Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jim Reeves' musical legacy goes on trial in January

More than 40 years after the death of country singer “Gentleman” Jim Reeves, a Nashville court will determine the fate of his musical legacy – and the ownership of his considerable posthumous royalties.

Reeves heirs – chiefly his nieces – and the surviving second husband of his widow Mary Reeves Davis will return to Davidson Country Probate court January 23.

The two-day trial will determine how big a stake Terry Davis, the second husband, has in Mary Reeves Estate, which owns Jim Reeves’ music royalties. Those royalties have ranged from $100,000 to $400,000 per year, according to court records.

Jim Reeves was a country crooner and ambassador of the “Nashville Sound” of the 1950s and 1960s. One of his best-known songs, "He’ll Have to Go," includes the lyrics “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone.” He died in a Brentwood plane crash in 1964 at the age of 39.

His widow Mary Reeves Davis managed his posthumous career, which included songs her husband recorded before his death that went on to become hits during the 1970s and 1980s.

She died in 1999, suffering from Alzheimer's, and the case has continued unresolved since then. The case has taken some strange turns, with allegations Terry Davis, a former Baptist minister, kept Mary Reeves Davis in filthy conditions even as she struggled with dementia. Authorities found 114 dead cats in the freezer of their rural Tennessee home, before Mary was taken to a nursing facility. A multi-million dollar sale Terry Davis helped broker that would have transferred all of Jim Reeves’ musical catalog from Mary Reeves Davis to a carnival operator later convicted of bank fraud was invalidated by a federal court.

Davis is suing for a bigger share of his late wife’s estate than her 1976 will specified. The will said Terry Davis would get $100,000 and some properties. He is petitioning for a percentage of the overall estate.

The trial was originally scheduled for October.