JIM MEMORABILIA

I remember the first time I handled something that Jim had written on — a card to his Iowa fan club president (and my dear friend), Wilma Sedivy of Walford, Iowa. It was the same feeling of awe I've gotten in a museum when looking at a historical document or some other item of antiquity. Wilma — whose husband, Bill, was very tolerant! — had a room in her farm home devoted to Jim (even before he was killed) and her scrapbooks were brimming over with personal letters, clippings, photos, etc. I am still appalled by what happened to Wilma's collection. Her sister, whom I'll call "Rose", apparently was always jealous of her friendship with Jim. So when Mrs. Sedivy became ill and was in the hospital (after her husband passed away), Rose took most of Wilma's Reeves items out in the middle of a field and burned them! She even burned her sister's clothes. What a horrible thing to do to somebody. Wilma recovered and lived years longer, and told me how she had asked Rose WHY she had done such a dastardly thing. Her sister's lame response was "because I thought you were going to die." The rest of her life, Mrs. Sedivy was heartsick about how her treasured Reeves items had been destroyed. I was also infuriated because Wilma had told me countless times over the years how she wanted me to take her items and write a book about Jim. Fortunately, Rose didn't manage to destroy everything. By happenstance I had one of Wilma's scrapbooks in my possession at the time, and was able to cull material from it for my book, “Jim Reeves: His Untold Story.”

I can't tell you how many times I have heard similar stories about how ignorant, thoughtless or evil people have destroyed historical items of Jim's. Then there are the vultures who have picked the Reeves bones clean out of simple greed. In my book I describe how Jim and Mary's property fell into the hands of a convicted bank fraud felon and carnival operator, Ed Gregory, in a questionable deal that longtime Reeves "friend" Tom Perryman bragged to me he had put together. After assuring the press he was going to perpetuate Jim's legacy and even open a new museum, Ed moved swiftly to liquidate the assets of the Reeves estate before he even paid for them. He ended up ripping off Mary for over $7 million and then filing bankruptcy. Although a Reeves niece filed suit trying to get a court to set aside the sale of the Reeves estate to Gregory, the family missed several opportunities to protect the memorabilia.

I tried repeatedly to convince the Reeveses of the historical significance of Jim's artifacts, by pointing out that both he and Mary, from their earliest days together, had routinely saved every shred of paper, receipt, card, clipping, diary, tape, scrapbook, photo, contract and letter imaginable. The couple did so not just because they were confirmed pack rats, but because they both believed — accurately, as it turned out — that Jim was destined for greatness, and they wanted to document his career. Jim himself talked of opening a museum before he got killed, and Mary fulfilled his dream.

I argued that the ephemera was the underpinning of Jim's legacy — something tangible that fans could see and touch — and that Jim and Mary's desire that it all be kept together should be respected. I knew from my 33-year friendship with Mrs. Reeves that she had even paid big money to lawyers to try to prevent the very plunder of her and her late husband's estate that eventually did occur.

Unfortunately, my pleas — as well as those of other concerned fans — fell on deaf ears. Apparently because it was hard to place a monetary value on the memorabilia, the heirs — who by this point consist solely of nephews and nieces, some of whom were never particularly close to their famous uncle and aunt — seemingly couldn't have cared less what happened to it. 

Recently a series of articles by Anita Wadhwani appeared in the Nashville Tennessean regarding the conclusion of the 16-year court battle over Jim and Mary's assets. Ms. Wadhwani mischaracterized the dispute by saying that Jim's "legacy" was "at stake." But this is absurd. This was simply a fight over money, nothing more. The notion was fostered that the family was waging a heroic battle to recover something that belonged to them, when the truth is they never had it to begin with. It was only because of Mary's long-challenged will that the relatives of the couple will be profiting from Jim Reeves' artistry in the future.

Though it was brought to her attention several times, Ms. Wadhwani refused to tell her readers what Jim intended for the disposition of his estate. I strongly suspect it's because she was unduly swayed by a Reeves family member and a former employee of Jim's, whom she sat with in the court room and allowed to influence her coverage of the trial. They were not anxious for the truth to be known. But any reporter worth their salt would have realized that it was noteworthy that, as I reveal in my book, according to his will, Jim Reeves neither desired nor anticipated that any of the earnings from his lucrative career or investments ever be shared with his siblings, their offspring or his inlaws. And yet thanks to Mary's will, that is exactly what will happen. 

