Tiny Hill

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Tiny Hill
Birth name Harry Lawrence Hill
Born (1906-07-19)July 19, 1906
Origin Sullivan, Illinois, USA
Died December 13, 1971(1971-12-13) (aged 65)
Genres Jazz
Big band
Occupation(s) Bandleader
Instruments Drums
Banjo
Güiro
Years active 1931–1971
Labels Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, Harmony, Decca, Mercury
Associated acts David Carroll
The Cactus Cutups
Hilltoppers,
Hillsiders

Harry Lawrence “Tiny” Hill (July 19, 1906 – December 13, 1971) was a band leader of the Big Band era. During the height of his career Hill was billed as “America’s Biggest Bandleader”[1] because of his weight of over 365 lb (166 kg). His signature song was “Angry” which he first recorded in 1939 on Columbia records Vocalion label. He used sandpaper blocks and a güiro to generate a double shuffle "beat that makes the listener itch to dance".[2]

Early life[edit]

Hill was born in Sullivan Township (Moultrie County) Illinois. His parents were William Fred Hill and Osa Crowdson Ault. His parents separated when he was seven years old and he went to live with an aunt. He was active in high school sports and was president of his senior class. He graduated from high school in 1924 and then attended Illinois State Normal School for two years. Financial difficulties forced him to leave college to go to work. He went to Detroit where he worked in a produce warehouse. After a series of short term jobs he ended up driving a team of mules for the Midwest Canning Company in Rochelle, Illinois.

His own band[edit]

In 1931 Hill formed his first big band which were known as the “Fat Man’s Band” . Hill played the drums with the trio which played for several years in and around Decatur, IL. In 1934 Tiny joined the Byron Dunbar band in Decatur as a drummer and vocalist. After a year with Dunbar, Hill left to form his own band, taking many of Dunbar’s band members with him.

Members of Hill’s new band were Dick Coffeen and Harold King on trumpets; John Noreuil on trombone, Jim Shielf on piano, and Reightno Corrington on bass. The reed section included Bobby Walters, Bob Kramar and Nook Schreier, who also did arranging. The group’s style was Dixieland jazz and hillbilly music. Their theme song was “Dream Girl”. By 1937 the band was playing its warm and easy-to-dance-to music three nights a week to packed audiences at the Ingleterra Ballroom in Peoria, IL.

In September 1939, the band was heard over Remote WGN Radio broadcasts from the Melody Mill Ballroom in the Chicago suburb of North Riverside, IL. The band played for several years at the Melody Mill and acquired a large following throughout the Midwest.

Augmented by vocalists such as Allen De Witt, Bob Freeman, Irwin Bendell and Hill himself, the group's popularity soon extended to Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa, growing steadily throughout the 30s and 40s. Soon the band was playing in ballrooms coast to coast. Tiny toured the country for a while and landed on the Coast to play four months at the Casino Gardens, Ocean Park, Calif. He returned to Chicago in 1942.[3] Further appearances included Aragon and Trianon in Chicago and The Rainbow Ballroom in Denver.

In 1943 Hill and his orchestra became the summer replacement band on the Lucky Strike “Your Hit Parade” radio show.

In 1945 He was hired as Folk Music Director at Mercury Records. Hill was featured on the cover of the August 4, 1945 edition of Billboard Magazine.

He resigned as Country A&R man at Mercury in March 1948.

At a performance at the Trianon Ballroom, South Gate, CA, June 18, 1946, booked by MCA, the members of the orchestra consisted of:[4]

  • VOCALISTS: Tiny Hill, Buddy Milton, Bobby Anderson, Russ Phillips
  • CORNETS: Sterling Bose, Bobby Anderson
  • TROMBONES: Harry Taff, Russ Phillips, Jimmy James
  • SAXES: Buddy Walden, Bobby Walter, Vic Jaroney, Jim Turner
  • RHYTHM: Buddy Milton, guitar; Clarence (Penny) Pfiefer, drums; Pat Paterson, bass; Jimmy Shields, piano
  • ARRANGERS: Wally Fobart, Ralph Morse, Bobby Walter, Bobby Anderson

Tiny and his band continued to enjoy success for many years, well into the 1950s, until the end of the big band era.

