The Story behind "T-R-O-U-B-L-E"

By Bob PaxmanDec 13, 2002
T-R-O-U-B-L-E" spelled "H-I-T" twice for songwriter Jerry Chesnut. The rollicking, rocking song about a barroom entertainer cracked the Top 15 for Elvis Presley in 1975 and again for Travis Tritt in 1993. "Some people thought I had written it about Elvis," notes Jerry, who penned the hit in 1975. "But it was really about a guy named David Wilkins, who used to play at Ireland's restaurant in Nashville in the '70s." David performed under the name "Little David Wilkins," although he was anything but diminutive, weighing in around 280. Though he enjoyed mild recording success, he desperately needed that one big smash. "He asked me ... actually he bugged me," Jerry laughs, "to write him a hit. So one morning, I started thinking about him and the place he was playing. David was a great showman - he played piano like Jerry Lee Lewis and he'd go out on the dance floor and get right in the middle of everyone. I thought I'd just paint a picture of that and see where it would get me." Jerry fell into "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" by calling on his own past experiences. "I'd played enough bars and clubs to know that when you're up there on the stage, you can see trouble starting," explains Jerry with a booming laugh. "You see everything on that dance floor - jealousy, anger, fights. "I also knew," Jerry adds, "that when a good-looking woman walks into a place like that - alone - there's usually trouble. With all that running through my mind, I just kept on writing." And as he wrote, he came up with a bright idea - completely by accident. "I was writing down the word 'trouble,' spelling it out, and I started seeing it as individual letters," recalls Jerry. "Then I spelled out 'a-l-o-n-e' and ' l-o-o-k-i-n-g,' and they all rhymed! I thought, 'Well, this is fun!' But it wasn't something I had set out to do. That's just how it came out." The song ended up with two slightly different versions. "Elvis kept 'piano' in the first verse, which is how I'd written it," reveals Jerry. "When Travis recorded it, he changed it to 'guitar.' I think both of them did fantastic jobs." But what about its original target, David Wilkins? "He asked me one time why he didn't get to record the song," admits Jerry. "I told him the truth - because Elvis wanted it!" By Bob Paxman, Country Weekly Magazine Source: Elvis From Poland
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