Unfortunately, because Ms. Wadhwani's superficial, inaccurate and highly misleading stories were picked up by the Associated Press and disseminated through other media around the world, many of Jim's fans have the mistaken idea that the heirs will now be protecting and promoting his musical heritage. But none of the family members has any real expertise in knowing about Jim's catalog, nor have any of them done anything to rescue, restore or release any of his music as I have done. Sony owns the masters and the heirs will certainly not be calling the shots there, either. Even when he was alive, some of Jim Reeves' brothers and sisters were dismissive of his career achievements, never fully understood nor appreciated the scope of his international stardom, and after he was gone, stubbornly remained willfully ignorant about his legacy. Today, their offspring by and large reflect a similar disinterest. I have said many times that if you got all the Reeves family members in a room, they collectively would know less about Jim than your typical average fan.

I am not faulting all the Reeveses or Mary's family, the Whites (the other half of the heirs), because there are some who are elderly and others who are too young to know much. But key individuals in the Reeves clan have let down the fans big-time. This includes John Rex Reeves, who went to Nashville with his father, Buford, after Jim got killed and implored Mary to sponsor him as Jim's "heir apparent." Mary, who was musically ignorant but not tone deaf, told him it would kill Jim's image, and threatened to sue him. For years, John Rex has exploited his late uncle's fame to further his own career, despite the fact, as Mary herself icily commented to me, "he is no Jim Reeves."

If there is a silver lining to any of this, it is that key artifacts of Jim's — such as his gold, silver and platinum record awards, the KGRI radio equipment, his 1960 Cadillac Eldorado, and some personal items like the wallet that was recovered from the crash scene — have been preserved by a couple of big collectors. (The radio equipment is on display at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in Carthage). Still, there is much that has been irretrievably lost.

It may seem contradictory of me to pillory those who have grabbed ahold of Jim's artifacts and then turn around show you some of the things which I have acquired. But my conscience is clear. I even got one of my West Coast attornies to talk with a key member of the Reeves family and outline her legal options for protecting the memorabilia (but she failed to follow his advice). Besides this, I invested thousands of my own hard-earned dollars to recover as much of Jim's music as I could, not only to assure its survival, but share it with the fans. I don't believe that there is anyone else on the planet who has as much rare recorded material on Jim Reeves as I. The Reeves heirs owe me a debt of gratitude for preserving this. But while a number of them have bought my book, some have also been hostile. This is quite astonishing because if it weren't for my wife and me, and our Jim Reeves Way website (www.jim-reeves.com), fans around the world would never have known of these people. We built them up into heroes and heroines who were supposedly fighting a David and Goliath struggle, giving them the benefit of the doubt when they claimed they wanted to protect Jim's legacy. How naive we were! But as events have unfolded, we have been forced to reassess this situation.

And I continue to be appalled that a woman whom I mention in my book, who has made a fortune selling Jim and Mary's items on eBay with no apparent regard for the further damage this has done to the Reeves legacy, has so mishandled his recordings that they are still turning up in junk stores (as recently as a few weeks ago), where they are sold for a few bucks to unknowing people to re-use and record over them! That is grossly irresponsible of her to the point of being downright sickening.

These pictures do not represent the totality of what I've got, and I may post more items of Jim's later.

(Click on each photo to enlarge it).

The photo below shows a pair of Jim's alligator shoes, which he wore on his European tour. The striking thing about them is that they are so narrow. I was astonished when I first got them because Jim was such a powerfully built man. I couldn't imagine how he could even retain his balance with feet that were so slender. These shows were made by Johnson and Murphy, and look to be about a size 12. 


Some fans may have seen this medicine bottle because it had been on display at the Jim Reeves Museum, aboard Big Blue, the bus on which Jim and the Blue Boys had traveled across North America. On July 24, 1964, exactly one week before he died, Jim visited his doctor and got a prescription for cough syrup due to a bad cold he was experiencing. In my book I quote pro golfer Billy Maxwell who spent the last weekend with Jim out on the links, and he talked about how much Reeves was suffering from the virus.


There's a quaint story behind this pen. I collect fountain pens and so was especially interested in acquiring one that belonged to Jim. In researching it, I discovered it was manufactured in 1942 — the same year that Reeves graduated from high school. I theorized — but had no proof — that it was a graduation present. The real story came from Hollywood publicist Bea Terry, whom Fabor Robison had introduced to Jim Reeves in 1953. Bea and Jim spent the afternoon together at her apartment, and she recalled "he talked for some time and then mentioned that he graduated from Carthage High School. I told him that my aunt, Nynna Ray Hull and her son John Ray owned the Rand Drug Store across from the court house on the square. Jim laughed and took a fountain pen from his shirt pocket. 'John Ray gave me this along with a matching pencil when I graduated from high school!' He said he had carried that pen with him from then on. My aunt had married Dr. Hull — prominent in those parts. Jim knew him, too.”


