in Vegas, Practical Magic, Kramer Vs. Kramer, Frequency and Guardians of the Galaxy.

"Always On My Mind"

(written with Johnny Christopher, Wayne Carson)

1982 CMA Song and Single of the Year; 1983 CMA Song of the Year; 1982 Grammy for Best Song and Best Country Song

Brenda Lee1972 #45 country
Elvis Presley1973 #16 country /#9 England
John Wesley Ryles1979 #20 country
Willie Nelson1982 #1 Country, #2 Adult Contemporary, #5 Pop
Pet Shop Boys1988 #4 pop / #1 England / #8 dance
James Galway1994 
Anne Murray2002 
Julio Iglesias2006 
Michael Buble2007 
Elvis Presley2007 #17 England
Pet Shop Boys2009 #97 England

"Blue Water"

Percy Sledge1974 

"Everybody Loves A Rain Song"

(written with Chips Moman)

B.J. Thomas1978 #2 adult contemporary, #25 pop, #43 pop

"Goodbye's A Long, Long Time"

Lou Rawls1972 
B.J. Thomas1973 

"Hooked On A Feeling"

B.J. Thomas1969 #5 pop
Jonathan King 1971 #23 England
Blue Swede1974 #1 Pop, #31 adult contemporary
Baby Talk1998 #71 pop
Baha Men2008 

"I Still Love You (You Still Love Me?)"

Mac Davis1974 

"It's Only Love"

(written with Steve Tyrell)

B.J. Thomas1969 #37 adult contemporary, #45 pop
Elvis Presley1971 #19 adult contemporary, #51 pop

"It's Worth It All"

Merrilee Rush1968 

"Lost (In A World Of Hurt)"

Box Tops1968 

"Loving You Is A Natural Thing"

(written with George Klein, Glen Spreen)

Ronnie Milsap1970 #87 pop

"Midnight Angel"

Box Tops1969 

"Moody Blue"

Elvis Presley1977 #1 Country, #2 adult contemporary, #31 Pop, #6 England

"Mr. Mailman"

B.J. Thomas1969 

"One Hell Of A Woman"

(written with Mac Davis)

Mac Davis1974 #11 Pop, #20 adult contemporary
Vicki Carr 1974

"One More Mile"

José Feliciano1972 

"Pass The Apple Eve"

(written with Johnny Christopher)

B.J. Thomas1969 #97 pop

"Play Me A Little Traveling Music"

B.J. Thomas1977 

"Raised On Rock"

Roger Chapman1969 
Elvis Presley1973 #27 adult contemporary, #41 pop
Helen Reddy1974 
Johnny Winter1979 

"Soft, Sweet Fire"

Mac Davis1974 

"Sunday Rain"

Ronnie Milsap1971 

"Sunday Sunrise"

B.J. Thomas1973 
Brenda Lee1973 #6 country
Anne Murray1975 #13 adult contemporary, #49 country, #98 pop

"Suspicious Minds"

B.J. Thomas1969 
Elvis Presley1969 #1 pop, #2 England, #4 adult contemporary
The Ventures1969 
Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter1970 #25 country
Dee Dee Warwick1971 #24 r&b, #80 pop
Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears1976 
Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter1976 #2 country
Candi Staton1981 #31 England
Fine Young Cannibals 1986 #8 England, #23 dance
Dwight Yoakam1992 #35 country
Clay Aiken2010 
Martina McBride2014 

"The Elvis Medley"

(written with Otis Blackwell, Jerry Leiber, Dennis Linde, Bernie Lowe, Kal Mann, Elvis Presley, Mike Stoller)

Elvis Presley1982 #31 country, #71 pop

"The Eyes Of A New York Woman"

B.J. Thomas1968 #28 pop

"Turn On A Dream"

The Box Tops1969 #58 pop

Mark James

Induction Year: 2015