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
WebsiteOfficial website (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, including one about Martin Luther King Jr. and one about Richard Nixon. The younger Hamilton said his father "never pushed me", but he eventually began playing in nightclubs. He performed rock music rather than country because that was the music of his generation, but described the themes as similar to country music. While his sound was described as "too abrasive" for country fans, the younger Hamilton listed his influences as, in addition to his father, Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams. MTM Records released his album House of Tears in 1987, described as "'rural rock' with country roots". 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]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
U.S. Country
1958 On Campus ABC-Paramount
Sing Me a Sad Song
1961 To You and Yours RCA Victor
1963 Abilene 18 77
1964 Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston
1965 Mister Sincerity...A Tribute to Ernest Tubb 19
1966 Coast-Country 21
Steel Rail Blues 3
1967 Folk Country Classics 3
Folksy 21
1968 The Gentle Country Sound of George Hamilton IV 25
In the 4th Dimension 36
1969 Canadian Pacific
1970 The Best Of
Back Where It's At
1971 North Country 45
West Texas Highway
1972 Country Music in My Soul
Travelin' Light
International Ambassador
1973 Out West Country
1974 The Best Of Volume 2 (UK only)
"Greatest Hits" 35
1975 Trendsetter
Back to Down East Country
1976 Back Home at the Opry
1977 Fine Lace and Homespun Cloth Anchor
1978 Feels Like a Million
1979 Forever Young MCA
1982 Songs for a Winter's Night Ronco
1983 Country Beat Supraphon
1984 Music Man's Dream Range
1985 George Hamilton IV MCA
1986 American Country Gothic with The Moody Brothers Lamon Records
1990 HomeGrown with George Hamilton V Lamon Records
2004 Blue Ridge Sunday Lamon Records
2006 Heritage and Legacy Lamon Records
2010 Old Fashioned Hymns and Gospel Songs for Those Who Miss Them Lamon Records (US) and Hillcrest Recordings (Ireland)
2011 In The Heart Of Texas Heart Of Texas Records
2012 Luke The Drifter (The Other Side of Hank Williams) Lamon Records


Year Single Chart Positions Album
U.S. Country
CAN Country
1956 "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" 6 singles only
1957 "High School Romance" 80
"Only One Love" 33
"Why Don't They Understand" 10
1958 "I Know Where I'm Goin'" 43
"Now and for Always" 25
"The Teen Commandments"
(with Paul Anka and Johnny Nash)
"When Will I Know" 65
"Your Cheatin' Heart" 72 Sing Me a Sad Song
1959 "Steady Game" singles only
"Gee" 73
"Little Tom"
1960 "Why I'm Walkin'"
"Before This Day Ends" 4
"Walk On the Wild Side of Life"
1961 "Three Steps to the Phone (Millions of Miles)" 9 To You and Yours
"To You and Yours (From Me and Mine)" 13
1962 "China Doll" 22 Abilene
"If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell You" 6
1963 "In This Very Same Room" 21 single only
"Abilene"A 1 15 Abilene
1964 "There's More Pretty Girls Than One" 21 116 Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston
"Linda with the Lonely Eyes" 25
"Fair and Tender Ladies" 28
"Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston" 9 3
1965 "Truck Drivin' Man" 11
"Walking the Floor Over You" 18 Mister Sincerity...A Tribute to Ernest Tubb
1966 "Write Me a Picture" 16 Steel Rail Blues
"Steel Rail Blues" 15
"Early Morning Rain" 9
1967 "Urge for Going" 7 Folksy
"Break My Mind" 6
1968 "Little World Girl" 18 2 The Gentle Country Sound of George Hamilton IV
"It's My Time" 50
"Take My Hand for Awhile" 38 14 In the 4th Dimension
1969 "Back to Denver" 26 4
"Canadian Pacific"B 25 1 4 Canadian Pacific
"Carolina in My Mind" 29 3 39 Back Where It's At
1970 "She's a Little Bit Country" 3 1
"Back Where It's At" 16 1
1971 "Anyway" 13 1
"Countryfied" 35 1 North Country
"West Texas Highway" 23 West Texas Highway
1972 "10 Degrees & Getting Colder" 33 3
"Country Music in My Soul" 63 46 Country Music in My Soul
"Travelin' Light" 52 20 Travelin' Light
1973 "Blue Train (Of the Heartbreak Line)" 22 5 International Ambassador
"Dirty Old Man" 38 1 2 Out West Country
"Second Cup of Coffee" 50 5 The Best 2
1974 "Claim On Me" 59 single only
"Ways of a Country Girl" 23 Trendsetter
"Back to Down East Country" 12 Back to Down East Country
1975 "Bad News" 10 Trendsetter
1976 "Bad Romancer" 37 Back Home at the Opry
1977 "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now" 81 Fine Lace and Homespun Cloth
"May the Wind Be Always at Your Back"
"Everlasting (Everlasting Love)" 93
1978 "Only the Best" 81 Feels Like a Million
"Take This Heart"
1979 "Forever Young" 21 Forever Young
1980 "Spin Spin" 27
"Catfish Bates"
1984 "Music Man's Dream" Music Man's Dream

A"Abilene" also peaked at No. 4 on Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.
B"Canadian Pacific" also peaked at No. 9 on the RPM Top Singles chart in Canada.

Guest singles[edit]

Year Single Artist U.S. Country Album
1967 "Chet's Tune" Some of Chet's Friends 38 single only
1970 "Let's Get Together" Skeeter Davis 65 A Place in the Country


Year B-Side CAN Country Original A-Side
1968 "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy" 3 "It's My Time"
1971 "North Country" 3 "West Texas Highway"
1972 "The Child's Song" 3 "Country Music in My Soul"


  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 18 September 2014.
  6. ^ "GMA Press Room Online". Gospel Music Association. Archived from the original on 2010-07-06.
  7. ^ "Official Live Issue Website". Archived from the original on 22 June 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Opry star George Hamilton IV dead at age 77". The Tennessean. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "George Hamilton Iv Memorial Service". 2014-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  10. ^ "George Hamilton IV Collection, 1956–2013". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  11. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  12. ^ Hurst, Jack (1987-06-08). "Hege V Dries His Tears, Hits the Road for 'House'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  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.
  16. ^ "George Hamilton IV Album & Song Chart History – Country Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  17. ^ "George Hamilton IV Album & Song Chart History – Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  18. ^ "George Hamilton IV Album & Song Chart History – Country Songs". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  19. ^ "George Hamilton IV Album & Song Chart History – Hot 100". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  20. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Country Singles". RPM. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  21. ^ "Results – RPM – Library and Archives Canada – Adult Contemporary". RPM. Retrieved June 13, 2011.