James Travis Reeves

Born 20 August 1923, Galloway, Texas, USA

Died 31 July 1964

Jim Reeves, the country-music baladeer adored by millions, fell in love with music at the age of five, when his big brother brought a gramophone into the Reeves household, and played Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #5".

Reeve's father (Tom Reeves) had died in 1924, when young Jim was only ten months old, so Jim idolised his big brothers and that old gramophone set his direction in life. And Jim, being the youngest of seven, was given all opportunity to follow his calling. Jim's mother, Beulah Reeves, never had any doubt about Jim's future in music.

At the age of nine, Jim traded some stolen pears for an old guitar, and was taught the basic use of the instrument by a cook in a local Galloway, Texas oil company. At the age of twelve his first public performance was on the radio, out of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Jim was athletically gifted, and won an baseball scholarship to the University of Texas, in Austin, in the year 1942 (Jim actually played baseball for the St Louis Cardinals during the war years!) It was at university that he was able to finally overcome his childhood stammer, and Jim Reeves recordings, even when listened to in the present day, astound the listener with his perfect pronounciation and diction.

During university, Jim got work singing (with Moon Mullican in Beaumont, Texas) and as a singing disk jockey (on KGRI in Henderson, Texas - a station that Reeves returned to and bought outright in 1959). Reeve's first recordings were made in 1949, and in 1952, he caught a lucky break when he was called onto stage to fill in for the country music master Hank Williams, who was unable to make the show.

Reeves was signed by Abbott Records at the conclusion of that fateful show. His first two singles for that label, the hillbilly-influenced Mexican Joe and Bimbo, earned him golden records and remain two of his best loved songs to this day.

In the year 1955, Jim Reeves was established as an up-and-coming country star, being signed by the dominant RCA Records and being included in the roster of artists at the Grand Ole Opry. Reeves' hits during this period included Yonder Comes a Sucker, and the singalong Railroad, Steamboat.

With his recording of Four Walls, Reeves made a play at changing his style, from hillbilly and possibly novelty, to a more mellow and romantic ballad style. Chet Atkins is said to have condemned Four Walls as "a girl's song", but Reeves developed this style in the Opry. By 1957, Reeves' intuition was shown to be right, and Four Walls crossed-over to become a Billboard smash hit, firmly establishing his status as country music's heartthrob. Out went the cowboy outfit, and in came the sharp suit and skinny tie. Jim Reeves, Superstar, "Gentleman Jim", was born.

Reeves' enduring popularity is probably also due to his overt praise of Christianity, especially in his stage shows and live recordings. His colaboration with Chet Atkins continued, and a sting of hits crossed over from the country charts to the Billboard pop charts, including the slow waltz He'll Have to Go, Adios Amigo, and Welcome to My World. Over the length of his career, Jim wrote or co-wrote over seventy-five songs.

Reeves had built a significant following worldwide, but was more popular in South Africa than in any other international market. In fact, Reeves re-recorded many of his hits in Afrikaans for local white-South African consumption. It was during his travel in South Africa that Reeves got his airplane pilot's license.

Reeves died in a light-aircraft crash on the 31st of July, 1964, when his single-engine plane crashed outside of Nashville. Reeves' pianist and manager, Dean Manuel, also died in the crash. Their bodies were not found until the 5th of August, after a search party exceeding five-hundred people, including many country music musicians and stars, turned up the wreckage. Reeves' body was buried in a specially set-aside area alongside Highway 79 in Carthage, Texas.

The inscription on Gentleman Jim's monument reads:

If I, a lowly singer, dry one tear

or soothe one humble heart in pain,

then my homely verse to God is dear,

and not one stanza has been sung in vain.

Reeves' loyal collie dog, Cheyenne, was buried at his feet in 1967. Mary Reeves, his widow, died on 11th November, 1999.

Adapted from internet sources including SonicNet, includes the nodist's childhood love of the artist's work. Rest In Peace, Jim.

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