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MUSIC Country singer Jim Reeves remembered

Staying In
Reeling in Jim Reeves in 1963


Country Music
Michael Commins


NEARLY 50 years on, the Jim Reeves tour of Ireland in 1963 still has the power to rekindle old memories. As I reported last August, a new 26 page booklet by James Reddiough from Attymass takes a look-back at that nostalgic time and commits to print memories and reflections of a tour that captured the headlines way back then. The booklet, ‘Jim Reeves Tour of Ireland 1963’, was launched on Monday night last, September 27, in the Welcome Inn, Castlebar.
Reeves was one of the true superstars of the era. The velvet tones of the tall Texan filled the airwaves on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Here in Ireland, his songs held magnetic appeal. He played a huge role in cultivating the roots of country music among the Irish nation.
A year after his visit to Ireland, Jim Reeves died in a plane crash south of Nashville on July 31,1964. News of his passing made front page news around the globe. The singer was in the prime of his career with a string of No 1 hits in the American and UK charts.
As with Buddy Holly and others, his early and tragic death added even further to his iconic status. His classic country songs still cast a spell and retain a timeless appeal, especially in Ireland where he was always huge.
Jim’s first Irish date was in Drumkeen, Co Limerick on May 30. It was after a show in the Atlantic Ballroom in Tramore that he made the long journey from the south east across Ireland to Kiltimagh. That probably contributed to the moody form that led to his non-appearance on stage in the Mayo town.
What happened or did not happen in Kiltimagh on the night of June 6, 1963, can still generate plenty of talk. Journalist James Morrissey, a native of Kiltimagh who has resided in Dublin for many years, recalled the event in ‘The Swinging Sixties’, which was edited by John Coughlan, the founder of Spotlight magazine. “I can well remember the night Jim Reeves did not play in Kiltimagh. A crowd of us - trousered schoolboys congregated outside The Diamond Ballroom, waiting for the singing legend to arrive. Not since Walt Disney visited the town, at the invitation of a local businessman, had there been such a fuss about a stage or screen personality in the town.
“Car loads of couples arrived from all over the towns around and how we envied their adult status to have been able to gain admission for ten shillings. As it transpired we were not the only ones to be disappointed because Jim Reeves never performed in Kiltimagh. He claimed the piano was not properly tuned.”
Leo Diamond Jnr, son of the late Leo who owned the hall at the time, is quoted thus: “I understand that he was not aware that he had to do two shows that night it seems. He threw a tantrum when he found out he was down to perform at another show 40 miles away in Sligo. He came in the back door of the hall and didn’t stay long. He refused to do the two shows. Jack Higgins shot down the hall and said to Leo …‘he’s gone’.”
From Cork to Donegal and the shows in Mayo, Galway and Sligo, ‘Jim Reeves Tour of Ireland 1963’ is a brief but worthwhile contribution to the memory of one of America’s best-loved country singers. The booklet retails at €5 and is now available in Easons and Keohanes in Ballina, the Castle Book Shop and Easons in Castlebar, Smyth’s of Claremorris, The Paper Shop in Kiltimagh and The Gem in Ballyhaunis.