Born Paul Schwartz, 1937, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Singer, songwriter, actor.
The recordings of Paul Hampton as a singer (1957-1963) are a typical example of what Charlie Gillett has called "rock and roll" as opposed to "rock 'n' roll". If you don't know the difference, you should (re)read Gillett's masterful book "The Sound Of the City", first sentence of the first chapter. It all started at a Dartmouth College rugby game. Paul Hampton from Oklahoma City was injured and had to spend a couple of weeks sitting down as much as possible. A favourite sitting-down place was the fraternity house piano bench, where long-time music student Hampton began to improvise, then write songs. In the spring of 1957, while in his sophomore year, Paul went to New York and played some of his songs to former screen star Carmel Myers. She set up an audition with Mitch Miller, who signed Hampton to Columbia Records as a singer of his own songs. The first recording session resulted in the single "Classy Babe"/"Play It Cool" (Columbia 41037, UK Philips PB 787), released in November 1957. Hampton's Columbia singles (1957-1959) are mostly in the style of Charlie Gracie's Cameo recordings, though not quite of the same quality. After Columbia, he recorded for a variety of labels, including Top Rank, Dot, Cameo and Warner Bros. His 60s records can no longer be qualified as rock and roll, rather as teen pop. Paul made several TV appearances, including a few on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand". In 1967, Hampton recorded an LP, "Beautiful Beginnings", which was released on Andy Williams's Barnaby label.

Hampton is perhaps more interesting as a songwriter. His songs were published by the Famous Music Corporation in the Brill Building. During his tenure at 1619 Broadway, Hampton collaborated with both Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Although Bacharach and David had scored hits with "Magic Moments" (Perry Como) and "The Story Of My Life" (Marty Robbins, Michael Holiday), they were still relatively unknown in the late fifties. They wrote together (Bacharach the music, David the lyrics), but also with other partners. Among the songs that Hampton wrote with Bacharach are "Dream Big" (recorded by Sonny James), "Crazy Times", recorded by Gene Vincent on his eponymous LP (though Bacharach insists that he never wrote a rock and roll song in his life) and the distasteful dirge "Two Hour Honeymoon", which Paul recorded himself (Dot 16084). With Hal David, Hampton wrote the 1961 Don Gibson hit "Sea Of Heartbreak" (# 2 country, # 21 pop) and "Donna Means Heartbreak", recorded by Gene Pitney on the flip of "True Love Never Runs Smooth" (1963). Other succesful Hampton compositions were "I Rise, I Fall" by Johnny Tillotson (# 36 in 1964) and "Like I've Never Been Gone", a # 3 UK hit for Billy Fury in 1963. There are 60 Hampton compositions in the ASCAP database. In 1958 Hampton enrolled as a student of an acting class at the Musical Theatre Academy of New York and became an actor. The Internet Movie Database lists a filmography of 40 titles (including roles in TV series). His first picture was "Senior Prom" in 1958, a teen-oriented musical, in which he played a leading part. The film was distinguished only by its musical acts (Louis Prima and Kelly Smith, Sam Butera, Freddy Martin, Bob Crosby a.o.). His most memorable roles were in the 1968 western "More Dead Than Alive", in "Lady Sings the Blues" (1972), the Billie Holiday biopic starring Diana Ross, and the lead role in "Shivers" (1976), directed by David Cronenberg. Since a decade or so, Paul Hampton is semi-retired, still doing the occasional TV performance.

CD : Paul Hampton, Rockin' Doll (CAR 116). Released 1999. 24 tracks from the 1957-1963 period, a mix of rock and roll and teen pop. The best tracks are (IMO) the title track, "Slam Bam Thank Ya Ma'am", "Live A Life Of Love" and "Don't Be Stuck Up", all with good guitar work from anonymous NYC session men.


These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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