About the song
If you are a fan of country music, you might have heard of the song “Distant Drums” by Jim Reeves. But did you know that this song was not originally intended for public release, and that it became Reeves’ only UK No. 1 hit after his death? In this blog post, we will explore the history and legacy of this classic song.
“Distant Drums” was written by Cindy Walker, a prolific songwriter who penned many hits for country and pop artists. She wrote the song in 1963 for Roy Orbison, who recorded it as a single that year. The song reached No. 3 on the Australian charts, but did not make much impact elsewhere.
Jim Reeves also recorded the song in 1963, but only as a favor to Walker, who wanted a demo of her song. He did not think the song was suitable for his style, and neither did his record company RCA or his producer Chet Atkins. The song was shelved and forgotten for a while.
However, after Reeves died in a plane crash on July 31, 1964, RCA started to look for unreleased material to capitalize on his popularity. They found “Distant Drums” and decided to overdub it with an orchestral arrangement to make it sound more contemporary. The song was released as a single in March 1966, and became an instant hit.
The song topped the US country chart for four weeks, becoming Reeves’ most successful posthumous single. But it was in the UK where the song achieved its greatest success. It entered the UK Singles Chart in the summer of 1966, and reached No. 1 on September 22, where it stayed for five weeks. It beat out songs by The Beatles, The Small Faces, and other major artists of the day. It was named the UK’s “song of the year” and Reeves became the first overseas performer to receive this special award.
“Distant Drums” remained in the UK Singles Chart for 25 weeks, and sold over one million copies worldwide. It is considered one of Reeves’ signature songs, and has been covered by many other artists over the years. It is also one of the most popular songs played at military funerals, due to its poignant lyrics about a soldier longing for his lover while facing death.
“Distant Drums” is a song that has transcended its humble origins and become a timeless classic. It is a testament to the talent of Cindy Walker and Jim Reeves, and a tribute to their enduring legacy.