George Hamilton IV

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George Hamilton IV
George Hamilton IV crop.jpg
George Hamilton IV at the Grand Ole Opry in 2007
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Hege Hamilton IV
Born(1937-07-19)July 19, 1937
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DiedSeptember 17, 2014(2014-09-17) (aged 77)
Nashville, Tennessee
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1956–2014
LabelsABC, Colonial, RCA Victor, Lamon (archived)

George Hege Hamilton IV (July 19, 1937 – September 17, 2014) was an American country musician. He began performing in the late 1950s as a teen idol, switching to country music in the early 1960s.


Hamilton was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 19, 1937. While a 19-year-old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hamilton recorded "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" for a Chapel Hill record label, Colonial Records. The song, written by John D. Loudermilk, climbed to No. 6 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart. By 1960, "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" had attained gold record status for ABC-Paramount (which had acquired the song from Colonial).[1] The self-penned B-side of the record, "If You Don't Know", revealed Hamilton's ambitions to be a rockabilly-country singer. In late 1959, Hamilton moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee to further his work as a country musician.[2] On February 8, 1960, Hamilton officially became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.[3][4] Later that same year, he began recording for RCA Records, having been signed by Chet Atkins. In the UK he was less successful, with his biggest hit being "I Know Where I'm Going" in 1958. In 1984 he appeared with Billy Graham on his UK tour 'Mission England' and made other appearances as a solo performer in venues around the UK at this time.

Hamilton's breakthrough hit was the 1961 song "Before this Day Ends". 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 Billboard's 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).

By the mid-1960s, Hamilton's music began showing a decidedly folk influence. This was especially evident with 1966's "Steel Rail Blues" and "Early Morning Rain" (both by Gordon Lightfoot), and 1967's "Urge for Going" by Joni Mitchell. Another 1967 hit was "Break My Mind" (by John D. Loudermilk). One more Hamilton song of this genre was a moderate hit in 1969—the Ray Griff-penned "Canadian Pacific". His last Top 5 single came in 1970, with "She's a Little Bit Country".

After his American chart success declined in the early 1970s, Hamilton began touring the world, across the Soviet Union, Poland, Australia, the Middle East, and East Asia. These widely acclaimed international performances earned Hamilton the nickname The International Ambassador of Country Music.[5] 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.

In 2004, he recorded an acoustic gospel album with producer Dave Moody titled On a Blue Ridge Sunday which earned Hamilton a Dove Award nomination in the "Best Bluegrass Album of the Year" category by the members of the Gospel Music Association. A single from the album, "Little Mountain Church House", won nominee recognition in the "Best Bluegrass Recorded Song" category the following year.[6]

Until the very late years of his life, Hamilton was a regular at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and in country shows throughout the U.S. and the UK. He mainly concentrated on gospel tours both at home and abroad. In 2007 he collaborated with Live Issue,[7] a group from Northern Ireland, to record a live album based on the life of Joseph Scriven, who wrote the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". The two also toured together again in 2009.

In 2008, Hamilton released a parody of his classic hit "Abilene" in the height of the soaring U.S. gas prices called "Gasoline". The acoustic single featured "The Oil Spots" (a.k.a. the Moody Brothers & George Hamilton V) and became a hit with audiences during Hamilton's Opry appearances. Hamilton was also a regular participant in the Country's Family Reunion video series.

In 2010, Lamon Records released the album Old Fashioned Hymns, recorded transatlantic with producers Dave Moody in Nashville and Colin Elliott in Ireland. Hamilton was joined on the 28-track collection by a number of musical guests, including Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Gail Davies, Pat Boone, Del McCoury, Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, Tommy Cash, Cliff Barrows, and George Beverly Shea, among others.

Hamilton had a heart attack on September 13, 2014, and died on September 17 at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville.[8] On September 24, the Ryman Auditorium hosted a memorial service which include performances by Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs, the Whites, Jett Williams, Gail Davies, Connie Smith, Dave Moody, Jimmy Capps, Barry and Holly Tashian, the Babcocks, Andrew Greer, and Cindy Morgan. English music historian and journalist Tony Byworth, music writer and author Frye Galliard, artists and songwriters John D. Loudermilk and Bill Anderson, Grand Ole Opry general manager Pete Fisher, and WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs all shared stories of Hamilton's life and career during the memorial. The service concluded with "Amazing Grace" performed on bagpipes by Nashville Pipes and Drums Pipe Sergeant David Goodman.[9]

The George Hamilton IV Collection is located in the Southern Folklife Collection of the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[10]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed George Hamilton IV among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[11]


Hamilton had a son George Hege Hamilton V who became a singer using the name Hege V, since his father and the actor were already using the name George Hamilton. When he was seven years old, he found one of his father's guitars and began writing songs. The younger Hamilton said his father "never pushed me", but he eventually began playing in nightclubs. On tours, which sometimes included his father, Hege V played rhythm guitar and sang harmony and occasionally the lead, including some of his father's songs.[12]


Hamilton was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010.[13]

The North Carolina Board of Transportation voted to name a bridge on Business 40 for Hamilton. The ceremony naming the bridge was held on July 19, 2016, which would have been Hamilton's 79th birthday.[14][15]



  1. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 82. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  2. ^ "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" was issued in UK as "A Rose and a Candy Bar"as the Baby Ruth bar was unknown there.George Hamilton IV and Friends Biography Page
  3. ^ "George Hamilton IV". Grand Ole Opry. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  4. ^ "Opry Member List PDF" (PDF). April 23, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 7, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
  5. ^ "Inventory of the George Hamilton IV Papers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill". Retrieved September 18, 2014.
  6. ^ "GMA Press Room Online". Gospel Music Association. Archived from the original on July 6, 2010.
  7. ^ "Official Live Issue Website". Archived from the original on June 22, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
  8. ^ "Opry star George Hamilton IV dead at age 77". The Tennessean. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "George Hamilton Iv Memorial Service". September 24, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  10. ^ "George Hamilton IV Collection, 1956–2013". Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  11. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Hurst, Jack (June 8, 1987). "Hege V Dries His Tears, Hits the Road for 'House'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 29, 2019.
  13. ^ "2010 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  14. ^ Evans, Meghann (October 9, 2015). "Business 40 bridge named after George Hamilton IV". Winston-Salem Journal.
  15. ^ Hinton, John (July 19, 2016). "Winston-Salem bridge renamed in honor of music star George Hamilton IV". Winston-Salem Journal.