MarthaWhite
Being a member of the Grand Ole Opry was a very important thing to
the early country music stars.  The only thing is, it didn’t pay very
well.  Jim told us that all of the members were required to do a certain
amount of shows every year to stay a member.  The Opry only paid
the stars $50 when they performed.  It didn’t matter how much the
artist was making on record sales and other performances.  A good
friend of mine, Wilma Burgess, who became a RCA recording artist
right after Patsy Cline died, told me a story about meeting Jim at
Tootsies Orchid Lounge.  Tootsies is a little bar right behind the
Ryman Auditorium where the Opry stars would go to relax between
shows.  Oh yeah, they had to play two shows a night.  Anyway,
Wilma and a friend of hers had driven from Florida to see Jim Reeves
at the Opry.  They were sitting in Tootsies and in walked Jim.  Wilma
said they were speechless and gaga being right there next to him.  In
a minute Jim said to Wilma, “You girls look scared to death.  Come
on over and sit with me.  I’d buy you girls a drink but Mary only gives
me $5 when I sing at the Opry.”  Mary took care of all their finances
so I guess she gave him what she thought he could spend out of his
$50.  As fate has it, Wilma got a recording contract after Jim was
killed and became Mary’s best friend and confidant until Mary died in
1997.  Wilma passed away not too long after that and that ended my
visits with 2 great gals who knew all about the original country music
scene.  What tales have been told!!!!  How Wilma actually got a
recording contract is an amazing story and could never happen
today.  If you are interested in the story, contact me via e-mail and I
will tell it..
Christmas 1963, Jim and Mary made the trip down to Houston to visit
Grandmother White.  During a conversation with my Mom and Dad,
Jim said, “You know, I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever dreamed
of in this music business.  I just don’t know where to go from here.”    
July 31, 1964 (my Dad’s birthday) we got a call from Mary in Nashville
saying that Jim’s plane had gone down and couldn’t be found.  She
asked my Dad and my uncle Frank (also her brother) if they would
come and help find him.  I was 13 years old and remember praying
that everything would turn out alright and they would find him alive.  I
remember hearing the news on the radio and TV. The following
account was told to me by my Dad.  Frank and Dad flew into the
Nashville airport and was picked up by Eddy Arnold.  They went to
his house for breakfast and were then taken to Mary’s house by a
Tennessee State Trooper.  Skeeter Davis left a tour to return to
Nashville and be with Mary.  Bluegrass artist, Johnny Martin and his
wife were there also.  The Nashville music community had rallied
around Mary to give her support.  Everyone was looking for Jim’s
downed plane.  Dean Manuel, Jim’s keyboard player and road
manager, was also on the plane.  Dad and Frank rode around with the
State Troopers all in the surrounding areas asking people if they
heard a crash or anything that would help them find the plane.  Dad
got his first look at a real hillbilly moonshine still.  Most of the
troopers just ignored the moonshiners in the mountains saying that
they were more harmful to themselves and each other than the
public.  After 3 days of searching, the plane was found in a densely
wooded area close to the Nashville airport and near Marty Robbins
house.  Marty said he was outside washing his hair in the rain when
he heard a crash.  The woods were so dense the crash scene was
almost impossible to find.  As soon as the news was reported on a
CB radio, people started rushing to the scene.  They were picking up
anything they could as souvenirs.  The state troopers had to rope off
the entire area and keep people out.  My Dad arrived at the scene
and being family and knowing him well, was asked to identify Jim.  
This was difficult because Jim had flown the plane directly into the
ground and with the terrific impact and burning of the fuel left in the
plane, there wasn’t much to identify.  I’m sorry if this is too graphic
but the bodies were in pieces and burned.  Dad said Jim was a big
chested man and was able to identify Jim’s torso.  It had been 3 days
and the scene was gruesome.  Frank, a lawyer in Houston, stayed at
the scene and Dad went to tell Mary that they had found Jim.  Mary
was devastated by the news and kept saying, “Tell me it’s not as bad
as Patsy.”  Patsy Cline lived next door to Jim and Mary and they
went to the crash scene and saw it.  Jim was in the same shape
Patsy was in but Mary didn’t want to know it.  Just a side note:  
Patsy was killed flying home from a benefit show.  Before she left for
the benefit, she asked Mary if she could park her new red dodge in
Mary’s garage.   Patsy was mad at her husband Dick and didn’t want
him driving it while she was gone.  Mary said yes.  Patsy’s car
remained in Jim and Mary’s garage until Mary’s death.  Mary let me
sit in the car several times when I visited her during the summers.  
Dick finally got the car.
I remember going to Jim’s funeral in Carthage, Texas.  They had one
funeral in Nashville for his music family and one in Carthage for his
family here.  I remember Houston’s TV celebrities Don Mahoney and
Gina Claire being there.  He was buried outside of Carthage on a
muddy acre.  Now, as you know, there is a memorial statue to mark
his resting place.  Their dog Cheyenne is buried there and Mary
wanted to be buried there too but it hasn’t worked out that way yet.  
There is more I could tell about what happened with Mary and Jim
Reeves Enterprises after that but that is another story.  Thanks to
Mary, Jim’s legendary music was kept alive throughout the years.  
Mary and Jim are both gone now but Jim’s music lives on.

You can contact me a
t marthawhitemusic@yahoo.com
You must be a Jim Reeves fan and know a lot about his music so I won’t go
into detail about things you already know.  I’ll just give you my memories of
being in the family with Jim and Mary Reeves.
