'T-R-O-U-B-L-E' : Jerry Chesnut Remembers Elvis Presley (And his hit song)

By: Elvis Australia
Source: Jerry Chesnut / Dave Paulson
January 29, 2022

'T-R-O-U-B-L-E' spelled success for Jerry Chesnut in 1975. The Nashville songwriting great originally wrote the clever tune for singer Little David Wilkins, who really did play from '9 til half past 1' in a Nashville bar, and he had a stroke of genius when he realized he could rhyme certain words if he spelled them out.

The song became a hit with rock legend Elvis Presley, and again two decades later with country star Travis Tritt. Chesnut recalled writing 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E' with Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International. Nashville Songwriters Association's Bart Herbison talks with Jerry Chesnut

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Where did the idea for the song come from?

Little David Wilkins kept bugging me: 'Write me a hit, write me a hit'. He was playing Ireland's Restaurant. It was steak and biscuits, and they had a bar set up. David would go over there and play the piano from 9 til 1. He's like Jerry Lee (Lewis), man, he's wild and great. We'd go over there and eat, have a few drinks and listen to David. I had watched him do this for a long time, and one morning, I decided to write a song for him, and I thought, 'What would I write for David that he could really do? It needs to be uptempo', because man, he could get out there and rock. 'He'll probably play it at that place, and he plays from 9 til 1. Well, I'll just write it about him'. I started out with 'I play an old piano from 9 til half past 1/ I'm trying to make a living watching everybody have fun'. I'd played so many skull orchards myself, and seen a good-looking woman walk in by herself, and it's trouble. I thought of that and thought, 'I'll put that in there'.

... It just kind of fell in place, and then I realized something. If you go to write down 'Bart', you can't write it without in your brain saying 'B-A-R-T'. It's the only way you can write it... . I got to realizing, not (just) the words, every letter is rhyming! (T-R-O-U-B-L-E, A-L-O-N-E, L-O-O-K-I-N-G).

It was meant to be.

Everybody was asking me, 'How in the world did you do that?' And I said, 'I don't know. It just happened. That's the way it was'.

Tell me about meeting Elvis.

The first time I met Elvis, Lamar (Fike, a member of Presley's inner circle) said, 'We're going to a movie. Elvis wants you to go with us'. I met them down at the Memphis Theatre, I believe it was, and the movie was (1973 crime film) 'Charley Varrick'. We watched that movie together, and he introduced me to Elvis. I don't know, being a songwriter and meeting Elvis, it's like meeting Superman or something. A lot of women would almost lose their mind. They'd jump out of balconies, they'd go crazy, you know? I thought, 'Boy, this is really gonna be something'. (Lamar) said, 'Elvis, this is Jerry Chesnut'. He stuck out his hand and said, 'How you doing?' To this day, I don't remember what I said (laughs).

What about the first time you heard Elvis' version of it?

I was in the studio, and they were mixing it over at Little Victor... . I probably shouldn't tell this, but I'm gonna tell you the truth. I was a publisher also, and I had published all of these songs. We shipped to all of the little stations, and the record label would ship to all of the big stations. I'm thinking, 'Man, we're gonna have to ship every one of these things, and I've got to get it to these little stations. If they start playing it on the big stations first, then these DJs are going to be mad at me'. I'm thinking about all the stuff that I've got to do as far as work on this thing, and dreading it. Then all of a sudden I thought: 'Here I've got a single by (Elvis) coming out. This is the greatest thing you could have happen, and I'm sitting here dreading it. It's time for me to get out of this business'. (laughs)

Compiled by Dave Paulson.

Jerry Chesnut Remembers Elvis Presley

Jerry Chesnut
Jerry Chesnut
Jerry Donald Chesnut was born May 7, 1931. His hits include 'A Good Year for the Roses' (Recorded by George Jones) and 'T-R-O-U-B-L-E'.

Born and raised in Harlan County, Kentucky he moved to Nashville in 1958 to pursue his career. In 1968 Jerry Lee Lewis' hit recording of Chesnut's 'Another Place, Another Time' was nominated for a Grammy Award.

I met Elvis through a mutual friend of ours, and so called Memphis Mafia member, Lamar Fike. I guess, to be perfectly honest, I have to say it was a somewhat disappointing experience. I knew I was being introduced to the King of Rock and Roll and the Entertainer of the century. This was the greatest thing that could happen to a songwriter like myself!

I had experienced my songs being recorded by Tom Jones, Brook Benton, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Lee Lewis, and some of the greatest entertainers on earth, but this was different.

This man was the Superman of the music world.

I guess I expected some supernatural feeling, but the fact is ... We shook hands, and in a voice kinda like a little humble, shy, teenage boy, he asked 'How You Doin'? ... I don't remember how I answered ... It amazes me, to this day, looking back, how very simple and sincere True Greatness can really be! Without thinking, I found myself trying to write Great Songs, not just Hit songs ...

In the next two or three years, I frequented Graceland, went to the movies and recording sessions, took drives with Vernon, Elvis' father, put a TCB (Taking Care of Business) around my neck. Elvis had it made for me and gave me the last one. I remember him as nothing amazing, nothing supernatural, never trying to impress anyone, just a Simple, Wonderful, Sweet American Kid that never really had a chance to grow up, and yet somehow I knew the entertainment world, and my life, would never be the same ...

