GEORGE HAMILTON IV
Born George Hege Hamilton IV, 19 July 1937, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Although best known as a country performer, George Hamilton IV flirted with rockabilly at the start of his career. However, the few rocking sides that he cut were relegated to B-side status. He had success with a string of teen ballads on ABC-Paramount (1956-59), then switched to country on RCA and he broadened country's appeal with his recordings of American and Canadian folk music.
As a freshman at the University of North Carolina in 1956, Hamilton persuaded a local label, Colonial Records, to record him. The A-side of his first release was a song about teen romance, "A Rose and a Baby Ruth", written by his friend John D. Loudermilk. Its regional success prompted ABC-Paramount to buy his contract and release the record nationwide. George soon found himself at # 6 on the nation's pop chart and the disc became a million seller. The self-penned B-side, "If You Don't Know" is now a firm favourite with rockabilly fans. It became a country hit in its own right in 1962 (# 6), when Hamilton re-recorded it for RCA, this time under the extended title "If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell You". "Everybody's Body" (the B-side of his third hit, "High School Romance") was another fine slice of rockabilly. But ABC-Paramount invariably put a soft ballad on the A-side. His leanings toward country music were (temporarily) satisfied when ABC let him record a tribute album to Hank Williams (1958).
Hamilton stayed with ABC until 1960 and had a total of ten pop hits for the label, with "Why Don't They Understand" (# 10, 1958) as his second biggest hit. It also did well in the UK (# 22) ; his only other chart entry there was "I Know Where I'm Going" (a Scottish folk song), also in 1958 (# 23). Hamilton toured on rock and roll packages with Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and the Everly Brothers and appeared on Broadway with Louis Armstrong.
Also in 1958, Hamilton married his childhood sweetheart Adelaide ('Tinky') Peyton and the next year they moved to Nashville where they raised a family. Hamilton was now determined to make a career for himself in the country field and his penultimate ABC single, "Before This Day Ends", gave him his first entry into the country charts (# 4). On February 8, 1960, he officially became a member of the Gran Ole Opry.
Hamilton started recording for RCA in January 1961 and had immediate success with his first 45 for the label, "Three Steps To the Phone" (# 9 country). Thirty- seven more country hits would follow over the next 17 years (all for RCA, except the last three), the biggest hit being "Abilene" (co-written by John D. Loudermilk), which topped the charts for four weeks in 1963 and also reached # 15 on the pop charts (his last pop hit). George performed "Abilene" in the movie "Hootenanny Hoot" (1963). In 2008 he recorded a parody of the song called "Gasoline", lamenting the high gas prices.
In the mid-1960s Hamilton met singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot and was introduced into the Canadian folk music circles, recording such hits as Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain" (1966). Since the mid-1970s, he has recorded a number of folk/country/gospel albums, including two with his son, George Hamilton V. Also in the seventies, George IV hosted long-running country music television variety shows in both Canada and the United Kingdom, and made a pioneering tour behind the Iron Curtain.
Hamilton's continuing popularity overseas earned him the title of International Ambassador of Country Music. In the 1990s he played himself in the West End musical "Patsy", based on the life of Patsy Cline. Later, he would concentrate on gospel tours both at home and abroad. His last album was "Old Fashioned Hymns" on the Lamon label (2010). In that year he was also inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
George Hamilton IV had a heart attack on September 13, 2014, and died on September 17 at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville.
More info in the biography on his official website :
Obituary : http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/sep/18/george-hamilton-iv
Biography : Paul Davis, George Hamilton IV, Ambassador of Country Music. London : Harper Collins, 2000. 271 pages.
Sessionography / discography :
CD's : Bear Family issued a 6-CD box-set in 1995 ("To You And Yours From Me And Mine", BCD 15773), with his complete 1956-65 recordings and Gran Ole Opry live recordings, and another 3 CD-set in 2011, covering 1965-1975.
Acknowledgements : Hamilton's official website, Dale Vinicur, Wikipedia.
Dik, December 2014
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