It all started back before I was born when my Dad’s only sister married Jim
Reeves.  My Aunt Mary was the only girl out of 10 children in the family.  Her
name was Mary Beth but most of the boys just called her Sister.  Jim and
Mary met at a dance in Carthage, Texas.
It was 1945 and my Dad had just gotten out of the Navy during WWII.  He
was a radar operator on the Battleship Mississippi and was docked in Tokyo
Bay after the war where he witnessed the signing of the peace treaty
between the U.S. and Japan.  But that’s another story and a long one at
that.  My Dad’s willing to talk if you’re willing to listen.
When he got back to Tenaha, Texas he realized that his sister had married a
fellow named Jim Reeves.  Before Mom and Dad returned to Houston to go
back to work, they decided to visit Jim and Mary where they lived in
Henderson, Texas.  I guess Dad checked out their living situation and
decided Jim might need a job.  So Dad told Jim, “Hey! You and Mary can
come down to Houston with us and I’ll get you a good job working with me.”  
To which Jim replied, “No.  I think I’ll try to make it in the singing business.”  
It’s a good thing Jim held on to his dream.
I was 13 years old when Jim was killed in 1964, so a lot of my memories are
from a child.  I grew up in Lomax, Texas close to the Shell Refinery where
my Dad worked.  My Grandmother White lived in Houston close to her sons
Paul and Frank.  During holidays Mary and Jim would fly into Houston to see
Grandmother.  We would all gather and have a good time.  Because Jim was
on the road so much, he liked to rest his voice when he could.  It was hard to
talk him into singing for us in the living room.  But one Christmas he gave in
and played guitar and sang “ He’ll Have to Go” for us.  You’ll have to
remember that my cousins and I were very young and very impressed.  We
were very aware that he was a famous country music star and we were
caught up in the thrill of it.  
One time Jim flew in to Hobby Airport to do a show at the Houston
Coliseum.  My family and Frank’s family met Jim and Mary at the airport and
my cousins and I were just positive that everybody noticed we were with the
famous star.  Jim and Mary stayed with us in Lomax on this trip. Jim wasn’t
too fond of Houston because back in that day, an artist might have to pay off
the DJ at a station to play their records.  This is the way  they operated in
Houston and Jim absolutely refused to pay a DJ to play his records.  In fact it
made him mad that they operated in that manner.  Later that evening my Dad
and I went with Jim to his show at the Coliseum.  In the early 60’s, sound
systems were not very powerful.  This night, the sound crew had set up a
Shure Vocal Master.  It was totally inadequate.  People in the crowd started
shouting at Jim to “SING LOUDER.”  They kept on heckling until Jim stopped
singing and said, “This is the way I sing.  I can’t sing any louder!  If you want
it louder you have to talk to the sound crew!”  I guess they worked it out
somehow because the show went on.  After the show, Dad and I went back
stage to meet Jim and give him a ride back home.  Dad reached down to
pick up Jim’s guitar and a security guard almost knocked him down.  Jim
said, “It’s OK!!!! That’s my brother-in-law.”  Dad was saved!!!  As we were
walking down the corridor, Jim told me, “You’re my favorite niece because
you look like my wife Mary.”  This thrilled me and as you can see, I never
forgot it.  
In 1961, Mom, Dad, my brother Mike, and I went on a vacation to Tennessee
to visit Jim and Mary and see the sights along the way.  The pictures you
see of Jim, Cheyenne, Mike, and me were taken on that trip.  Jim was
scheduled to sing at the Grand Ole Opry that Saturday night and he took us
all along with him.  He introduced us to all of the Opry stars backstage.  
Backstage at the Ryman Auditorium was very small.  We met Minnie Pearl,
String Bean, Archie Campbell, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff and others that I can’t
recall.  Mike and I sat on the front row looking up at the stage and taking
pictures with a Kodak Brownie camera.  These are great memories that are
etched into my mind.  Back at Jim and Mary’s house, we were allowed to
check out Jim’s touring bus and go down into the basement where a music
room was set up.  There was a great mural of Mexican style scenery which
was inspired from his hit “Mexican Joe.”  We were young but understood this
was a treat.
During one of our visits, Jim told a story of an event that made a great impact
on him.  He said he was driving back to Nashville from a show about a
hundred miles away.  It was late at night and he was driving in a remote,
mountainous area.  It had been raining quite a bit.  All of a sudden a person
in white clothes jumped in front of Jim’s car.  Jim slammed on the brakes
and thought he hit the person.  He jumped out of the car and started looking
all around.  He couldn’t find anybody anywhere.  He thought maybe they ran
down the road.  He started driving very slowly looking for the person he
thought must be injured.  All of a sudden he came upon a bridge that had
been washed out by a raging river.  Because he was going slow and looking,
he was saved from running off the road and into the river.  He said he
immediately knew that he had been saved by his guardian angel.  He was a
true believer in this.
Another incident that made an unforgettable impression on Jim was during a
trip to South Africa.  Jim was and still is very popular there and starred in the
motion picture “Kimberly Jim” which was filmed at the Kimberly Diamond
Mines.  Jim said when he arrived at the airport, fans overpowered him and
began ripping his clothes and trying to get the rings off of his fingers for
souvenirs.  This was the first time he had experienced the fans being totally
out of control.  He told my Dad that after that he was even afraid to go to the
Opry without security, afraid someone would try to rob him.
* My Life with Jim Reeves *
Jim telling me, "See, Cheyenne
can read the paper."
Mike, Jim and Martha
John White, Mary & JIm Reeves
Sitting on the front row watching Jim
perform at the Grand Ole Opry!
Mike White with Jim's tour bus.