In 1964, country star Jim Reeves died when the plane he was piloting crashed
near Nashville. His pianist, Dean Manuel, also was killed.
Reeves died when the small aircraft he was piloting crashed during a
thunderstorm near Nashville, Tennessee. His business partner and manager
Dean Manuel (who was also the pianist in Reeves’ backing group) was also
killed in the crash. On July 31, 1964 Reeves and Manuel left Batesville,
Arkansas en route to Nashville, having just secured a deal on some property.
While flying over Brentwood, they encountered a violent thunderstorm which
proved more than a match for the tiny, single-engined Beechcraft ‘Debonair’
aircraft. The plane faded from the radar screens at around 17:02, and all
radio contact with the craft was lost.
One of the major causes of the crash was deemed to have been that the small
airplane had become caught in the centre of the thunderstorm and that Reeves
had become disoriented by “pilot’s vertigo”, which would have resulted in
him not realizing in which direction the plane was travelling, be it up,
down, left or right.
Both Reeves and the pilot of Patsy Cline’s ill-fated plane were trained by
the same instructor.
Controversy over his death
It is now understood that Reeves was, in fact, flying the plane upside down
and he assumed he was raising the craft some distance in an attempt to clear
the path of the storm. Of course, this disastrously (and fatally) resulted
in him taking the airplane downward and straight to the ground. This would
have explained why, when the wreckage was eventually found some 42 hours
later, the engine and nose of the plane were buried deep in the ground.
On the morning of August 2, 1964, after an agonizing and intense search
(aided by such people as Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold, Stonewall Jackson and
Ernest Tubb) the bodies of Jim Reeves and Dean Manuel were found amongst the
wreckage of the shattered plane. At 13:00 that afternoon, radio stations
across the United States announced to their shocked and stunned audiences
that Jim Reeves had been killed in a plane crash. In what can only be
described as sad irony, riding high in the UK singles chart at the time was
I Won’t Forget You. The song later became a top ten hit in the United
Many thousands of people turned out to pay their last respects to Jim Reeves
at his funeral, which took place on August 4, 1964. The coffin, draped in
flowers from respectful fans, was driven through the silent streets of
Nashville and to Jim’s final resting place near his home town of Carthage,
- January, 01, 1934
- Cleveland, Arkansas
- July, 31, 1964
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- Plane Crash
- Springhill Cemetery
- Nashville, Tennessee