"Who is the girl wearing nothing but a smile/ and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway/ rolling down the highway in my Jimmy hauling freight/ from Chicago to St Louis Lord I see her every day/ a double clutching weasel like me can hardly ever get a girl to look at him that way/ like the girl wearing nothing but a smile/ and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway." - Girl On The Billboard - Walter Haynes-Hank Mills.

Singing actor Del Reeves gained recent fame as the artist who discovered Billy Ray Cyrus and Lee Greenwood.

But the trucking troubadour also inspired a generation of country rockers who covered his 1968 hit Girl On The Billboard and 1965 truckers anthem Looking At The World Through A Windshield.

They included artists diverse as Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen, Bill Kirchen, Son Volt and Australian band Moose Malone.

Although Walter Haynes and Hank Mills wrote Girl On The Billboard and answer song I'm The Girl On The Billboard the song was long associated with Reeves and the late Dave Dudley.

Girl on the Billboard sold a million copies and earned him the nickname of the Doodle-Oo-Doo-Doo Kid for the nonsense syllables that he sang with the song's guitar intro.

It was a similar scenario with Looking At The World Through A Windshield.

That song was written by award winning tunesmith Jerry Chesnut and Mike Hoyer and cut by Reeves and Cody and later revived by Martina McBride.

But it was Reeves who gave Greenwood his break by hiring him to play in his band and provided Nashville contacts for Cyrus when he chased his first record contract.

The arrangement ended up in court with Reeves suing for damages.

The matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Reeves became a regular on the Opry in 1966, and performed for up to one million people a year on the long-running country show.

He was celebrating his 40th year on the Grand Ol Opry when he died of emphysema at 73 on New Years Day, 2007.


The singer also appeared in eight movies including Sam Whiskey - the acclaimed 1969 film starring Burt Reynolds, Angie Dickinson and Ossie Davis.

Other movies included Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar, Forty-Acre Feud, Las Vegas Hillbillies, Gold Guitar and Cotton Pickin' Chickenpickers.

He was also renowned for syndicated TV series, The Del Reeves Country Carnival that ran for four years in the early seventies.

Reeves made his first big splash in 1965 with the whimsical Girl on the Billboard - his only #1 hit.

He followed it with The Belles of Southern Bell, Women Do Funny Things to Me, A Dime At A Time, Good Time Charlie's that also provided him the name of his band.

Others included Be Glad, Getting' Any Feed For Your Chickens and The Philadelphia Fillies that reached #9 in 1971.

Reeves never had another Top 20 record, but charted sporadically into the 1980s on the Koala label.

Lesser known was Bertha The Bull Hauler that didn't enjoy success of his last charted single in 1986 - The Second Time Around on Playback Records.

Reeves made his last Grand Ole Opry appearance in August 2002.

Del was survived by his wife, Ellen, and daughters Anne, Kari and Bethany.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.


"Bet it wouldn't take her very long to be gone/ if someone would pull a dirty trick and take her hot pants away/ I slow my Jimmy down to twenty that's how many wrecks I see there every day/ caused by the girl wearing nothing but a smile/ and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway. - Girl On The Billboard

Reeves, the youngest of 11 children, learned to play the guitar at an early age and had his own radio show by the time he was 12.

He was named Franklin Delano Reeves for then-presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt.

After a brief period at Appalachia State College in Boone, North Carolina he joined the U.S. Air Force - a move that took him to Travis Air Force Base in California in the early fifties.

It was in California that Reeves got his professional start in music, first by appearing on a local TV show before he signed with Capitol Records in 1954.

The singer doubled as a MC and recorded a series of singles for Capitol - none of which charted.

Reeves showed promise as a songwriter as he and wife Ellen Schiell collaborated on many tunes.

They wrote songs for Rose Maddox, Carl Smith, Roy Drusky, Sheb Woolley and many others.

Reeves, whose collaborators included Stonewall Jackson and Jerry Chesnut, has 44 original songs listed on the BMI publishing site


Encouraged by songwriter Hank Cochran, Reeves moved to Nashville in 1962 and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1966.

"I listened on the radio on Saturday nights and it was the ultimate," he said in 1988. "As a child, I told my daddy I was going to sing on the Opry one day. He said, 'Yeah, sure you are.' I kept my goal in mind and in '66 we achieved it."

A talented mimic, he enlivened his shows with physical and vocal impressions of performers as disparate as Little Jimmy Dickens, Walter Brennan and Johnny Cash.

