Tom Perryman was Jim's business partner and long time friend. Along
with Mary, he has been most responsible for maintaining Jim's legacy. He
is a member of the National Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and the Texas Country
Music Hall of Fame. Recently he sent an audio letter to John Rex Reeves
about his relationship with Jim.
Hello John Rex Reeves,
I¡¯m Tom Perryman. You remember me, don¡¯t you? I wanted to give you something about me and Jim Reeves for your web site. I was just one of many who had a hand in Jim Reeves¡¯ career and success. But I guess I happened to be maybe one of the first. When I was working in Jacksonville, Texas at at KEBE from 1947 to 1949, I played a hillbilly disc jockey on a program called The KEBE Corral. I had a listener there that listened to me and also to Jim Reeves. Jim was announcing and disc jockeying at KGRI in Henderson, Texas. This listener, Monroe Smith, listened to both of us. But in ¡®49 I moved over to Gladewater, Texas, over at a brand new station, KSIJ, and he and his family continued to listen to me and he told me about Jim Reeves.
I had heard about Jim when he was playing baseball because we would broadcast the games when I was in Jacksonville. But in 1949, Monroe Smith, brought me Jim Reeves' first record on Macy, My Heart is Like a Welcome Mat. I started playing it, got pretty good response, pretty good mail on it. Me and another disc jockey there, Charlie Stokely, started a local talent show with live talent every Saturday afternoon from the studio, later from the community center there and later at the picture show. I had been playing Jim¡¯s record and I got him to come over and appear on those local talent shows.
This was in probably 1950. But we got to be good friends. He was in
Henderson and I was in Gladewater and about once or twice a year he¡¯d come
over and we¡¯d go to Dallas early in the morning and visit the record distributors
and pick up disc jockey samples which were mostly 78s then. Jim had cut
demo sessions at Jim Beck studio in Dallas. We¡¯d take those demos to Dallas
and when we could, we¡¯d play them for those distributors trying to get
somebody interested in Jim Reeves for a major label. But we never did much
good at it.
But then in 1952, Jim had left Henderson and had worked around in east Texas at Kilgore at KOCA and later at Longview at KLTI. Then he¡¯d been fronting a band working at the Reo Palm Isle and singing in Longview. About that time he came over and worked with us at KSIJ in Gladewater. He was opening up the station, working at night at the Reo until midnight and many times he¡¯d come over and sleep on a couch in the reception room so he¡¯d be able to get up in time to open up the station.
We became very good friends. We visited quite a bit with each other. We¡¯d go down to Henderson and spend the night with Jim and Mary. We¡¯d go fishing in Striker Creek and a few places. In 1952, Fabor Robison with Abbott Records came through looking for song writers and singers. I told him about Jim. So, Wednesday afternoon we went out to the Reo in Longview and I got Jim to sing for Fabor and Fabor liked him. Two or three days later they signed a contract in my office at KSIJ. The first record he released was a record cut at a Jim Beck demo session called Wagon Load of Love. But then he got hold of a song in Nacogdoches, from Mitchell Torok, called Mexican Joe. It was cut in the studio at KWKH after midnight after the station signed off at one ¡®o clock. He became real popular with those Abbott records. Had two or three pretty big hits on Abbott, as you know.
But we still stayed good friends and he¡¯d come by to visit and every time he came back to the station I¡¯d get him to read the news. And we played a lot of golf, fished, did some hunting and partied quite a bit. And all the time I was coming to the disc jockey convention, the first one in 1953. Got to be on the board of directors of the first Disc Jockey Association and I told all the guys, kept telling them about this boy Jim Reeves. Some of them hadn¡¯t got the record yet. So they got it and some of them started playing it. So maybe I had a hand in helping Jim get some airplay in other parts of the country through my connections with the other disc jockeys. He had already auditioned at KWKH in Shreveport as an announcer and finally Horace Logan hired him as an announcer rather than a singer on the Louisiana Hayride.
All this time I kept playing Jim¡¯s records, booking and promoting shows and telling people about him. In 1955, he went to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry at WSM. During that time we spent a lot of time together, especially talking about material, songs to record. He seldom ever recorded a song when he didn¡¯t make it a point to play it for me and probably other disc jockeys, too, to see what they thought about it. And when I¡¯d get a record in from an independent label that I thought was a good song that I thought would be good for Jim, I¡¯d send him a copy of it or when he was down I¡¯d make him a taped copy of it. He recorded a couple of songs I got for him. Particularly, the Moon Light and Roses album, we picked most of the songs for that album driving from east Texas to Dallas when I was taking him back to Love Field in Dallas to fly back to Nashville. Moonlight and Roses is still one of his biggest and best sellers.
About 1956 I found out they were going to hire a new disc jockey for the all night show at WSM. I auditioned for it and got the job. Come to Nashville to be a star, but as I tell everybody, I didn¡¯t realize it was going to be spelled s t a r V E! But Jim maybe had a hand to see that I auditioned for the job. So we went, my wife Billie and my three kids were just babies. Me and Billie and Jim and Mary would go out from time to time and I kept telling Jim I wasn¡¯t doing any good there and was looking to get back into radio. So, he had told the people at Henderson KGRI that if they ever wanted to sell that station to let him know, he might want to buy it. So, sure enough they wrote to him. He asked me about it and I said Jim, man I aint got no money. He said well, see if you can borrow enough to make the down payment and I¡¯ll put up the rest of it. So I did. I borrowed the money from my brother and we bought it in 1959. We changed it immediately to all country and some gospel. We were one of the first all country stations in Texas, probably in the whole country. We did pretty well, didn¡¯t do a whole lot of good, but we paid for it. It was going to be paid for on August 1, 1964. He had been down there and we were talking about having a big mortgage burning party and all and of course you know what happened after that when he flew that plane into the ground and was killed in Nashville on July the 31st.
But any way, I've been promoting Jim Reeves ever since 1949 all up through
the years and even after he was killed I continued to promote Jim and when
me and Mary bought the station in Murfreesboro, WMTS, and it ended up being
one of the top country stations anywhere. After we sold the station in
1978, I continued working with Mary and helped with the museum and I kept
the old radio equipment that Jim and I worked at in Henderson and we put
it in the radio room at the museum. The equipment is now in the Grand Ole
Opry Museum at Opryland. And then I produced, along with Mary, that Jim
Reeves Story, the three hour audio life story of Jim with a bunch of his
hits and a lot of people talking about Jim and Jim talking about himself.
We won the International Radio Festival Gold Award for that show in 1984.
In 1990 and 91 we produced the Golden Memories and Silver Tears video from
Jim¡¯s old tv shows.
Still a few things left to be done with Jim Reeves¡¯ popularity worldwide. I hope to continue to be a part of it. Got to know most of the Reeves family, along with you John Rex. We¡¯ve had a lot of good times together and all of your uncles and aunts and I got to know them. Especially, Buford Reeves, when I interviewed him for the radio story. I always enjoyed knowing the Reeves family before and even after Jim died and hope we can continue to be good friends. That¡¯s just a little bit about what I did. Hope I¡¯ll still be around to do some more to benefit the legacy and career of my good friend, Jim Reeves.
Thanks a lot John Rex,
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