Friday, July 25, 2014

Four Generations of Jim Reeves Fans

One of the first of those long ten-dollar articles I published on Associated Content was prompted by "List your Top Ten Songs by any one of up to five different bands or singers." That's a lot easier for me than trying to pick a favorite song.

And the singer that came to mind first was Jim Reeves, who died in a plane crash a few years before I was born...because, at the time, my family had been three generations of Jim Reeves fans.

In fact, the smooth-voiced singer from Panola County, Texas, actually helped confirm my parents' interest in each other. Dad was a student renting a room in one boarding house near a university. Mother was not a student, but had gone to trade school at night while going to high school by day and launched her own business at age eighteen. Since her parents managed another boarding house on the same street, they had seen and liked each other, but weren't sure that they'd really be compatible at first. One of the things that convinced them was that both of them were claiming Jim Reeves as their favorite singer.

They bought all of his records, and my grandmother, who had also grown up in Panola County, mentioned that she used to baby-sit a "little Jimmy Reeves." When the memoir-album "Yours Sincerely, Jim Reeves" came out, Grandmother was sure the singer was her old friend. So he became her favorite singer too.

My parents had all but one of Jim Reeves' LPs, up to half a dozen copies of some of them because LPs wore out fast. We listened to those LPs until my brother and I knew most of those old 1950s teen-romance songs by heart. One effect of this was to immunize us to teen romance by making us notice how idiotic it seemed to anyone not suffering from it at the time. Another effect was to give these particular songs nostalgia appeal for us too.

A sub-genre of "country" music, as founded by the Carter Family, is associated with my part of the world. We didn't get television broadcasts until 1977 or 1978; before then, singing was what people did in the evenings--and a lot of people made money at it. My parents and teachers took music as seriously as they did math and English. Dad had some hearing loss and often coached us to "Notice how he enunciates every word so that the song sounds pretty, but you can still understand every word of it. Most singers don't do that." Especially not on monaural records.

As we grew up my brother's voice started to break and he stopped singing in public. I sang with school groups and church groups, and eventually did make money at it. When I sang for old people, in their homes or in hospitals and nursing homes, the songs they requested included several I'd learned from those Jim Reeves LPs.

My natural sister was born a better singer than I was--until she was six years old, when she had severe hearing loss (and became depressive) after a fever. She says that she doesn't hear most of the notes women sing. I didn't expect her to like music, as an adult. It was a surprise to find out that my nephews were also familiar with the cassette tapes we made from the old LPs, and they, too, are now Jim Reeves fans.

It was also a surprise that there are a lot of us in cyberspace. I don't remember offhand which ten songs I listed as favorites. I remember that they were some of my favorites to sing, not the ones that had been the best-selling singles, and some people thought this made the list "strange." I also remember that although I was unknown when I published the list and attracted several regular readers while writing for AC, "Top Ten Songs of Jim Reeves" *remained* the most popular article I ever wrote for that site. Other things peaked and declined; people kept reading that one.

This is already a long post for future Bubbles I may post more about the individual songs.