Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Gentleman Jim Reeves

Jim Reeves
Jim Reeves was a Country singer with a rich mellow baritone voice. He was born James Travis Reeves in Galloway, Panola County, Texas on 20th August 1923. Jim, one of a family of nine children, originally had aspirations to become a baseball professional, but a broken ankle laid that dream to rest.
He became a disc jockey on country radio stations and it was while he was an announcer at KWKH Radio in Shreveport that his first opportunity to sing arose. When a guest didn’t arrive for a performance on the ‘Louisiana Hayride,’ Reeves filled in and, as a result, was signed to Abbott Records where he had a million seller with ‘Mexican Joe’ in 1953. His second Gold Disc followed with ‘Bimbo’ in 1956.

RCA Records then acquired Abbot and provided Reeves with the backing of a major international label. What was particularly remarkable about the career of the singer who came to be known as 'Gentleman Jim', was his huge popularity internationally – and he was actually more popular, and his records more successful, in Britain than in America.

He was also more popular in South Africa than Elvis Presley, recording several numbers in Afrikaans and starring in ‘Kimberley Jim,’ the most expensive South African movie made up to that time. ‘I Love You Because’ became popular throughout Europe in 1964, penned by blind songwriter Leon Payne, and features a harp, unheard of on a country record at that time.
His early big hit was ‘He’ll Have to Go’, penned by Joe Allison, which became a Platinum Disc.

His hits in the British charts began in 1960 and he topped the charts in Britain with ‘Distant Drums’, written by Cindy Walker, in 1966. Reeves had almost 30 chart singles, many of them charting posthumously, and the majority of them in the UK. He is also in the Top 5 of artists in Britain with the most consecutive years on the charts, having enjoyed an annual run of hits between 1960 and 1972, with his records spending 322 weeks on the chart.

In addition to the posthumous solo hits, he was paired with Patsy Cline on ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely’ in 1981 (Patsy had also died in an air crash). The two were paired on record again on ‘I Go To Pieces’ the next year. In 1983 ‘The Jim Reeves Medley’ was issued, featuring four of his numbers. Another pairing resulted in three Top 10 singles in 1979 and 1980. Reeves was also paired on duets with singer Deborah Allen, who was 11 years old at the time of his death.

Tragically, Reeves died on 31st July 1964 in a plane crash in Nashville, along with his manager, Dean Manuel. He had been piloting a single engine Beechcraft plane in heavy rain. He was only 39 years old.
Jim was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967 and the inscription on his bronze plaque reads: “The velvet style of Gentleman Jim Reeves was an international influence. His rich voice brought millions of new fans to country music from every corner of the world. Although the crash of his private airplane in 1964 took his life – posterity will keep his name alive – because they will all remember him as one of country music’s most important performers.”

The singer was buried in Carthage, Texas, where there is also a statue to his memory and an annual ‘Jim Reeves Day and Jamboree', while there is a Jim Reeves Museum in Nashville. He was also inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998.
Jim Reeves plane crashJim Reeves memorial

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Text Bill Harry               Original Graphics SixtiesCity     Other individual owner copyrights may apply to Photographic Images

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