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George Hamilton IV: 1937-2014. Five Songs That Made Him Famous

George Hamilton IV

George Hamilton IV was a student at UNC Chapel Hill when a friend approached him and asked him to sing the song "A Rose And A Baby Ruth." Hamilton didn't like the song, but after some nudging from a local record executive, he relented. The song shot to number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and launched a career marked by a string of chart successes.

Hamilton was born in Winston-Salem in 1937 and moved to Nashville 22 years later. He quickly became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, eventually becoming known as the International Ambassador of Country Music. Hamilton was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He suffered a heart attack this past Saturday and had been in critical condition since. He died at a hospital in Nashville on Wednesday at age 77.

A Rose and a Baby Ruth (1956)

Before This Day Ends (1960)

Three Steps to the Phone (1961)

Abilene (1963)

And, for good measure, here's his son, George Hamilton V performing "Abilene."

Urge For Going (1967)

According to USA Today, this recording made Hamilton the first artist to record a song written by Joni Mitchell.

Bonus: Life's Railway To Heaven

This isn't a Hamilton song, but it seems appropriate. In an interview with OBX TV a few years back, Hamilton said this was his grandfather's favorite song.

"He said, 'Sometimes you're on a mountain top where the sun's shining and sky is blue and other times you go way down in a deep dark holler. Where it's scary and lonesome.' But he said, 'that don't matter, son. The important thing is not how rough the ride is, it's the final destination.' They sang Life's Railway to Heaven at his funeral. I sang it at my daddy's funeral. And I hope someday George V sings it at mine." This whole interview is wonderful, but the song starts around 13:40.

Eric Mennel prepares the afternoon/evening "drive time" newscast on WUNC. Previously, he was a producer for The Story with Dick Gordon. Eric has reported for All Things Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible and other radio programs. He covered protests and security measures at the 2012 Republican National Convention for WUSF Tampa and NPR News. One day, he hopes to own a home with a wrap-around porch.
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