This beautiful console television, which I now have in my office, was given to Mary Reeves for her birthday by her husband, Jim. It is an RCA CTC-9, (model 210-CK92) in the "Caulfield"style. It has a solid maple cabinet with brass pulls. It was top of the line because of the cabinet, and sold for about $900 — a princely sum in 1960. RCA promoted the fifth anniversary of color television by introducing these sets, which were manufactured by the parent company that owned the label for which Jim Reeves recorded. The Reeveses kept this television in their den and Jim used to like to watch the "Friday Night Fights" (being a boxing fan). This is also the TV that Mary watched to get news bulletins when her husband's plane went down. I got this set from a young woman who had attended a top-secret, invitation-only auction with her mother in a small Illinois town on Halloween night some years ago. Apparently the auctioneer had gotten a bunch of Reeves possessions — especially Mary's turquoise jewelry — from Ed Gregory. What was so odd is that the auction was so hush-hush, even the world's biggest collector of Reeves memorabilia didn't know about until after the fact. But I heard that two men even flew in from New York to buy items. Fans may have seen this television because it was on display in the Jim Reeves Museum in Nashville for years.


I am also a collector of antique clocks, and here's one that sat on top of Jim and Mary's television in their den. It is a Jefferson Golden Hour Art Deco Mystery Clock with a pure 24KT gold finish. The hour and minute hands have luminescent paint that is actually radium paint and is still radioactive. The operation of the clock was a mystery because the hands "float" on the see-through crystal and there are no visible means of movement. Yet it keeps perfect time. The clock measures 9" tall with a 7-1/2" diameter dial. The clocks were so popular, companies like Philco radio, Pfister Feed, Pioneer Hybrid Corn, Turtle Wax Auto Wax, A&P supermarkets and various jewelry stores gave the clock away in special promotions. 


Here is one of Jim's wagon wheel light fixtures. When George Bradfute bought Jim and Mary's former home on Westchester Drive in Madison, Tenn., he contacted my wife, Julie, to inquire as to whether or not we would like to have the wagon wheel light fixtures that had adorned Jim's studio. (A larger version was also in his den). Knowing how much I'd enjoy having them, Julie and George arranged to have them shipped to Iowa as a surprise for my birthday. I only have one of these fixtures installed (the rest are in storage) but it is fascinating to consider these lights were picked out by Jim and were in his home environment, when he was recording great songs that are still being enjoyed decades later. All of the components are original, including the hurricane glass chimneys with the brass shades. The wheel is also trimmed in brass.


Jim sent this gold record out to deejays. It was a clever way to say "thank you" to the disc jockeys who spun his big hit, "He'll Have To Go." On a black label it is inscribed in gold,  "Here is your gold record. My way of thanking you for one of the most wonderful events to come my way."It was signed "Jim Reeves."


Jim acquired this clock in South Africa. It would be outlawed today because it consists of two ivory elephant tusks, between which is suspended a clock. This item was later displayed at the Jim Reeves Museum in Nashville, where it sat atop the television set. It is a beautiful artifact.


Believe it or not, one of Jim's toupees was in a traveling exhibit of country music artifacts. I guess that's not much different than George Washington's wooden teeth being on display at Mt. Vernon. (I do not own this wig; it is in the hands of a private collector). I think it illustrates how much of a hassle it was for Jim Reeves to wear a hairpiece and make it look natural. Notice the mesh in front, which surprisingly extended quite a bit beyond the edge of the hairline and came down rather far on his forehead. To get that to blend into his skin must have been quite a trick, because as I explain in my book, "Jim Reeves: His Untold Story," the mesh was affixed by spirit gum. People tell me that while Jim's earliest wigs were atrocious, the ones he wore later in life were quite good. He bought them from Charlie Wright's in Hollywood, the same outfit that supplied hairpieces for a who's who of male stars. When Jim was onstage, he could conceal the edge of the mesh with powder. Being face to face with fans, however, was more difficult, depending on the lighting conditions. The truth is he never liked to have his picture taken because he didn't think his hair looked natural. I have some funny stories about this in my book. When Jim wanted to remove the hairpiece, he normally had to use acetone, which smells like lighter fluid and surely was an abrasive on his skin!  


This was one of Jim Reeves' prized possessions. When I saw it turn up on eBay, I immediately knew its significance, and prevailed upon a friend of mine in California, whose is a big Reeves collector, to buy it. (He has deeper pockets than I). This is the radiator cap off the car of Jim's boyhood idol, Jimmie Rodgers. It depicts the RCA Victor mascot, Nipper the dog (who appeared in ads for many years cocking his head to hear "his master's voice.") In early years, the record company would give their sales people a cap to fit the kind of car they had — such as this one, which was from a 1929 Model A Ford. (For an interesting website on the Nipper ornaments, click here.)

This hood ornament was given to Jim by the widow of the legendary singer and had been in a custom built display case in Jim's home. This historic item is now in the possession of Mike Curb, the country music preservationist in Nashville.


