TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1600 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
Texas Hotels
  Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :

and Jim Reeves

by George Lester
George Lester

At the radio station in Natchez we had a couple of real “live wire” salesmen. The amount of business they brought in each month was phenomenal. Radio advertising is traditionally one of the most difficult things to sell. I know, I’ve tried it. They did it well.

These two fellows had worked together before coming to Mississippi. They shared with me an experience they had at a radio station in Gary, Indiana. The broadcast signal of that station reached into the Chicago area. The manager was in dire need of revenue because none of his salesmen had been able to crack that tough market. There were so many radio stations competing for the advertising dollar their small facility got lost in the shuffle. That is when our two salesmen came on the scene. They made a deal with the manager to be paid a higher commission than the going rate if they were successful where others had failed.

Successful they were. They worked hard and used all the skill and cunning they had garnered in their many years in the business. It wasn’t easy, but the first month they hit pay dirt. In fact, they struck the mother lode. When the bookkeeper totaled up the income the station owner was ecstatic. His company had never seen that kind of profit before. He was dancing around in delight. Then he found out how much of the gross was going to the salesmen in commission. He was furious about the money they were “taking away” from him. He kept repeating, ”I can’t afford to pay you that kind of money. It’s too much!”. It was pointless to explain to him that the more money the salesmen made the more the radio station earned. The owner stubbornly held his ground and refused to pay them the agreed upon amount.

The two salesmen quit over the incident. They said that the tight fisted radio station manager paid dearly for his greed. His business plummeted after that and never came close to the income he had received with the help of the two salesmen. However, he never could understand that the folly of his ways was the cause of it all. The only thing he remembered was how much money they were “trying to take away” from him.

Unfortunately, this example of poor judgment in radio station management is not uncommon. In my nearly 40 years in the business I witnessed many more instances of such insanity.

The salesmen had some major problems in Natchez too. Most radio stations have an extra control room for recording commercials. Not so in at the Natchez station. We used the same control room that was used for broadcast purposes. We had to wait for the station to sign off at midnight or do it the hard way by recording while we were still broadcasting. In order to record commercials we had to switch to another channel on the control board that didn’t go over the air. This could only be done a few hours before sign off because of the busy schedule the rest of the day.

I remember the frustration of the salesmen, who had already put in a hard days work pounding the streets, coming in about nine o’clock at night to produce their commercials for the next day. Because I was single and had no family to go home to I would often come in to help them. I was glad to get out of my lonely apartment for awhile anyway. The ordeal would sometimes take hours and I had to be up by 4:30 the next morning. Our recording sessions had to be interrupted often in order for the announcer on duty to make announcements on the air. I had requested that the downtown, unused control board be moved to the radio station and had my plea fall on deaf ears. We just had to live with it. It was not a perfect world.

I remember when the salesmen decided to bring Jim Reeves to town to perform at a local auditorium. The overhead of producing the show was more than either of them could scrape up so they borrowed money from friends and relatives to finance the affair.

When the big day arrived I was performing my usual morning duties at the radio station when I looked in the lobby and saw Jim Reeves himself smiling at me through the glass.

I had met him before at the Louisiana Hayride but it had been a long time so I didn’t expect him to remember me. While a record was playing I went out to meet him. As I was about to introduce myself he said ,“good morning” and called me by name. I guess that’s one of the reasons they called him “Gentleman Jim”.

He was there to see his sponsors, the salesmen, but they were not due in for at least another hour. I got him a cup of coffee and asked him if he would join me in the control room. The show had to go on and he understood because he owned a couple of radio stations himself. I’ll never forget his casual way as he sat there singing along with the records I was playing and seeming to be enjoying every bit of it. It is one thing to hear him on his recordings and another to hear his live, unamplified voice. The resonance and timbre could actually be felt in the walls, the furniture and the floor. It was the same when he spoke.

I had to keep reminding my self that I was in the presence of the great Jim Reeves. He was so unassuming and down to earth it was as if an old friend had just dropped by. I asked him if he would like to go on the air and talk about the show he was doing that night. He gladly obliged. We chatted about many other things as well. His adoring fans called and asked him questions. He was always polite and friendly with them.

When I finished my shift I had to go through a new shipment of records we had received.

It was my job to listen to them and decide which ones we would want to present to our listeners on the “call-in and vote” show. Jim took a great interest. After he listened to them he offered his evaluation. It was an opinion I greatly respected. When the salesmen finally arrived he thanked me for keeping him company and left. The radio station seemed to have an aura of grandeur about it for days afterwards.

That night I went to see Jim Reeves put on his show. For some inexplicable reason the crowd was shockingly small. That had no effect on Jim’s enthusiasm. He was a true professional and he gave a performance like he had a packed house. The few who came got a lot more than their money’s worth. I’m sure they remembered it for a long time.

The poor salesmen lost their shirts on the venture. I felt their pain. They had done their best but some things just can’t be predicted.

They later told me they really appreciated all my extra effort and assistance I gave them at the Natchez station. They said they would never forget it. They didn’t. Many years later I received a phone call from them after they had tracked me down from three stations back. They had managed somehow to buy a radio station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and they wanted me to come to work for them. I didn’t take them up on their offer. For the life of me I can’t remember why.

© George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir

October 1, 2007 column

More stories: Texas | Online Magazine | Features | Music | Columns | Spunky Flat and Beyond

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast

Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters |
Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos


Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us
Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright ©1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: October 1, 2007