George Hamilton IV

Although George Hege Hamilton IV began his career as a teen idol with the pop hit “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” he was one of the first pop singers to switch to country music, and he broadened country’s appeal with his recordings and extensive tours.

Birth: July 19, 1937
Birthplace: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Hamilton has been known as the “International Ambassador of Country Music” for his extensive international travel and popularity.

In 1956, as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Hamilton recorded John D. Loudermilk’s “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” for the small Colonial label. ABC-Paramount bought the master, and the million-seller thrust Hamilton into national TV appearances and tours with pop stars Buddy Holly
and the Everly Brothers.

In the late 1950s, Hamilton was a regular on Connie B. Gay’s Town & Country Time broadcasts in Washington, D.C., starring Jimmy Dean and featuring Patsy Cline. Hamilton also fronted his own brief ABC-TV program in 1959. Hamilton moved to Nashville and began recording country music for RCA Records in 1960. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in that same year.

“Abilene” was a #1 country (and Top Twenty pop) hit for him in 1963, and other hit singles followed. In the mid-1960s singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot introduced Hamilton into Canadian folk music circles, and Hamilton recorded such hits as Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.”

Since the mid-1970s, Hamilton has recorded folk/country/gospel albums on various labels; some have featured his son, George Hamilton V. Also in the 1970s, George IV hosted country television variety series in both Canada and the United Kingdom and he made a pioneering tour behind the Iron Curtain. Hamilton’s continuing popularity overseas, especially in the UK, has earned him the title of International Ambassador of Country Music. An Opry regular, he still tours widely, focusing heavily on gospel music. — Dale Vinicur

— Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

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