He'll Have to Go

"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 hit in both genres early in 1960.

"He'll Have to Go"
Single by Jim Reeves
from the album He'll Have to Go and Other Favorites
B-side"In a Mansion Stands My Love"
ReleasedNovember 1959 (U.S.)
RecordedOctober 15, 1959
StudioRCA Studio B, Nashville, Tennessee
GenreCountry, Nashville Sound
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Joe Allison, Audrey Allison
Producer(s)Chet Atkins[1]
Jim Reeves singles chronology
"He'll Have to Go"
"I'm Gettin' Better"


The song is about a man who's talking by telephone to the woman he loves when he realizes that another man is with her. The song was written by the husband-and-wife team of Joe and Audrey Allison, and was inspired by a phone conversation between them in which they had trouble making themselves understood. Because of background noise and Audrey Allison's naturally soft voice, her husband had to ask her to put her mouth very close to the receiver.[2] That led her to pen the song's first line.

Reeves recorded the song after listening to the original version of it by singer Billy Brown. When Brown's version attracted little attention, Reeves felt free to record his own. It was released to country radio as the B-side of "In a Mansion Stands My Love", which some music executives thought considered a stronger song. However, "Mansion" failed to catch on, and disc jockeys began playing the B-side instead.[3] It was not long before "He'll Have to Go" 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.[4]

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 juke box way down low/And you can tell your friend there with you he'll have to go."[1]

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."[5]

Chart performanceEdit

In 1960, the song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1960, kept from the top spot by Percy Faith's "Theme from A Summer Place".[6] Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song of the year for 1960.[7]"He'll Have to Go" reached #1 on the Hot Country Singles chart on February 8, 1960, where it remained for 14 consecutive weeks.[8] The song was one of just five different titles to occupy the chart's summit during 1960. In addition, it reached #13 on the R&B Singles Chart.[9]

In Canada the song was #1 for 6 weeks in the pop charts.[10] It also had success abroad, reaching #1 on the Australian Singles Chart and #12 on the UK Singles Chart.

Later versions and answer songsEdit

"He'll Have to Go" has been recorded by many other artists. Elvis Presley recorded his version of "He'll Have to Go" on October 31, 1976, at his last known studio recording session; it is believed to be the final song he ever recorded in a studio setting.[12]

The song prompted the answer song "He'll Have to Stay" by Jeanne Black. Her song reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot C&W Sides chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 later in 1960.

Guitarist Ry Cooder recorded a version with a Mexican Norteño-style arrangement for his 1976 album Chicken Skin Music.

Solomon Burke had a crossover hit with his 1964 version of the song on the US adult contemporary and R&B charts.[13]



  1. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 10 - Tennessee Firebird: American country music before and after Elvis. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  2. ^ Gilbert, Bob and Gary Theroux, "The Top Ten: 1956-Present," Pop Record Research, Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster, New York. 1982 (ISBN 0-671-43215-X).
  3. ^ Gilbert and Theroux, "The Top Ten."
  4. ^ 3 Chords A Day: October 15, 2009 -- the 50th Anniversary of the recording. http://3chordsaday.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/hell-have-to-go-jim-reeves/
  5. ^ Malone, Bill, "Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection" ((booklet included with Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection 4-disc set). Smithsonian Institution, 1990), p. 51.
  6. ^ https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1960-03-07
  7. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1960
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 285.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 488.
  10. ^ "CANADA'S (TED KENNEDY) WEEKLY SINGLE CHARTS FROM 1960". Barry Kowal - hits of all decades. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  12. ^ Ernst Jorgensen, Elvis Presley: A Life in Music (St; Martin's Press, 1998), p. 400.
  13. ^ http://www.musicvf.com/Solomon+Burke.art

External linksEdit