Jim Reeves legacy at stake in court case (TN)

A trial to determine how to divide royalties earned by the late country great Jim Reeves got under way Monday in Davidson County Probate Court, with testimony about the singer’s widow’s declining health and unsanitary living conditions at the time her second husband made deals to sell Reeves’ property and memorabilia.

Terry Davis is a onetime Baptist minister who married Jim Reeves’ widow, Mary Reeves Davis. Davis wants a larger share of his wife’s estate than the $100,000 lump sum and property she set aside for him in her will.

Her other beneficiaries — a niece and nephew of Jim Reeves named Lani Thomas Arnold and Bill McNeese — oppose his petition. Mary Reeves Davis died in 1999. The court fight has been raging ever since.

The outcome of the trial could determine who owns the intellectual property of the Nashville country singer known as “Gentleman” Jim Reeves or result in the sale of rights to his music.

Reeves was among the first country crossover acts, an ambassador of the “Nashville Sound” made popular in the 1960s. He died in a Brentwood plane crash in 1964.

His posthumous musical career, managed by Mary Reeves Davis until her illness, has earned up to $400,000 annually, according to court records. Reeves remains popular here and overseas, with active fan clubs in Sri Lanka, Denmark, Africa and Germany.

It’s unclear what the entire scope of Reeves’ intellectual property is worth. A professional valuation of his music catalog was filed in the case, but it remains under seal in an effort to ensure any future negotiations over their sale remain competitive. A previous buyer was willing to pay more than $7 million more than a decade ago.

After firing his lawyer three days ago, Terry Davis is acting as his own attorney. On the first day of what’s expected to be a two-day trial, Davis sought to delay the hearing once more, to introduce motions barred by court rules and to interject objections during the Reeves family attorney’s opening statements.


Jim Reeves legacy at stake in court case
Trial gets started as survivors fight over royalties, other property linked to famed country singer
Anita Wadhwani
January 24, 2012
The Tennessean