Here is Jim's massive 12.5 karat diamond cluster "show" or "splash" ring, with which he was photographed many times. In my book, "Jim Reeves: His Untold Story," I tell about how he bought the ring and when, plus how it was recovered from the crash site. The ring is now in the possession of a man in Texas who retired from the music business in grief over Jim's loss.



The last guitar Jim Reeves ever owned, a Martin D-28, which was recently sold by Leo Jackson's widow, Nell. In my book, "Jim Reeves: His Untold Story," I detail how Reeves acquired this particular instrument. Briefly stated, he and the Blue Boys were in New York for a television show in March 1964 and Jim sent his lead guitarist, Leo Jackson, out with a blank check and told him to buy a Martin guitar from Manny's, a well-known music store in Manhattan. Leo recalled how he must have looked at 100 or more guitars before he selected the one he thought sounded the best. It had a serial number of 194037. It cost $301.60. This is the one that Jim used on the "Jimmy Dean" TV show as he and Jimmy sat on the porch singing. It is also the Martin that Reeves can be seen playing in the video I posted of that concert he did in Oslo, Norway in the spring of 1964.


After Jim's death, Leo acquired the guitar -- though he briefly loaned it to Mary Reeves for display in the Jim Reeves Museum with the proviso that someday he would get it back. Just as Ed Gregory, the convicted bank fraud felon who acquired the Reeves estate, was taking legal possession of everything that had belonged to the Reeveses, Leo rushed over to the museum and retrieved the guitar. He continued to play it for years, using it for studio work and during some of the tours.

During the course of my book research I amassed thousands of pages of paperwork from the Reeves files. Amidst this material was the Manny's receipt for the guitar, which I sent to Leo as a surprise. He was thrilled to receive it.

His friend, Arne Benoni, the popular singer/guitarist from Norway, also played Jim's guitar at times, even calling me up one day when he was visiting Leo in Nashville. He played the guitar and sang a song to me on the phone, and it was a real thrill for me to hear Reeves' guitar played so expertly.

If you look on YouTube for Arne's video, "Angel of Mercy," you will see him playing this Martin. Arne tells me the last time he borrowed it was for a recording session in 2006 in Nashville.

Many fans over the years have expressed an interest in acquiring Jim Reeves' last Martin guitar, and Leo's widow, Nell Jackson, finally decided to sell it — with the help of a guitarist who works for her friend, country singer Dierks Bentley. A deal was recently reached and the new owner is a Reeves fan who lives in Colorado, whose son recently contacted me.

As you can see from the photo (below), this Martin has had a lot of use. It is doubtful it will ever be used on stage or in a studio anymore. But of course it has great historic significance as a truly rare country music artifact. I can think of several big-time collectors who would have done virtually anything to get their hands on this guitar. Alas, none of them managed to acquire it. My personal opinion is that this belongs in a museum, not in the hands of any private collector. I believe Nell wishes a museum had come forward to make her an offer that was acceptable.

UPDATE: A lot of people have emailed to ask me what the buyer paid for the guitar. The answer is $8,500. It was purchased by a 93 year old man from Colorado who never met Jim but is a fan of his music. I am told that he expects that guitar to become a "family heirloom." Translated, that means fans are not likely to ever see it in person.

This guy got a bargain. Jim's Baby Martin was priced at over $15,000 and has traded hands a couple of times at least. The deal was apparently brokered by Brian Layson (current guitarist with Dierks Bentley and co-owner of lwvintage). With all due respect, I don't think Mr. Layson has any real grasp of who Jim Reeves even was, because the price that guitar went for was a sacrifice by Leo's widow.

To be clear, I do not fault the buyer in the least. I know many of the details behind this purchase and the story is actually quite heart warming. I'm glad that someone who appreciates Jim Reeves as much as we all do has managed to acquire this rare instrument. It's just that so much of Jim's legacy has been irretrievably lost and I blame Mary, her lawyers from years ago, and some (but not all) members of the Reeves family. Many artists have their personal possessions donated to colleges or universities or libraries for preservation and display. That did not happen in the case of Jim Reeves.

For all the good that Mary did over the years, Jim's legacy was very badly mishandled. The latest sale is just more proof...




If you have any Jim Reeves memorabilia you'd like to tell fans about, email me some photos! I'd love to hear from you. Just write me at: midtod@iowatelecom.net

2 comments:

  1. Hello Larry
    Do you own the clock that was acquired from Africa? If you ever decide to sell it, please let me know.

    Thank you
    Shevanthi Perera

    ReplyDelete
  2. I enjoyed your site a great deal, as I'm a fan of Mr. Reeves. It's been a treat to learn even more about him. Thank you for this site.

    ReplyDelete

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