LifeNotes: Nashville Songwriter Joy Byers Passes

Her official obituary in Gallatin listed her as Joyce Elene Johnston, but as Joy Byers or J. Byers, she was a prolific pop and country songwriter.

Byers died at age 82 on May 10.

Her copyrights include “What’s A Matter Baby,” a 1962 pop hit for Timi Yuro, as well as Brenda Lee’s 1964 pop single “When You Loved Me,” “Wishing It Was You” by Connie Francis in 1965 and the novelty “Ring Dang Doo’ by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs in 1966.

Byers is perhaps best remembered as the writer of the Elvis Presley 1964 hit “It Hurts Me.” She went on to write or co-write 16 songs for Presley’s movies, including the charted “Please Don’t Stop Loving Me’ (1966) and “Let Yourself Go” (1968). Her country top-10 hits included “Gardenias in Her Hair” by Marty Robbins in 1967, “Here Comes Heaven” by Eddy Arnold in 1968 and “I Can’t Say Goodbye” by Marty Robbins in 1969.

Joy Byers is also credited on songs recorded by The Orlons, Arthur Alexander, Gene Vincent, Bill Haley & The Comets, Rick Nelson, Solomon Burke, Steve Alaimo, Hank Locklin, Nancy Sinatra, The 5 Royales, Del Shannon, Betty Everett, Joe Henderson, Anita Bryant, Jimmy Church, Joe Hinton, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis and Big Al Downing, among others.

She was the widow of Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash/Leonard Cohen record producer Bob Johnston (1932-2015).

Joy Byers is survived by son Kevin, three grandchildren and two nieces. According to The Tennessean, a private memorial for her will be held at a later date. Online condolences may be submitted at (real name: Joyce Alene Byers Johnston).


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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