Song of the Day, July 29: He’ll Have to Go

jim_reeves-hell_have_to_go_sToday’s song is a Country standard. Former DJ and future American Hall of Fame songwriter Joe Alison wrote He’ll Have to Go with his first wife, Audrey. Inspired by his difficulty in hearing her soft voice, he started with the line “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone.” They crafted a memorable song of love and regret, with the narrator sitting in a lonely bar, trying to convince the woman he loves to send the man she is with packing. It’s a tightly crafted song with a beautiful, haunting melody.

It was originally recorded by Billy Brown, but went nowhere. Intrigued by Brown’s version, singer Jim Reeves took on the tune, making it his own. With a quiet desperation that just avoids being maudlin, he creates a sincere, intimate musical portrait. The listening public loved the result. Reeves’ version spent an impressive 14 weeks at #1 on the Country chart; sales and airplay crossed over, and it went to #2 on the Hot 100 and ranked as the second biggest Pop single of 1960. He also made R&B inroads, peaking at #13.

NatKingColeRamblinGoThe song has become a standard, covered by dozens of artists over the years. My favorite is by Nat King Cole, who included it on his 1962 album Ramblin’ Rose. Cole adapted a number of country songs in the early 60s. A true talent with crossover appeal — despite the challenges he faced in a segregated nation — he blended the original spirit of the track with his jazz roots and smooth R&B delivery. The result matches Reeves for emotional resonance and features some of the finest singing Cole recorded.

Enjoy this classic song today.


About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

2 Responses to Song of the Day, July 29: He’ll Have to Go

  1. Venice says:

    This song has been on loop in my mind since the past few days, and yes, I somehow like Nat King Cole’s singing better. 🙂

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