George Hamilton IV Gone Home

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Submitted by Don Graham

Country music legend George Hamilton IV passed away Wednesday September 17, in Nashville  after suffering a heart attack.  He was 77 years old.

Hamilton was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on July 19, 1937 and while he was a 19-year-old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he recorded "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" for Chapel Hill Records. The song was written by John D. Loudermilk, and made it all the way to No. 6 on the country charts. By 1960, "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" went gold for ABC-Paramount who had acquired the song. The self-penned B-side, "If You Don't Know", showed Hamilton's rockabilly side. In late 1959, Hamilton moved his family to Nashville to pursue his dream of being  a country musician. In February of 1960, Hamilton officially became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and later that same year, he began recording for RCA Records, having been signed by Chet Atkins.

Hamilton's breakthrough hit was the 1961 song "Before This Day Ends" while his biggest hit came two years later with "Abilene", another song penned by Loudermilk and Bob Gibson. The song spent four weeks at No. 1 on country singles chart and reached the Top 20 of the Hot 100. The success of "Abilene" was followed with the song "Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston" a Top 5 hit in late 1964.

After his American chart success declined in the early 1970s, Hamilton began touring the world, across the Soviet Union Australia, the Middle East and East Asia. These widely acclaimed international performances earned Hamilton the nickname The International Ambassador of Country Music. He also hosted several successful television programs in the UK and Canada during the 1970s, and in the 1990s he played himself in the West End musical Patsy, based on the life of Patsy Cline.

Hamilton was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Nashville country singer/songwriter Dean Miller had this to say about the passing of his friend “I am devastated to learn of the passing of Grand Ole Opry great George Hamilton IV. I had the honour of working with him several times. There was not a kinder, more humble, gentler soul in Country Music. My prayers for his family.”

George had very strong Canadian ties having recorded songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Early Morning Rain, Canadian Railroad Trilogy and Song For A Winter’s Night to name a few and Ray Griff’s Canadian Pacific. He had a big hit with Dick Damron’s Countrified  and in the summer of 2012 Dick and George set out on a mini tour of Alberta. The tour, titled The Songs and Sounds of Dick Damron and George Hamilton IV consisted of shows in Dick’s hometown of Bentley, Alberta , Edmonton  and at the Red Deer Central Music Festival. When reached at his winter home in Mexico Damron said, " So sad to hear of the passing of George IV. He was a great friend and a great inspiration for many years. He was the first major artist to take one of my songs, Countrified, to the top of the charts and was instrumental in my European and U.K. tours."

Rest in Peace George.