Jim Reeves Tour of the West of Ireland
Gentleman Jim Reeves came to Ireland in late May 1963, and his promoter Philip Solomon booked him for four venues in the west in Mayo, Galway and Sligo. He was in Galway City and County on the 31 May and in Mayo and Sligo on the 6 June 1963.
There has been much written about the Reeves tour in Ireland and he left some venues or curtailed his performances because of the pianos and the tour schedule which meant he had to play in two venues on the one night that were a long distance apart.
Despite this he played in The Hangar Ballroom in Salthill near Galway and the night went very well as he played to over 1,000 dancers as did the dance in the Crystal Ballroom in the east Galway village of Kiltormer near Ballinasloe as eyewitnesses testify to there too.
But things did not go as well in Kiltimagh in the Diamond Ballroom on the night of the 6th June 1963 when Jim Reeves was billed to go on stage at 10 30pm. The show band that was playing support that night were the Black Aces from Kilkenny and they were shocked as was everybody else including the 1,600 dancers when Reeves decided to leave the hall and head for the next appointment in The Las Vegas Ballroom in Sligo. Some sources claim that it was the piano and others that he was far from pleased when he saw that he was down to play in Sligo that morning of the 7 June 1963 at 12.30am. That night in Kiltimagh is the stuff of legend and has been written about but in any event Reeves left The Diamond and played instead in The Las Vegas.
There were some 1,500 punters in the Ballroom in Sligo and they thoroughly enjoyed the nights’ performance as said to The Western People by the Manager of the Las Vegas, Mr. Al Harte. The band there that night was The Monarchs from Limerick with their lead singer Tommy Drennan. The other show bands that played support to Reeves during the west of Ireland tour were Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues from Claremorris in The Hangar. Incidentally the Hangar is no more is was demolished and the Park is there now beside Leisureland Complex. The Mighty Rhythm Kings played support for Reeves and the Blue Boys in the Crystal in Kiltormer.
Some years back this writer penned a brief booklet on the Jim Reeves Tour of Ireland and this too in venues all over the country including in the North West and the Mid-west where there may be Mayo readers of the Western people and Reeves was in Clare in the New Hall Ennis on the 30 may where the limerick Leader reported on a good performance by Jim and he was in Donegal too in the Orchid in Lifford a venue that he left early but he played a full dance performance in The Pavesi in Donegal Town and the Donegal Democrat carried a picture in its columns of Jim Reeves Singing on stage.
The Jim Reeves tour of the west of Ireland was part of his national tour and it came at a time when the show band scene was in full flight and it is remembered fondly but all who followed the show bands during those years of the mid to early 1960’s. Jim Reeves was killed in a plane crash with his road manager and piano player on the 31 July 1964 and in September 1966 he had a major hit with Distant Drums in Ireland all of Fifty years ago. The hit was featured in Terry Reilly’s Teen Scene in September 1966 Western People.
Written by James Reddiough (Copyright 2017)