Reeves said he turned to impressions and light material early in his career.

"I couldn't really sell a ballad," he said. "It had to be material on the lighter side. Under this clown's face, there's a serious guy. But I never got to show it because I got tagged as that clown. I've been clowning as long as I can remember."

In 1961, Reeves signed to Decca Records.

This union yielded him his first charted single, Be Quiet Mind, which peaked at #9.

The Del and Ellen Reeves BMI award-winning tune Sing a Little Song of Heartache, became a #3 hit in 1963 for Maddox.

Reeves then penned his 1963 hit, The Only Girl I Can't Forget.

Following very brief stops at Reprise and Columbia Records, Reeves settled in at United Artists in 1965 and stayed there for the next 13 years.


In the 1970s, he cut a series of duets with Bobby Goldsboro and Penny DeHaven.

He also returned to television, hosting the TV program called Del Reeves' Country Carnival.

His 1971 hit The Philadelphia Fillies that appeared in 1978 movie Who'll Stop the Rain.

But Reeves career declined in the mid-70s as he started to slowly move away from country music.

But he also recorded some duets with Billie Jo Spears in 1976.

In 1979, he left his musical career to pursue a career as a music executive and later played a major role in the signing of Billy Ray Cyrus.

He continued to record in the 80s, just not as much and for smaller labels.

But he teamed with fellow North Carolina born Australian tourist Jim Lauderdale and Jeremy Tepper to write Diesel, Diesel, Diesel.

"I first became aware of Del when he had a syndicated television show that I picked up in South and North Carolina as a kid," said singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

Jim recorded a duet with Reeves on their song Diesel, Diesel, Diesel.

"I was so impressed by his voice but also impressed by the way he entertained. He was a real showman."


"Sleepy headed painter said the girl wasn't real better get the kwee on my way/ on Route 66 from the billboard to Chicago/ you'll find tiny pieces of my heart scattered every which a way." Girl On The Billboard.

Reeves played the fisherman in 1969 movie Sam Whiskey after appearing in Forty Acre Feud (1965), The Gold Guitar and Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar in 1966 and Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers in 1967.

His song Dozen Pair Of Boots was in 1976 movie Drive-In, I Ain't Got Nobody was in Trackdown (1966) and Watching The Bell Of The Southern Belle and Women Do Funny Things To Me in The Las Vegas Hillbillies in 1966.

"I want to be remembered as a great showman and a nice guy," he told Associated Press in 1988.

"That's all I could hope for."

Reeves attained his dream but faded as a septuagenarian like the girl on the billboard.

"He was one of the best entertainers that ever came through the Opry, I think," said Kelso Herston, who signed Reeves to the United Artists label in the '60s and produced some of his early records, including Girl on the Billboard.

"He was happy-go-lucky. He had a positive attitude and was a great person. A great friend."


Multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Marty Stuart was equally vivid with his praise of Reeves.

"He epitomized the '60s country star, from the clothes to the demeanour to the hairdo to the guitar to the pointy-toed boots," said fellow Opry member Stuart.

"And at a time when Nashville was known for 'twang,' he was the king of that. The word is 'entertainer'. Give Del Reeves a microphone, a light bulb and an audience, and there was no doubt that there was going to be a show. That man knew what to do. He was a pro."

Stuart was a fan of Reeves trucking tunes.

"There was a time when truck drivers were a country singer's best ally on the road," Stuart said.

"They'd come to shows wearing their Million Mile safety pins, and they were the backbone citizens that helped boost the fan base. There are still a lot of truck drivers out there. I don't know why the songs about them stopped."


Year Album
1965 The Girl On the Billboard
1965 Doodle-Oo-Doo-Doo
1966 Sings Jim Reeves
1966 Special Delivery
1966 Santa's Boy
1967 Stuttin' My Stuff
1967 The Little Church In the Dell
1967 Our Way of Life
1968 The Best
1968 Looking At the World
1969 Wonderful World of Country Music
1969 Down At the Goodtime Charlie's
1969 Friends and Neighbors
1970 Big Daddy Del
1970 Country Concert
1970 The Best 2
1971 Del Reeves
1972 Before Goodbye
1973 Trucker's Paradise
1974 Live At the Palomino Club
1974 The Very Best
1975 With Strings and Things
1976 By Request (with Billie Jo Spears)
1976 10th Anniversary
1980 Let's Got to Heaven Tonight
1994 His Greatest Hits
1996 Gospel
1998 I'll Take My Chances

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