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October 17

Living on with “Distant Drums”

During the summer of 1966, “Distant Drums” dominated the British singles charts beating the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby” including the Small Faces’ song, “All Or Nothing” for five weeks. Impressive enough, “Gentleman Jim” Reeves’ song stayed in the UK charts for 45 weeks. Because of these, Reeves became one of the top choices in country music in the USA and served as an international ambassador for country musicians.

The video

Originally, Jim Reeves simply recorded “Distant Drums” as a “demo” for its composer, Cindy Walker. He was thinking that it was for her personal use. Additionally,  Chet Atkins and RCA Victor deemed the song”unsuitable” for general release. In the year 1966, however, RCA decided that there was a market for this piece because of the war in Vietnam. “Distant Drums” was chosen Song of the Year in the UK in the same year by the BBC. At the same time, Jim became the first American artist to receive that prestigious honor. Only Tom Jones, with his recording of Green, Green Grass of Home”, was able to beat him. His love ballad stayed No. 1 for seven weeks at the UK’s top hit single record of 1966.

Although Roy Orbison made his own interpretation of the song in 1963, it is Reeves’ version of “Distant Drums” which has lasted over the years. This masterpiece has been featured highly on several of Reeves’ albums which have been released through the years.

The track was released in the middle of the Vietnam War, summer of 1966. Perhaps people can truly relate to it because of the hardships, uncertainties and hopelessness felt and experienced by the soldiers and their loved ones.

Living on with “Distant Drums” 1
“Gentleman Jim”

It is a pleasure to write about this legend and musical prowess . Thank you for reading my article. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas.


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