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He’ll Have to Go is an American country and pop hit recorded on October 15, 1959 by Jim Reeves. The song, released in the fall of 1959, went on to become a
massive hit in both genres early in 1960 Reeves recorded what became one of country music’s biggest hits ever after listening to a version recorded by singer Billy Brown. The song, written by Joe and Audrey Allison, was inspired after the couple was having difficulty communicating by telephone. Audrey had a soft voice and was unable to speak up so her husband could adequately hear her, so Joe would have his wife place the receiver closer to her mouth.
When Brown’s version failed to become a hit, Reeves recorded his. It was promptly released to country radio … as the B-side of the intended hit, “In a Mansion Stands My Love.” However, “Mansion” failed to catch on, and disc jockeys began playing the B-side instead. It wasn’t long before the song became a huge country and pop hit; several rhythm and blues radio stations played the song, too. The recording features a small group of musicians: Floyd Cramer on piano, Marvin Hughes on the vibraphone, Bob Moore on bass, Buddy Harman on drums, Hank Garland on guitar and the Anita Kerr Singers providing the background vocals.
The first verse set the tone: “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone/Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone/I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low/And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go.
Country music historian Bill Malone noted that He’ll Have to Go in most respects represented a conventional country song, but its arrangement and the vocal chorus “put this recording in the country pop vein.” In addition, Malone lauded Reeves’ vocal styling – lowered to “its natural resonant level” to project the “caressing style that became famous” – as being why “many people refer to him as the singer with the velvet touch