Courtesy of Paul Brian of countrychorus.wordpress.com
George Hamilton IV, the legendary country music star, died Wednesday, September 17th, at a Nashville hospital. The 77-year-old singer suffered a heart attack on Saturday. A half-century veteran of the Grand Ole Opry, he was also known as the “International Ambassador of Country Music.” He toured the world throughout his career, successfully performing his classic country tunes in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Soviet Union, and the US.
Lee Greenwood, author of the famous song “God Bless the USA,” tweeted in remembrance. “What a wonderful, kind, talented country gentleman! Prayers for his family… Always enjoyed visiting with George backstage at the Opry – he was such a fine man.” The Grand Ole Opry also spoke up on Twitter. “Our hearts are heavy tonight as we’ve lost a member of our family. George Hamilton IV will be missed by all. Thanks for continued prayers… The memories of George will always be cherished. Thank you for sharing country music with the world.” Hamilton was prone to give tours of the Opry in the last few years, taking visitors backstage. In his biography, he said, “The Opry is a walking, talking, living, singing museum… It’s not artifacts, it’s heart and souls.”
Hamilton was born and raised in North Carolina, coming to fame with his early hit “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” in 1956. In 1960, he was inducted into The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The hits that followed included “To You and Yours (From Me and Mine),” “Three Steps to the Phone,” and “Before This Day Ends.”
His international work was more than just touring. Hamilton became the first American singer to record a hit by Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, which led to a deal hosting a Canadian TV show for six years. In 1969, he also helped to organize London’s International Festival of Country Music at Wembley Stadium and hosted several BBC television series in following years. And in the 70’s, he became the first country musician to perform behind the Iron Curtain in Russia and Czechoslovakia.
In 2010, Hamilton came out with In the Heart of Texas, an album featuring a handful of classic country talents such as Darrell McCall, Justin Trevino, and Tony Booth. He re-released “Abilene” on that album, a 1963 tune and one of his best blue-grassy hits. During this later part of his career, he also worked on gospel and inspirational music, and appeared with Billy Graham on TV and at rallies.