Louisiana Hayride was one of the most popular live country music broadcasts in the nation, and it often served as a proving ground for performers who later moved on to the pinnacle of country music, the Grand Ole Opry. Reeves became the announcer for Hayride, performing there only occasionally until one Saturday evening in 1952 when country great Hank Williams failed to show for a scheduled appearance. Reeves filled in, and a member of the audience, Fabor Robison, soon thereafter signed him to a contract with his Abbott Record Company. The relationship with Abbott paid off immediately for Reeves; his second release on the label, "Mexican Joe," reached Number One in 1953. In 1956 he received a gold record for the single "Bimbo," a song that earned Reeves the nickname "Bimbo Boy."
This success caught the attention of major labels, and in 1955 Reeves signed with RCA. That year he also joined the Grand Ole Opry, but Reeves's star was just beginning to rise. From 1955 through 1968--four years after his death--not a year went by without Reeves having at least one single in the Top Ten. At the beginning of this period, Reeves's sound began to change; his earliest recordings with RCA had a traditional honky-tonk sound, complete with fiddles and steel guitars, but in the late 1950s, he and his producer, revered guitarist Chet Atkins, began selecting songs more suited to Reeves's soothing, baritone voice. While the arrangements for these numbers were more orchestral in nature, their subject matter remained firmly in the honky-tonk vein.
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