July 31, 1964 was a Friday, a typical hot, humid day in Nashville. Heat and humidity in the summertime brings with it thunderstorms, what they now refer to as "popcorn variety" storms.
Jim Reeves and his piano player/manager, Dean Manuel, were on their way back to Nashville from Arkansas in a plane Reeves piloted. Reeves had gone to conduct business; Manuel went along because he was from Arkansas. Bonnie Brown was asked to accompany the two on the trip, since she was also from Arkansas, but she had to stay home because of a sick child.
As they approached Nashville they encountered a thunderstorm. Reeves had a pilot's license but was not cleared to fly on instruments. He had to try to navigate his way through the storm by sight.
He didn't make it.
In the middle of a sentence during a conversation with the control tower at the Nashville airport Reeves' plane went down in a heavily wooded area.
Marty Robbins lived not too far from the crash site. He was outside, getting rain water in the storm to wash his hair in. He heard the noise and knew it was not thunder. Robbins ran back into his house and told his wife Marizona, "Somebody's just been killed out there!"
Mary Reeves later said at first she didn't even think anything of the report of an overdue plane being the one her husband was on. "Then," she said, "I started thinking about funeral arrangements."
It took until Sunday afternoon for the wreckage of the plane to be discovered. A photo of Eddy Arnold went around the world on the AP news wire with a caption stating he was identifying Reeves' body.
In the 45 years that have passed since the world lost the exceptional voice of Gentleman Jim there have been untold changes in the industry and in music tastes and style. One thing I feel absolutely confident in saying, however: Jim Reeves would still be making good, quality, valid music today if he had not met with death on that terrible Friday afternoon. Good music is timeless. No matter how many horrid "singers" the American Idol era throws at us the cream will always rise to the top and stand head and shoulders above everything else.
And that is exactly what Jim Reeves did -- then, now, and for all time.
James Travis Reeves: August 20, 1923 - July 31, 1964