208 jim reevesJim Reeves was born a year after my mother in Galloway, Panola County, Texas. At the height of his fame, he visited South Africa (where he was hugely popular among white listeners) to film Gentleman Jim. In South Africa in the early 1960s, he was more popular than the Beatles, and his hit Don’t Let Me Cross Over kept I Wanna Hold Your Hand off the top spot. Like Anton, he was musical and sporty at the same time, and it was ankle injuries that were to prevent both from continuing with sporting careers.

But Jim stood exactly for what Anton, with his huge collection of classical records, hated in music. His expensive hi-fi equipment was not for the playing of Jim Reeves and his likes. Anton’s records were mostly played when we children were asleep, or supposed to be asleep, although I can remember lying awake in the hot night listening to the sounds of tropical frogs and crickets overlaid with the strains of Bernini, perhaps, filtered through two doors and a passageway. Jim Reeves died in 1964, before his talent could really be tested against that of the Beatles. ‘What sings and flies into a mountain?’ went the joke. ‘Jim Reeves.’

In the garage were Anton’s old record-player and his records from the 1940s and early 1950s, mostly 78 rpm format. On these, men with voices very like Jim Reeves’ crooned American songs that had been popular during Anton’s boyhood. I would go in there and play these records sometimes, but I don’t remember precisely when or why. The tune of a song called Beautiful Louisiana reaches me through the crackle and hiss of time.


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