RAY WINKLER'S TRIBUTE TO JIM REEVES

 

 

During the weekend of July 31 and August 1, 1994, on the 30th anniversary of the death of Jim Reeves, I had the opportunity to visit and meet Ray Winkler in London. Ray was the co-writer of WELCOME TO MY WORLD. Ray Winkler died of a heart attack on May 9, 1998. 

Please  tell us about yourself?

I was born on October 13, 1920 in Bonham, Texas, which is 98 miles northeast of Dallas. I lived on the farm and worked in the fields till I was 17. I began in radio as a station announcer in Longview in East Texas. In world war two I served in the US Navy. After the war I branched over to sports broadcasting in Little Rock, Arkansas.

I left radio in 1949 to become General manager of the Clovis, New Mexico Pro Baseball club which at the time were owned by Dizzy and Paul Dean, the former big league pitchers.

I remained baseball, as a club owner of the Lubbock, Texas Pro Baseball club and as president of the West Texas - New Mexico Pro Baseball league until 1955. In 1955, a friend of mine, Dave Stone, one of the all time great country music announcers in Lubbock, Texas at his station K-DAVE, invited me to become part owner of a new station in Amarillo, Texas, K-ZIP. I remained there until 1964, at which time, my family and I moved to Dallas, Texas, from where we had started in 1941. In the mean time and in between time, John Hatchcock was already a most prolific song writer, having written several songs for Hank Thompson, such as What Will I Do On Sunday, Wake Up Irene, Tears Are Only Rains and others. I had just begun becoming more interestedin writing songs. Even though, John worked at an other station in Amarillo, he and I became close friends. Later he came to be employed by me at K-ZIP, at which time, we got to writing together, etc. He was a terrific lyricists and fine melody writer. He taught me a whole lot about the business. John has written hundreds of songs and is still turning 'em out; and he and I have written so many together....and still do when the spirits hit us.

Can you remember when you first met Jim?

Oh, yes. I had a salesman at the station and his father-in-law owned a night club and then I guess Jim was playing dance halls and night clubs. So the salesman said: "My father-in-law can ask Jim Reeves to come to the station, he knows him and booked him before and I know he'll come down for an interview". Well to precede that, before we came on the air in March 1955, I had never heard Jim Reeves. I knew of him through the salesman, he thought he was so good, and when we went to the local record store and I asked for Jim Reeves records, they said: "We have one recording, go behind the counter and see what you find". So I found this recording and took it to the station and we kept on playing it and wore it out. One side was My Mary, which I think he wrote about his wife and WHERE DOES A BROKEN HEART GO was the hit side. So the salesman took Jim down to the station and we couldn't wait. I really enjoyed it. We were supposed to talk for 7 to 8 minutes and I guess we talked for 45 minutes and I wasn't exactly surprised.

When you hear some one sing, try to figure out how they look and what their appearance is, how they talk. Jim had been a professional baseball player and before we moved from Lubbock, to Amarillo. We operated Lubbock professional baseball so we had a lot in common to talk about professional baseball. After that we became very good friends. He played the dance that night but from then on we booked him for concerts. You know we could have got hours of conversation, broadcasting live from the Auditorium but we never taped anything as a taperecorder was in its infancy, we recorded on records (transcriptions). If we had tape as you have today or even half as good we would have taped no telling how much.

In 1961 John Hathcock and I wrote Welcome To My World and we had another demo (of Welcome To My World), I don't know who did it, he only sang the words and play the chords real rough. After a show Jim said: I like to take this recording with me. I said: I've got a kid in there who knows it. Jim said: Well, I'll get the Blue Boys. I had an announcer called Dean Kelly, he was a good singer, but he was a high tenor, and we never could get him on country records. We had a little studio and Dean Manuel had his little portable piano that he could just get out of the coach. They set it up, Dean Kelly sang it and that was the demo that Reeves took with him. He said: Ray I like this song. I like to take it, if you don't care and listen to it. Sing it on the bus and on the golf course two or three weeks, where I do all my songs. If I still like it as much as I think I do, I would like to record it. So two or three months later I was in Nashville at the D.J. Convention. He came up to my room with his manager Clarence Sellman, I was gonna leave that day. We talked and talked about everything and we didn't even mention Welcome To My World during the conversation. I stood in the hall and he walked out to the elevator down the hall and turned around and said: Hay Ray, if you do not mind, I like to record that song Welcome To My World. And I said: Man, the pleasure is all mine, take it, you got it. He had two publishing companies but I published Welcome To My World for 100 percent, after he recorded it and came out, he never asked for publishing or anything. I went to him and said: Jim, you recorded a song and it sounds great, we think it's gonna be a hit, and he said: I think so too. I said: You never asked for publishing but I know you have a publishing company and anybody as great as you record one of my songs, I'm gonna give you half of the publishing rights, just for recording it. He put it in one of his companies called Tuckahoe Music. Then when he died his wife Mary sold it to Buddy Killen, a good friend of theirs, at Tree Publishing, and Tree later sold it to Sony for a lot of money.

