DID YOU KNOW THAT JIM’S SONG “AM I LOSING YOU?” WAS RECORDED AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS IN WASHINGTON AS A TUCKAHOE MUSIC COPYRIGHT ON 1st JUNE 1981?
The story of the song “Am I losing you?” is by now well known. As an integral part of the Bea Terry legend, the song is strongly featured in the love story. It was written by Jim and given to his California beau, lock, stock and barrel in 1956, for her newly created publishing company, Rondo Music, for services rendered. The book “Jim Reeves - the Untold Story” goes to great lengths to convince the reader that despite spending a tremendous amount of time and money on promotion of the song, it hardly made any money. This beggars belief. Rondo had the copyright on the song for 25 years, and had 3 hit singles on it in the country charts, two by Jim Reeves & the other by Ronnie Milsap.
In 1957 the song (20/47-6749) reached no.3 (18 weeks in chart); in 1960 a new recording of the song (47-7800) began life as the A side of the single, became half of a double-A sided single with “I missed me” which eventually proved to be the stronger side. In Billboard, “Am I losing you?” reached no.8 (14 weeks in chart) & “I missed me” no.3 (25 weeks in chart.) In Cashbox “Am I losing you?” reached no.7 (16 weeks in chart) & “I missed me” no.2 (23 weeks in chart.)
Incidentally, Jim also re-recorded “Am I losing you?” for his brilliant 1959 album “Songs to warm the heart” (LPM/LSP-2001.) This version was never released as a single.
In 1981 Ronnie Milsap released his version of the song as a single taken from his superb Reeves tribute album “Out where the bright lights are glowing.” In Billboard it reached no.1 for one week only on 9th May 1981 (9 weeks in chart), and was one of an amazing run of 10 consecutive no.1 hit singles between 1980 & 82. Strangely, Cashbox lumped the 2 sides of the single together as a double A side, the other side being “He’ll have to go.” It’s highest chart position was no.3 (13 weeks in chart.)
Ronnie Milsap’s 12th RCA studio album “Out where the bright lights are glowing,” (AAL1-3932) surely the best ever tribute album to Jim, reached no.6 on Billboard’s country album charts and reached the Billboard 200, peaking at no.89. It won the Country Music Association’s Award for 1981 Album of the Year.
These statistics clearly show the singles and tribute album were successful in the country singles & albums charts, and throws doubt on the book’s insinuation that little money was made on the song. The truth of the matter is that the song “Am I losing you?” was a Rondo copyright right up until 1st June 1981 when ownership was transferred to Tuckahoe Music, and its chart life as a Milsap single had ground to a halt. All monies due in payment of royalties would have gone to Rondo up to that point in time. Clearly Mary Reeves had to have shown some compassion, by not muscling in on a business deal while sales were red hot, and waiting until the song had slipped to no.99 in the Cashbox Top 100 Country Singles chart.
The author makes contradictory statements in the book, asserting on the one hand that Bea Terry was given everything on the song (page 187) and yet on page 651 he reports that by 1976, Bea Terry had “dutifully paid her (Mary) thousands of dollars in royalties.” He must make up his mind on the truth. Once again poor Mary Reeves is put under the cosh, when the author accuses her of “revenge” & allegedly having a hand in the theft of a trailer containing personal possessions and all Rondo’s business records. The book dates all these happenings as 1976. The author was clearly having a bad dating day! The Ronnie Milsap chart success with the song was 1981, as were the business dealings over its transfer of ownership. To add insult to injury, author/country music researcher Dorothy Horstman reveals in her article on “Am I losing you?” that “there have been 7 recordings of this song since 1963. All earlier records have been lost.” This information will have resulted from her BMI searches. Maybe that alleged trailer theft didn’t happen in 1976 after all!?
Contrary to what the author wants the reader to believe - that Bea Terry, despite owning the song for 25 years & little monetary gain, could not prove the fact of ownership in a court of law, “had no choice but to sign it over to Mary.” Her son Don Howard confirms his mother “just signed the damn song over to Mary.” What the two of them fail to mention, is the truth, and that was the song was not given away under duress, but that Mary Reeves PURCHASED the song. Yes, the copyright records in the Library of Congress for 1st June 1981 show categorically the song was SOLD by Rondo to Tuckahoe. The recordation clearly indicates in its notes a “Bill of Sale.” The song was not registered with BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) by Tuckahoe until 16th November 1981, after which date all royalties earned on the song would be legally theirs.
This revelation calls into disrepute the whole story of a legal battle between Mary Reeves & Ms. Terry. Just who was this hot shot Texas lawyer Mary hired, and where is the documentary proof of the legal action the reader demands? A few lines of a supposed counter-claim prove nothing. Surely the author could have detailed any authentication from Joyce Jackson who was still working for Jim Reeves Enterprises at the time, and was involved in his book?
One thing the book states is irrefutable. “Am I losing you?” was the benchmark song, in that it marked the beginning of the change of the old traditional country style Jim Reeves, into a new smooth, cosmopolitan, pop country balladeer who was to take the country music world at home & abroad by storm. In his own mind, Jim probably never quite nailed the song to perfection as he saw it, but thankfully Ronnie Milsap finally did it for him and I’m sure Jim would have approved.
Thanks to: Kurt Rokitta - scan & LofC detail