Married life[edit]

Hill was married twice. He was first married to Alta M. Blystone (née Frederick) from Sullivan, IL. She traveled with Hill and his mother cooking meals for the band when they were on the road.

On May 1, 1946 Hill married 31 year old Jenny Lou Carson, a successful county music singer and songwriter. The couple purchased a log cabin on Naches Pass near Mount Rainier, WA in 1948. The couple had a very successful business partnership with Hill performing many of Jenny Lou's songs and eventually recording eleven of her songs including "Never Trust A Woman" in 1947 (Mercury No. 6062). Hill's mother did not like Jenny Lou and their marriage was doomed from the start. Jenny Lou filed for divorce in April 1949, it became final on July 5, 1949.

Popular songs[edit]

Hill’s band performed in ballrooms across the country and on radio and recording such songs as "Angry", "Sioux City Sue", "Heartaches", "I'll Sail My Ship Alone", "Who's Sorry Now?", "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue", "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", "Move It On Over", "Mockin' Bird Hill", and "Slow Poke".

In 1951 Hill had a hit with a cover of “Hot Rod Race” written by George Wilson.

In all, Hill made over 95 recordings on six different labels.

Later years[edit]

In January 1950 Hill moved to Colorado where he would spend time when not on the road. He purchased a 140-acre (0.57 km2) dairy farm at Ft. Lupton named Mountain View. In 1951 the band traveled 46,000 miles (74,000 km) in ten months. In 1952, the band racked up 61,000 miles (98,000 km) in 11 months, in his fleet of Packard automobiles. Fast cars were one of Tiny's hobbies. In '51 and again in '52, the band was his guests at the Indianapolis Memorial Day Races. Another of his hobbies was cooking. In 1956, Hill opened Radio Station KHIL in Brighton, CO.

He eventually spent less time on the road and more time with his business interests.

Despite the ending of the Big Bands era, Hill continued to play in small combos in the Denver-Brighton area, often returning to the Midwest for guest appearances. Undeterred by the decline in the commercial appeal of the big band sound, Hill resolutely remained at the helm of the combo until his death in 1971. His final public performance was to a capacity audience in Emden, Illinois on July 17, 1971. The inscription on his tombstone reads: “Forgotten quickly by many, remembered forever by a few.”

Selected discography of the Tiny Hill band[edit]

  • "Mickey" - Voc. Irving Bendel, Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5445, mx.25576
  • "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5445, mx.25568
  • "Dream Girl" - Aug. 14th, 1939, Vocalion 5060, mx.W-26005-A
  • "Doodle Doo Doo" - Aug. 14th, 1939, Vocalion 5060, mx.W-26006-A
  • "Every Little Movement" - Aug. 14th, 1939, Vocalion 5128, mx.26007-A
  • "Mama's Gone, Goodbye" - Aug. 14th, 1939, Vocalion 5128, mx.26008-A
  • "Jingle Bells" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5248, mx.25569-1
  • "For He's (A) Jolly Good Fellow" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5248, mx.25575-1
  • "Auld Lang Syne" - Voc. Erwin Bendel - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5275, mx.25567-1
  • "I'll Keep On Loving You" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5275, mx.25566-1
  • "Skirts" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5340, mx.25570
  • "I Get The Blues When It Rains" - Nov. 21st, 1939, Vocalion 5340, mx.25573

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Billboard Magazine September 23, 1944 page 4
  2. ^ Billboard Music Week November 20, 1961, page 42
  3. ^ Billboard Music Yearbook. 1943. page 158.
  4. ^ Billboard Magazine July 6, 1946 pg 37-38

References[edit]

  • Many Tears Ago – The Life and Times of Jenny Lou Carson, Arnold Rogers & Jerry Langley, Nova/Nashville Books © 2005 ISBN 0-9628452-4-8
  • Decatur Tribune, Paul Osborne, pg 4, August 26, 2009

External links[edit]