Distant Drums (Jim Reeves)

22 SEPTEMBER 1966


Jim Reeves hit #1 in the UK charts with the single ‘Distant Drums’ and stayed there for a whole five 5 weeks in the face of some quality competition, and was in fact the top-selling UK single during 1966! 

Reeves had died in a plane crash in 1964, and his original recording of this song was really intended for private use of the composer. However, it was later overdubbed with an orchestral backing and released as a single.

The British success of this gentle recording seems quite inexplicable. While it is possible that the lyrics - about a soldier wishing to marry his sweetheart before he is called off to fight in a war - had strong resonance in the US because of the ongoing Vietnam War, that would not have much influence in the UK. Then again, this only reached #45 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart (although it was #1 on the Country and Western charts).    

Maybe this was a reminder that in the midst of the rise of psychedelia, older people still bought records too. And it was a fitting posthumous tribute to an excellent singer.

B-side: 'Old Tige'
Released: 8 March 1966 
Recorded: c. 1963 (original), March 1965 and February 1966 (overdubs) 
Highest chart position: #1 (UK), #45 (US), #1 (US Country)
Label: RCA
Writer: Cindy Walker
Producer: Chet Atkins