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After being signed to Monument Records, Nelson played the song for producer Fred Foster. Foster pitched the song to Roy Orbison, who turned it into a hit. Nelson recorded his own version of the song in November 1964.
Background: In October 1963, while walking in his farm in Ridgetop, Tennessee, Nelson was inspired to write the song after he remembered a man he often saw while he lived in Fort Worth, Texas.The man couldn't walk and moved with rollers, selling paper and pencils in front of Leonard's Department Store. To attract the attention of the people, the man announced, "Pretty paper! Pretty paper!" In 2013, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram identified the man as Frankie Brierton, of Santo, Texas. Brierton refused to use a wheelchair, choosing instead to crawl, as he learned to move while growing up after his legs were affected by a spinal disorder. Brierton sold pencils in Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston. As noted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, Brierton suffered from childhood meningitis, and while both legs below the knee were atrophied, they were not amputated.