Billboard Music Week - May 29, 1961

Jim Reeves and His Blue Boys concluded an eight week tour of the West....Reeves and his lads recently made their fifth appearance of the year in Amarillo, Tex. on a promotion handled by radio stations K-ZIP and K-IXZ. Appearing with Reeves and his group were Little Jimmy Dickens, Claude Gray, James O'Gwynn and Earl Scott.

Dean Kelly a K-ZIP diskjockey and I had part of the melody and lyrics ready of NOW THAT IT'S OVER and waiting for Jim to help us finish it. He came for the show...came out of the station as he always did and visited with the K-ZIP gang of announcers, etc. Kelly and I gave him the lyrics and Kelly sang the song melody for him. Jim suggested some changes in words and a note or two in the melody and he liked it, and would put it in ones of his albums sometime. Charlie Philips later recorded it on Columbia records.

Do you know when  YOUR WEDDING was composed and when it was recorded?

Jim and I wrote YOUR WEDDING in 1963. We had him booked in Amarillo, Texas, we had a radio station. We always talked about songs, and I had just started writing songs and I had a bunch of what you call "dogs" and every time Jim came I had some more "dogs" and he looked at them and listen to them and say: Well Ray, you're getting better. So one day he came out there and said: "Let us write one" and we went in to the office and he sat down in my chair at my desk and he's a good typist, he typed it and he restarted and it was his idea of the title Your Wedding, he said: Let's make it sad. It was his idea to involve as many people in a song as you can, like having a triangle you know, two men and a woman and get as many people involved as you could and make more people interested, so YOUR WEDDING. We started and he just added a line and I added a word and I guess in 30 or 40 minutes we had it. He had it on a piece of paper, type written and he said: I want to take it home, he was on his way to Nashville after the show that night, and bettered it up on some day and put a tune to it, and maybe old Chet will record it in an album. Jim did the demo at his home studio and sent me the tape. So it went on 6 or 7 months before he passed. Mary didn't even know I had it so I sent a tape to her that he had sent to me right after we did this song and she said: "Just hold it", so I held it and took care of it for it might have been the next year when it was time that Chet decided that he and she make a release and they put it in an album. And that's how that song came into the world in the later part of 1963.

In volume 6 of the BBC radio documentary JIM REEVES AND HIS MUSIC, Mary mentioned  YOUR WEDDING: "Jim was very good in writing songs, melody or changing one line here and there, which he did a lot of, so he did that but rather than have it written on a piece of paper, because Jim did not write music, he heard it, he could play it, but he couldn't write it. So how's he going to demonstrate to Ray Winkler what he'd done? So what we are going to hear now is the letter form on a tape."

Spoken letter from Jim Reeves to Ray Winkler:

 "Hi, Ray here it is. I don't know if this thing is any good or not, it sounds real good to me. It's kinda long and I'll have to trim it down a bit later I guess. Your Wedding. I hope you enjoyed a lot, if you have any suggestions about a different melody, the one I threw together sounds pretty ordinary but sometimes this is the best kind it sells better than the complicated affairs sometimes"

I sure do like Street of Loniness and I would love very much to just hold on it for awhile. You'll probably be in New York, or on your way to New York and won't be back for several days but I'm sure you'll listen to this before I get out there on the 12th of May and we can talk about it both. Just got a simple diddy here with my guitar. The musicians are not around, so I hope you like it this way and maybe we can make a better demo later. See you May 12!"  Than Jim sang part of YOUR WEDDING.

