Fifty years ago on July 31 1964, Country singer Jim Reeves died when the light aircraft he was piloting crashed in severe weather conditions in Davidson County, Tennessee.
Texan Reeves had been a popular recording artist in the USA since scoring his first hit Mexican Joe in 1953. He is remembered mainly for not only been a stalwart figure in the country music world but also for been an ambassador of the genre by taking it into other countries across Europe as well as India and Sri Lanka.
He gained popularity in the UK with the hits Welcome To My World and He'll Have To Go and by the time of his death in 1964 had become one of the best selling country artists in the world (alongside Johnny Cash).
His success showed no sign of swaying in death. He topped the UK charts in 1966 and saw off competition from The Beatles with his version of Distant Drums and a steady schedule of unreleased recordings released as singles continued to flow well into the 1970s.
A back-catalogue of albums also saw subsequent reissues on RCA's Camden label. A quick perusal in many charity shops today usually turns up a few Jim Reeves albums in the vinyl box. I remember my father having several of Jim's albums back in the 1970s including Bimbo which showed Jim on the cover with a young boy laughing (presumably Bimbo himself!).
It was memories of Bimbo which prompted me to pick up the CD release Jim Reeves - The Collection in a charity shop recently. The Collection is a title whichis used quite loosely these days on most compilations for it usually can mean anything. The Collection in this case pulls together 18 tracks from Jim Reeves early years 1953-56 and in all honesty its not bad!
There are early singles Mexican Joe, Bimbo, Penny Candy and Yonder Comes a Sucker all bordering on a cross between old country and early pop. While there are roots of modern country with songs Red Eyed and Rowdy and Its Hard Just To Love One.
There's a few examples of pure old country too not too far flung from the style of Hank Williams Jr or Tex Ritter.The heart wrenching narrative of Padre of Old San Antone for example is one of those death-disc recordings that always makes you wonder why these songs seemed so attractive back in the 1950s, while there's some good old yodelling (or is it whooping?) on Drinking Tequilla.
Not a bad compilation to have uncovered however, and might even encourage me to look at some more of Jim's material in the future.