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
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.
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.