Tom Hunt recalls when ‘Gentleman Jim Reeves’ embarked on a tour of Ireland in May 196, 55 years ago
Much of the Irish fascination with country music can be traced to the influence of Jim Reeves. Adios Amigo featured in the first charts compiled in October 1962 and from that time to February 1967 Reeves had eleven different Top 10 hits with Welcome to My World, I Love You Because and I Won’t Forget You topping the charts.
Jim Reeves’ recordings spent 84 weeks in the Irish charts and 14 weeks at Number 1 during this time. No other country music artist has a comparable record.
Produced by Chet Atkins, Reeves epitomised the Nashville Sound. The fiddle and steel guitar of traditional country music were removed and replaced by piano, electric guitar, strings and a backing vocal chorus. Atkins moved Reeves as close to the microphone as possible and his velvet-soft baritone voice came across as intimate and relaxed and with the release of He’ll Have to Go, the Nashville Sound was perfected. The development rescued country music from being obliterated in a tsunami of rock and roll.
Jim Reeves arrived in Shannon Airport on 29th, May, 1963, to begin a gruelling nation-wide tour. He was welcomed by Dermot O’Brien and Maisie McDaniel. London promoter, Philip Solomon promoted the tour and according to Jim Reeves: His Untold Story, the contract stipulated a total payment of $16,500 for the three-week tour. New York-based impresario Bill Fuller provided the advance payment and Solomon in turn sub-contracted some dates to Irish promoters and ballroom owners.