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Blast from The Past: Jim Reeves’ First No. 1 Hit in the 1960s, “He’ll Have to Go”

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The song “He’ll Have To Go” took Jim Reeves’s career to even greater heights.

Singer Billy Brown first recorded it; however, Brown’s version failed to make waves and only got occasional airplay on the country stations. But out of those few occasions, Reeves got lucky to hear it.

The moment he heard the song, he knew he had to record it right away. Though he was advised to keep at bay and see if Brown’s version would go anywhere, still Reeves insisted – he knew that this song was the one. “This is going to be the big one. No matter what I’ve done in the past, or ever will do, ‘He’ll Have to Go’ is going’ to be the one that will live on,” Reeves said.

So, in the fall of 1959, Reeves released his version of “He’ll Have To Go” to country radio as the B-side of the single “In a Mansion Stands My Love.” And as Reeves expected, it was not long before the song became a huge country and pop hit.

Reeves’ “He’ll Have To Go” reached the top spot of the Hot Country Singles chart, where it remained for fourteen consecutive weeks. The song was a crossover success peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, it also reached No. 13 on the R&B Singles Chart. At the end of 1960, the song landed on the second spot of Billboard’s Song Of The Year.

The song also enjoyed commercial success internationally, reaching No. 1 in Canada’s pop charts for six weeks and No. 1 on the # Australian Singles chart while No. 12 on the UK Singles chart. Over the years, it has been covered by the likes of Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Elton John, Bryan Ferry, and Mark Knopfler, to name a few.

The Story Behind The Song That Changed Jim Reeves’ Career

Written by husband and wife songwriting couple, Joe and Audrey Allison, “He’ll Have To Go” tells the tale of a man ringing the woman he loves only to realize that another man is with her. He can no longer say the intimate things he usually would because the other man is on the scene.

“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. Let’s pretend that we’re together, 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,” the song begins.

It was later revealed that though the song was not a true story and no one else was involved, it was a real phone call that inspired it.

One day when Joe was out, he called his wife to check on her. But Audrey had such a soft voice that Joe had trouble hearing what she was saying. Joe kept asking her to repeat herself and told her to put her mouth closer to the receiver so he could listen to her properly. Audrey did what Joe asked, and everything turned out fine.

When Joe finally got home, he saw a piece of paper that was always kept by the phone with a single line Audrey had written. It read, “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone” – that one line inspired a memorable song that it is today.

Reeves, on the other hand, made that song his own. It will absolutely make you believe that the problem was between him and the love of his life. You can see it for yourself in Jim Reeves’ breathtaking performance of “He’ll Have To Go” in the video below.

 

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