April 20, 2013
Gentleman Jim Reeves started off as a hardcore country singer, but his smooth crossover stylings would become synonymous with the Nashville Sound, combining with tragedy to grant him country music immortality only a dozen years into his career.
Growing up in Texas, Reeves picked up the guitar at an early age, mimicking the Jimmie Rodgers records that he discovered through his older brother. A prodigious talent, Reeves was already singing on local radio shows before he entered his teens.
He was also a great athlete, and he played in a semi-professional league, followed by three years in the big leagues with the Saint Louis Cardinals. But an ankle injury sidelined him, and he returned his attention to music.
He worked in radio while recording independent singles, eventually raising his profile with a series of hits on Abbott Records. After three years of scoring big hits with them, he once again joined the big leagues, this time in the form of major record label RCA Victor.
Reeves was a consistent hitmaker throughout the fifties, but didn’t truly break through to superstardom until he softened his country sound with the pop stylings of the time. “He’ll Have to Go”, released in 1959, became his signature hit, reaching the pop top ten while it topped the country charts for fourteen weeks.
His singles regularly charted
country and pop from that point on, though he was far more successful in his home format. Tragedy struck when Reeves died in a plane crash in 1964, but much like Patsy Cline before him, his notoriety only grew in the shadow of his untimely death.
In fact, Reeves would have his most significant run of hits in the years after his death, having an astonishing sixteen top ten singles over the course of seventeen years. Some of those hits, like “Distant Drums” and “Blue Side of Lonesome”, are as beloved as the biggest ones released while he was still alive.
Reeves was one of the earliest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, joining those hallowed ranks in 1967. “He’ll Have to Go” cemented its classic status with its induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame. To this day, unreleased recordings continue to surface, and he remains one of the top-selling country artists of the Nashville Sound era.
- Mexican Joe, 1953
- Bimbo, 1953
- Four Walls, 1957
- Billy Bayou, 1958
- He’ll Have to Go, 1959
- Adios Amigo, 1962
- I Guess I’m Crazy, 1964
- Distant Drums, 1976
- Jim Reeves Sings, 1956
- Bimbo, 1957
- Girls I Have Known, 1958
- The Country Side of Jim Reeves, 1962
- Distant Drums, 1966
- The Blue Side of Lonesome, 1967
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