To me, this was, and will always be, 'ELVIS'.


What you're hearing is the first time Elvis ever sang T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Close your eyes and listen, you're in RCA Studio C in Hollywood, California and it's March 11, 1975.

As Duke Bardwell, the featured bass guitarist related, 'This is the first song of the evening; a rock number by Nashville's Jerry Chesnut'. Elvis charged through with energy and elan. As Duke observed, Elvis was so good at that funky stuff. The first time Elvis heard the Demo of T-R-O-U-B-L-E he predicted, 'This will be a Rock Standard'. Now nearly 30 years later, it's more popular than ever, proving he was right!!!

Elvis' recording can be found on his album, Elvis Today.

Never Again

This song was born in a motel in Ashville, N.C. I was there for a visit with my friend, Billy Edd Wheeler, who lived nearby.  Since we had enjoyed such good luck with 'It's Midnight', the first song we'd written together, we decided to write another song. Elvis captured both these songs, and strangely enough, we never even thought of writing anything together again. I guess there was nothing left to prove ...

Elvis recorded this song in the Jungle Room of Graceland in the last album he ever recorded, titled 'From Elvis Presley Boulevard'. It has since been re-released in a CD titled 'The Jungle Room Sessions'. Later, he came to Nashville, to record and they took him to a house with a studio in it, which was the fad here at the time. He took one look at it and left. I guess he thought, if he was going to record in a house, he'd do it in his!

Love Coming Down

In my catalog of several hundred songs I've written, this is one of my personal favorites. This is one of those songs that when you're writing it, the melody, and lines of the lyric just seem to fall together like they belong there. This is usually what occurs when you're working on a gigantic Hit song. I really believe that this song's day will come ... When I found out that Elvis was going to record it, I went to Memphis and attended the session in the Jungle Room of Graceland. I found Elvis quite upset because his dog was very ill.

He did the song, and also 'Never Again', another of my songs and then retired for the evening after remarking that I had destroyed him. What he meant, of course, was that the words of these two songs really got to him. He didn't just sing a song, he more or less lived it  as he sang it. He was very conscience of what the song was all about. I hope you like it, and the way Elvis did it. This was in the album titled 'ELVIS PRESLEY BOULEVARD' and has been re-released on a new CD titled the 'The Jungle Room Sessions'. Jerry

Woman Without Love

This song is either loved or hated by women ! The ones who hate it are few, thank goodness, and do so because they resent hearing a man say a woman is nothin' at all, under any circumstance.

I still feel that a woman who has never known love, has never lived. I am certain this is one of the real standards I have written, and believe it will live long after I am gone.

I have recently changed the lyric slightly, to create a female version of it and maybe, it will be accepted by all ...

In the early 70's, Bob Luman released a single on this song and was immediately covered by Johnny Darrel. T.D. Valentine then released it (POP), and Brook Benton covered him and had the Hit on it. Elvis recorded it many years later ...

It was nominated for Song of the Year and was in the Top 40 National charts by all four Artists at the same time. It also came out in a couple dozen other albums, and was an award winner by the Nashville Song Writers Association. Now the verdict is yours, what do you think??

I am only certain of one thing, as I once wrote in a letter to Richard Nixon, we are all capable of being wrong, but 'critics never make history'

It's Midnight

Billy Edd Wheeler, a fellow Hall of Fame songwriter friend of mine, and I were at a golf tournament at Henry Horton State Park. He told me he had an Idea for a song, but since it was to be a love song and he was basically a story teller, he needed help writing it, and asked if I would be interested.

I agreed to write it with him, something that at this point in time I had never done before. I got a guitar, and while he drove back to Nashville we worked on this song. By the time we got to Nashville we had whipped it out. Later, Billy Edd sang the demo of it and I sent it to Elvis by Lamar Fike.

Elvis recorded it and it was an Award Winning Record, the first of several of my songs he did.

In the book, 'The Life Of Elvis Presley', Charlie Hodge one of Elvis' closest friends stated that Elvis loved playing games, but at other times his mood often changed to deep depression, like the time Priscilla and a friend went to see him perform in Las Vegas, after their divorce. It was 1974 and she came with a girlfriend says Charlie. They sat in the booth Elvis always reserved for her and when he spotted them, He sang Priscilla's Favorite song 'It's Midnight'. He walked to the edge of the stage, looked at her, and tears were streaming down his cheeks. He was all broke up. She was the only girl he really ever loved ...

This list includes the song title and artist/s who have recorded the song.

Another Place, Another Time - Jerry Lee Lewis, Arthur Alexander
Good Year for the Roses - George Jones, Elvis Costello, Counting Crows
Holding on to Nothing - Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton
It's Four in the Morning - Faron Young, Tom Jones
It's Midnight - Elvis Presley
Love Coming Down - Elvis Presley
Oney - Johnny Cash
T-R-O-U-B-L-E - Elvis Presley, Travis Tritt
They don't make 'em like my Daddy anymore - Loretta Lynn
The Wonders You Perform - Tammy Wynette

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