Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jim Reeves (1923 - 1964)

James Travis Reeves was born in 1923 in Galloway, Panola County, Texas. He was one of nine children and his father died when he was only ten months old. Jim was given his first guitar aged five and was soon listening to Jimmie Rodgers. Aged 12 he appeared on a radio show in Shreveport, LA. Jim Reeves also a talented athlete and decided he would like to be a professional baseball player. He joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 1944 and played with them for three years before seriously injuring his ankle. He worked in a series of jobs and during this time started singing as front man for Moon Mullican's band. In the early '50s, he became a radio announcer for KSIG in Gladewater, TX, before establishing himself at KGRI in Henderson. In 1952 he was a disc jockey and newscaster at KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, and host of the popular Louisiana Hayride. The fateful day arrived when a performer failed to turn up for a singing gig. It is not clear now whether it was Sleepy LaBeef or Hank Williams, but no matter Jim ended up filling in. His warm, velvet, mellow baritone voice was an instant success. Jim Reeves was signed to Fabor Records then Abbott Records, but left in 1955 for RCA Victor as soon as he tired of the novelty records he had been recording.

Jim sang in a loud voice which had been the style considered standard for country-western performers. He was keen to change this and soften his volume by using a lower pitch and singing closer to the microphone. At first RCA were resistant but when Chet Atkins (his producer) recorded a demo song using the self same style in 1957, then RCA changed their mind. Jim recorded "Four Walls" which topped the country charts and crossed over to become a hit on the pop charts and the Nashville Sound was born.

As a result of his huge crossover appeal, Jim appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and guest spots on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Steve Allen Show and The Jimmy Dean Show. In 1957 Jim was given his own show on ABC-TV, and he soon became a national household name. In 1958 he released "Blue Boy" which was a country and pop hit and inspired the naming of his band, "The Blue Boys."

The style of 'Gentleman Jim Reeves' with his rich, velvet voice bought millions of new fans to country music from every corner of the world. The early 60s saw Jim at the top hit parade in many countries making him an International star.

He became more popular than Elvis Presley in South Africa and was especially appreciated by the Zulus. Jim recorded several albums in Afrikaans and in 1963 appeared in a South African movie, Kimberley Jim.

A year later Jim Reeves died (July 31st 1964), when his small plane crashed during a thunderstorm near Nashville, Tennessee. It appears the small airplane became caught in the centre of the thunderstorm and Jim had become disorientated by "pilot's vertigo", and was completely unaware of which direction he was flying the plane. The plane was flying upside down and when Jim he decided to rise the consequences were tragic. Jim Reeves’ music continued to be popular with sales increasing following his death. Throughout the late '60s and 70s RCA released posthumous singles and ne w material previously unheard.

Worth a listen:
Mexican Joe (1953)
Bimbo (1955)
Four Walls (1957)
Am I Losing You (1957)
Anna Marie (1958)
He'll Have to Go (1959)
Distant Drums (1960)
Adios Amigo (1962)
Have I told you Lately (1962)
You're the Only Good Thing (That's Happened to Me) (1962)
Welcome To My World (1964)
I Love You Because (1964)
I Won't Forget You (1965)

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