Bear Family Release Complete Recordings + More
Way before he became the smooth voiced stylist with a devoted following that spread across international boundaries, Jim Reeves
was a hardcore country singer recording songs that reflected both his
Texas roots and current chart sounds. Now, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death, Bear Family Records has released all the recordings that Gentleman Jim made before signing with RCA Victor in 1955.
Titled The Complete Abbott Recordings, plus this is a 3 cd mini-box set with a 100 page booklet comprising 76 tracks which, as the title indicates, is more than just the Abbott recordings but also the earlier 1949 Macy’s recordings
plus a handful of early ‘50s demo recordings, allowing the listener to
hear how the phenomenal Reeves career was launched.
Biographical information on James Travis Reeves
is well documented and has regularly appeared in print over the years
since his tragically early death, noting how a promising baseball career
was short-lived through injury, leading on to radio broasting and,
eventually, to music as a dj and performer.
this collection marks the first ever, fully definitive examination of
this artist’s early work, the project overseen by veteran Reeves expert David Bussey who, for many years, ran the Jim Reeves Fan Club after first being hooked on the artist following the purchase of the Bimbo LP. Bussey, with regular Bear Family contributor Kevin Coffey
were the set’s reissue producers and, besides detailed information on
all the recordings, the set’s highly detailed book also includes a mass
of photographs (some rare and previously unpublished) and a newly
researched discography.
The first tracks in this set are the four titles (My Heart’s Like A Welcome Mat, I’ve Never Been So Blue, Teardrops Of Regret and Chicken Hearted, all co-written by Reeves) recorded for the short-lived Macy’s, a subsidiary of Houston’s Macy’s Record Distributors,
in October 1949, with all the expenses coming out of the singer’s
pocket. The songs were slow-to-middle tempo and hardly made much impact,
whether performance or popularity wise.
Then, with five self-penned demos recorded in the early 1950s, Jim Reeves signed with Abbott Records, following an introduction to Fabor Robison (the label’s owner) by disc jockey Tom Perryman. He had first
became aware of Reeves from his sports broadcasting days and later
engineered the singer’s first tracks (including the originals Wagon Load Of Love and What Were You Doing Last Night), released by Abbott in
1952. But another five sessions were to pass before the singer recorded
what was to become not only his first chart record but also a number
one – Mexican Joe, an up-tempo novelty penned by fellow label recording artist Mitchell Torok which entered the charts in March 1953. Its’ success  immediately set the style and pace for the follow-up, Bimbo, another chart-topper. Four more hits followed – I Love You (a song-narration with Ginny Wright, and released on associate label Fabor), Then I’ll Stop Loving You, Penny Candy and Drinking Tequila – before Reeves departed from Robison and Abbott and moved on to sign with Steve Shoals for RCA.
In total Reeves recorded 36 titles for Abbott
and none giving any indication of his later work, the majority kept up
the tempo in solid honky-tonk surroundings, following the decision of
producer Robison who obviously wanted to maintain the winning streak
with songs and sound, also frequently urging the artist to sing in a
higher key than he preferred.
Like other releases in Bear Family’s irregular mini-box collections (which includes sets by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and the Everly Brothers), the Complete Abbott Recordings, plus not
only contains all the original masters and alternative takes (the
several different versions of recordings are listed below) but also all
the surviving false starts and studio chatter. Overall it gives a much
fuller picture of Jim Reeves in a recording studio, often working alongside legendary musicians such as steel guitarists Bobby Garrett, Jimmy Day and Speedy West, pianist Floyd  Cramer, fiddlers Big Red and Little Red Hayes, and Harold Hensley among others. It all adds up to almost three and a half hours in a recording studio, presenting Jim Reeves as never revealed before.
accompanying book provides considerable light not only on the songs but
also on Reeves and related events and people in this period of his
career, including information on fellow Abbott recording artist Johnny Horton, a brief history of Abbott Records and its’  bossman Fabor Robison
who might have been loathed by many but was, nevertheless, a major
contributor to the success of country music during the 1950s and ‘60s.
Other Jim Reeves releases on Bear Family Records:
Welcome To My World (16 cd box set with 124 page book) – BCD 15656 PI
Jim Reeves & Friends: Radio Days Vol. 1 (4 cd box set with 24 page book) – BCD 16274 DI
Jim Reeves & Friends: Radio Days Vol. 2 (4 cd box set with 24 page book) – BCD 16282 DI
The Jim Reeves Radio Show (February 14, 1958) (cd with 20 page booklet) – ACD 25002 AH
The Jim Reeves Radio Show (February 25-28, 1958) (cd with 20 page booklet) – ACD 25005 AH
Jim Reeves & Others: The Jim Reeves Connection (cd with 28 page booklet) – BCD 18341 AH

Nashville Stars On Tour (with Chet Atkins, Bobby Bare, Anita Kerr Singers) (4 cd/1 DVD box set with 112 page hardcover book) – BCD 16821 EL

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