Jim Reeves: He'll Have To Go (1960)

 |   |  1 min read

Jim Reeves: He'll Have To Go (1960)

One of the saddest songs ever penned, He'll Have to Go became a signature ballad for the man they called Gentleman Jim Reeves.

Reeves (1923-64) had the vocal ease of Bing Crosby but with less of the Crosby's lower register scuff: if Bing was brown, Jim was tan. And there was something about his slow aching honesty that made him the perfect voice for songs about a man in love whose wife/girlfriend has left/is unfaithful or just plain undeserving of his attentions.

His wonderful I'd Rather Not Know said it all: if you have tarnished our love by being unfaithful then I'd rather not know. And he had plenty of songs like that: Blue Boy, I'm Beginning to Forget You, Each Time You Leave, Subsconscious Mind, Walking the Floor Over You, Tennessee Waltz . . .

But He'll Have to Go -- here in a later and orchestrated version, the original written by Joe and Audrey Allison and produced by Chet Atkins -- was a short story delivered with haiku-like economy. It went to number one on the country charts and two on the pop charts in the States in '60 and has been covered by dozens of artists including Ry Cooder, Elvis and even the UK band Prefab Sprout.

Reeves was a country singer so understood the value of sentimentality and his short career -- dead in a plane crash at 40 -- robbed the world of someone more than just an MOR ballad singer.reeves

A double disc collection There's Someone Who Loves pulls together unreleased songs, some demos, vocal tracks with new backings -- and a disc of him live with the Blue Boys in August '61 at a rained out concert in Pennsylvania.

Because of the circumstances -- people tramped through the mud to get to the show, as did the band -- Reeves pulled out an entertaining mix of his hits, impersonations (Johnny Cash), ribbing of his band (he suggests it's a surprise one of the musicians is sober) and impromptu versions of songs he liked.

You can hear kids talking in the audience.

The concert shows another side of Reeves, the broken-hearted balladeer.

But even so it's hard to go past those songs where he, the faithful and loyal man, knows he is being betrayed and he realises the generous, selfless love he has to give has been misplaced.

"Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone, and let's pretend we're all alone. I'll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low . . . and you can tell your friend there with you, he'll have to go."

Have a hankie. 

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird (demo, 1970)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird (demo, 1970)

It's a joke that never ages, at a rock concert someone yells out "Free Bird". It's such a standard that the American writer Mitch Myers entitled his collection of rock anecdotes and... > Read more

The Honeycombs: Have I The Right (1964)

The Honeycombs: Have I The Right (1964)

In the Beatpop boom which followed the Beatles, there were any number of great one-off hits (Concrete and Clay by Unit 4 Plus Two, and Wake Up My Mind by the Ugly's spring to mind). But few had... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI CD/DVD Edition)

Katchafire: Say What You're Thinking (EMI CD/DVD Edition)

This will be brief because the original 2008 album (the third by this constantly working New Zealand reggae outfit) was reviewed at Elsewhere here, but just to note this expanded package now comes... > Read more

DARKSIDE by TOM STOPPARD: The difference between right and wrong, innit?

DARKSIDE by TOM STOPPARD: The difference between right and wrong, innit?

Among the more crazy things which some serious stoners believed -- and they believe most things -- was that if you cue up Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album with the film The Wizard of Oz... > Read more