Roy Hamilton Biography

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16 April 1929, Leesburg, Georgia, USA, d. 20 July 1969, New Rochelle, New York, USA. Hamilton’s booming baritone voice made him a 50s hitmaker singing gospel-flavoured pop songs. In the late 40s Hamilton honed his singing skills in a church choir and as a member of its offshoot quartet, the Searchlight Singers. He won a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in 1947, but it was not until 1953 that he was discovered singing in a New Jersey club by Bill Cook, an influential local disc jockey who became the singer’s manager. Hamilton’s very first record for Columbia Records’ subsidiary Epic, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, became an R&B number 1 and national US Top 30 hit in 1954, and it shot Hamilton to fame (the song would also later become a UK hit for Gerry And The Pacemakers in 1963). There followed for Hamilton a long string of singles that reached both R&B and pop audiences, notably ‘If I Loved You’, ‘Ebb Tide’ and ‘Hurt’ (all three 1954), and ‘Unchained Melody’ (an R&B number 1, 1955). Hamilton’s songbook was built from the most popular entertainments of the day; ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘If I Loved You’ were two Rodgers And Hammerstein songs taken from their musical Carousel, and ‘Unchained Melody’ came from a Warner Brothers film, Unchained. Hamilton retired during 1956-58 owing to exhaustion, but when he came back he had adopted the harder gospel sound of his youth to compete with rock ‘n’ roll and the emerging soul sound. Best reflecting the change in style were the singles ‘Don’t Let Go’ (1958) and his last hit record, ‘You Can Have Her’ (1961), plus the album Mr. Rock And Soul in 1962. The Epic label treated Hamilton as a major pop star and issued 16 albums by the artist. During the mid-60s, his career sank while recording with MGM Records and then RCA Records, and he died not long after suffering a stroke in 1969.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.