Click HERE to listen to the spoken letter (Real Audio format).

(This recording come from a scratchy acetate disk and shows only Jim and his guitar. The " demo" used for the overdubbed release and subsequently released on the Bear Family set, would probably have been recorded in June. On May 12 Jim did a show in Postfalls, Idaho and had two days off before doing a show in Glenwood, Washington on May 15. - Arie)

I can't remember meeting him on May 12. Jim never did do a demo on The Streets Of Loniness. Charlie Philips recorded that song on Columbia Records. Charlie was one of the diskjockey's at our station who originally wrote the song SUGERTIME which the McGuire sisters had a big, big hit on. From the first time that I started writing, after I met Jim Reeves, John Hatchcock and I, would sit and listen how Jim announced certain words, what type of sentences he used, short, long or medium; the timing and phrasing, pronunciation and everything. From then, every song we wrote was for Jim Reeves!

The day of the John F. Kennedy assassination, November 22, 1963, we had Jim Reeves and his band booked for a show and a dance to follow the show, as soon as it was announced that Kennedy got killed, we immediately cancelled the show. As you know it was the saddest thing in history. Everyone remembers where you were at that time. Kennedy was announced dead at one o'clock and Jim Reeves and the Blue Boys arrived in their bus at about three. Jim was one of the wonderful persons I've ever met. He was real laid back of course, said nothing until somebody said something to him. Just one on one, he was would carry on as we are, you know. Dean Manual played his piano, he was a fantastic artist and a nice person. Jim practically raised Leo Jackson. Leo lived with Jim and Mary when he was learning to get into the band. When Dean Manual came along you were not told or announced at the concert anywhere, but you could tell that Dean handled the band and Jim depended on him that everything go right. What ever Jim was, he was a friend.He talked and you found out what his thinking was of live, what he liked, his direction in live and you just found out the gentleness in him.

When did you see him for the last time?

Three or four months before he got killed he and Mary were coming thru Dallas on their way to San Antonio for rest and fun. John Hatchkock and I were in Dallas on business and met them at the airport between planes. we were in a laughable mood - Jim was carrying a peanut patty one foot in diameter in size. He and the Blue Boys were scheduled to play a show for our radio station two weeks before his death.

MY TRIBUTE TO JIM REEVES

His world was filled with songs  / The audience was his guide / They called him "Gentleman Jim" and he wore that name with pride

Jim Reeves - a great artist - a true friend. / He never met a man he didn't like / Jim Reeves was a man's man and the women loved him.

His voice, his songs, his own way of live / the things he did and the thing he believed life is to live - love is to give.

The things he did - he did his best / He was a discjockey - baseball player - songwriter - singer - artist

Why it never entered his mind to do anything less than the very best. / Jim Reeves was for real

Like the time he ask a friend to go fishing / the friend said,"Why, I don't have time - I 've gotta make a living" / Jim simply said, "Fishing is living".

Jim Reeves liked everything and everybody / His friends - his fans - these were his people. / And most folks knew that Jim was happiest doing what he liked best - singing a song

And he made them sound so easy. He always said, "lazy, - just lazy". / Even tho it was hard work at times / Jim would just say - "It sure beats pickin' cotton".

And Jim Reeves was so grateful -  and he said it many times backstage after personal appearances. / "They seemed to like me - I hope they did  / I did my best and thank God for making it possible".

And Jim Reeves was so grateful - So humbly grateful to give to the live he lived and loved.

The eternal songs of "Gentleman Jim" - a great artist / A true friend by just being himself.

I wish I could have known Jim Reeves all my life.

Written by Ray Winkler and John Hathcock in memory of Jim Reeves following his death in July 1964. Copyrighted and published by Neillrae Music and Tuckahoe Music. The recording was arranged and produced by Marvin Montgomery for Startime Records.

Ray Winkler recorded this poem, using the melody and musical arrangements from WELCOME TO MY WORLD on a 45 rpm single, released on Startone S-105.

Click HERE to listen to Ray's tribute to Jim (Real Audio format). 

With special thanks to Libby and Betty Winkler.