Ronnie Hilton

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Ronnie Hilton
Background information
Birth nameAdrian Hill
Born(1926-01-26)26 January 1926
Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died21 February 2001(2001-02-21) (aged 75)
Hailsham, East Sussex, England
Occupation(s)Singer, radio presenter
Years active1954–1989
LabelsHis Master's Voice, Columbia

Ronnie Hilton (born Adrian Hill; 26 January 1926[1] – 21 February 2001)[2][3] was an English singer. According to his obituary in The Guardian newspaper, "For a time Hilton was a star – strictly for home consumption – with nine Top 20 hits between 1954 and 1957, that transitional era between 78 and 45rpm records. A quarter of a century later he became the voice of BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the Fifties series".[2]

A true Yorkshireman, Hilton always remained loyal to his roots – especially to Leeds United.[4] He composed, sang and recorded several anthems as tribute to the club.[4]


Born Adrian Hill in Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, Hilton left school at 14 and worked in an aircraft factory at the beginning of the Second World War, then was part of the Highland Light Infantry.[2] Following demobilisation in 1947, he became a fitter in a Leeds sewing plant.[2]


Whilst singing with local dance bands in his spare time, he made a private recording to help sell a song and this eventually reached record producer Wally Ridley. Ridley did not like the song but he liked the voice and arranged a recording session for the singer. Ridley did not like the name “Adrian Hill” either and he changed this to Ronnie Hilton for the first record release in June 1954 which was “I Wish and Wish" and "I Live For You."[5] Later in 1954, Hilton left his safe job as a fitter in a Leeds-based engineering factory[4] and he made his debut on the variety stage at Dudley Hippodrome in March 1955 after previously having been heard on radio and seen on television.[6]

He came to fame by supplying smoothly delivered cover versions of popular American songs during the 1950s.[1] His most enduring recordings were "No Other Love"; and his last chart entry in 1965 with "A Windmill in Old Amsterdam" written by Ted Dicks and Myles Rudge.[4] The latter spent a total of 13 weeks on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at No. 23 in the chart of 17 February 1965.[7] The song's composers were granted an Ivor Novello Award in 1966 for the Year's Outstanding Novelty Composition.[8]

Despite the prominence of rock and roll in his recording career, he amassed a formidable array of best-sellers in the UK Singles Chart, albeit mainly with cover versions of US hit records. This was common practice at the time, and many British recording artists followed this trend. His chart single recording career alone spanned from 1954 to 1965, which flew in the face of the rapidly changing trends of pop music.

From a comparatively unknown Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Me and Juliet written in 1953, Ronnie Hilton took the hit tune "No Other Love", and scored his one and only UK Number One hit in 1956.[9] In securing the Number One, Hilton fought off competition from the UK-based Canadian Edmund Hockridge, and from the Johnston Brothers. Oddly, no American versions of "No Other Love" reached the UK Singles Chart at the time. Perry Como had been successful with the song in America, but his version was released much earlier in 1953, when Me and Juliet first opened on Broadway.[9] Nevertheless, Hilton's light operatic style, similar to fellow Hullensian, David Whitfield, was already by the mid-1950s being overtaken by events.[9] By the time "No Other Love" dropped off the UK Singles Chart, Elvis Presley had clocked up his first three UK hit singles.[9] Hilton also performed in three Royal Variety Performances.[2] He also took part in the inaugural A Song For Europe contest in 1957, failing in his attempt to be the UK's first representative in the Eurovision Song Contest. Hilton's chart hit in 1959, before a barren chart run covering most of the next five years, was "The Wonder of You"; the same song that Elvis Presley topped the UK chart with in 1970.[9]

Hilton kept on performing well into the 1960s, in summer seasons and Christmas shows, and was also a regular fixture in pantomimes in Hull, at the New Theatre, but knew that his chart days were behind him. In 1967 he released a single with covers of "If I Were a Rich Man" and "The Laughing Gnome" on the A-side and B-side respectively.[4] It did not chart. In 1968, he participated in a successful album of songs from the then newly released film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This was issued on the budget Music For Pleasure label, and was his only charting album.[1] He appeared as a guest on the BBC's Morecambe & Wise Show in June 1971.

Hilton suffered a stroke in 1976, which hindered his progress for a time. He also encountered financial problems.[2] Following his recovery, he presented Sounds of the Fifties, a nostalgic radio series for BBC Radio 2.[2] The British Academy of Song Composers and Authors honoured him with its gold medal for services to popular music in 1989.[2] He died in Hailsham, East Sussex from another stroke, aged 75.

He was twice married.[2] He had three children (Geraldine, Jane and Derry) with his first wife, Joan. She died in 1985. He was married to Christine Westoll from 1989 to 2001; together they had a son, Simon (born in 1966 during their earlier affair).[10]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Ronnie Hilton | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Michael Freedland. "Obituary: Ronnie Hilton". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 253. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Ronnie Hilton". 45 rpm. Retrieved 13 June 2007.
  5. ^ "Daily Mirror". Daily Mirror: 10. 11 June 1954.
  6. ^ "Birmingham Daily Post". Birmingham Daily Post: 3. 18 March 1955.
  7. ^ "A Windmill in Old Amsterdam". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  8. ^ "The Ivors 1966". Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 25. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  10. ^ "Ronnie Hilton". 22 February 2001. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  11. ^ Windmill in Old Amsterdam - Ronnie Hilton 45rpm on YouTube

External links[edit]