Singer George Hamilton IV (1937-2014) came to national prominence just as Music City was in search of artists who could bridge the gap between the lofty Nashville Sound and the purposefully amateurish '60s Folk revival. He had a charmingly imperfect voice, with an almost conversational style that suited itself well to the folk-country material that was popular at the time. Indeed, there's just something indefinable and appealing about his style, a down-to-earth, plainspoken quality that may win you over, no matter what kind of material he covers. Here's a quick look at his career...
George Hamilton IV "To You And Yours From Me And Mine: 1954-1965" (Bear Family, 1995)
This massive 6-CD set may be overwhelming for the casual listener, but for devoted Hamiltonians, it's a real treasure trove. In addition to his studio work up through '65 (including several of the albums listed below, such as his Ernest Tubb tribute), this also presents early radio appearances, some lively Opry performances and other bonus materials... And, of course, the fine Bear Family label sound quality and scholarship which continues to be the gold standard of country reissues. If you can afford it, and can plow through all the material, this is a great document of Hamilton's early work.
George Hamilton IV "Country Boy: The Best Of George Hamilton IV" (BMG International, 1996)
This European-issue best-of has some pretty unimpressive artwork, but it's a fine selection of Hamilton's best work, with plenty of heartfelt country-folk tunes and novelty songs. Although it doesn't dip much into his later work, it is still probably the best overall single-disc collection of Hamilton's work out there so far. Recommended.
George Hamilton IV "Abilene... Plus Other Great Folk Hits" (RCA/Collectables, 1963/1998)
Singer George Hamilton IV, who came to national prominence just as Music City was in search of artists who could bridge the gap between the lofty Nashville Sound and the purposefully amateurish '60s Folk revival, had a charmingly imperfect voice, with an almost conversational style that suited itself well to folk-country material like the songs on this early album. "Abilene," with its catchy, forlorn chorus, was his biggest career hit and his only #1, but the other songs in his repertoire were often equally charming... Dipping at times into the youth-oriented themes of rock-tinged, pre-Beatles teenpop and at other times into the story-song genre, Hamilton could take on songs that were strained and forced, and make them sound compelling and sincere. He's definitely an acquired taste, and an echo from a much simpler time, but I like him. Definitely worth checking out!
George Hamilton IV "The Best Of" (Sony-BMG, 2006)
George Hamilton IV "To You And Yours" (The Drugstore's Rockin' series) (Bear Family, 2009)
George Hamilton IV "The Best Of George Hamilton IV" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "The Best, v.2" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Greatest Hits" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "On Campus" (ABC, 1958) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Sing Me A Sad Song: A Tribute To Hank Williams" (ABC, 1958) (LP & MP3)
(Produced by Don Costa)
A Hank Williams tribute album...
George Hamilton IV "To You And Yours" (RCA, 1961) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Abilene" (RCA, 1963)
George Hamilton IV "Fort Worth, Dallas Or Houston" (RCA, 1964) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Mister Sincerity: A Tribute To Ernest Tubb" (RCA Victor, 1965) (LP)
An amiable RCA tribute to the froggy-voiced Texas honkytonk pioneer, Ernest Tubb, longtime star of the rival Decca label. There's nothing wrong with this album... In fact, it's quite nice and a lot of fun to listen to. However, Hamilton's buoyant melodic approach, as informed by late-50s teenybopper pop as by his hard country roots, is quite different from the stark, bare-bones approach that Tubb himself took. Still, I like these traditionalist albums that Hamilton cut in the mid-'60s -- they have a nice, uncomplicated feel, and are more zippy that the slower folk-countrypolitan stuff he later penned and recorded. Recommended!
George Hamilton IV "Coast Country" (RCA Victor, 1966) (LP)
This one's even more fun... WAY more fun! An unabashed homage to the rock-friendly approach being pioneered by Buck Owens and the Bakersfield crowd, this is one of the best examples you'll hear of Nashville studio cats at this time just letting their hair down and playing some fun, rollicking, uptempo material. Plus, GH4 really gets into it and has a blast. Highly recommeded!
George Hamilton IV "Steel Rail Blues" (RCA, 1966) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Folk Country Classics" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Folksy" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "The Gentle Country Sound Of..." (RCA, 1968) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "In The 4th Dimension" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Canadian Pacific" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Back Where It's At" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Down Home In The Country" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Early Morning Rain" (RCA-Camden, 1970) (LP)
A Gordon Lightfoot tribute album, originally released in Canada under the title Lightfoot Country
George Hamilton IV "North Country" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "West Texas Highway" (RCA Victor, 1971) (LP)
Later in his career, Hamilton started delving into a gritter, funkier hard-country sound, perhaps influenced by the "outlaw" movement that was slowly bubbling up in the early '70s. This album has one super-fab nugget on it: the comedic "Plain Old, Three-Chord, Hurtin' Country Song," a gritty novelty gem that screams out for reissue, and several other tunes that have a brooding, backroads intensity to them. It's not as readily digestible as his other albums, but it's still a mighty fine record. Recommended!
George Hamilton IV "Country Music In My Soul" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Travelin' Light" (RCA Victor, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Ferguson)
A simple, low-key folk-country offering... Nothing really stands out as particularly memorable, but it's all quite listenable and pleasant. The insider-y liner notes hint at Hamilton's shift towards gospel singing, announcing that he plans to move away from Nashville for a berth in North Carolina, and that he planned to become a regular on the Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith's TV show, which apparently centered on Smith's ministry in the Baptist church. Well, who knew...?? Anyway, this is a nice record... not earthshaking, but nice.
George Hamilton IV "International Ambassador" (RCA, 1972) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Out West Country" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Trendsetter" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Back To Down East Country" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Back Home At The Opry" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Fine Lace And Homespun Cloth" (ABC/Dot, 1977) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Feels Like A Million" (Anchor, 1978) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Forever Young" (MCA, 1977) (LP)
George Hamilton IV "Songs For A Winter's Night" (Ronco, 1982) (LP)
George Hamilton IV & Jiri Brabec "...And Country Beat" (Supraphon, 1983) (LP & MP3)
George Hamilton IV "Music Man's Dream" (Range, 1984)
George Hamilton IV & George Hamilton V "Homegrown" (Lamon, 1990)
George Hamilton IV "Heavenly Spirituals" (Homeland, 1997)
George Hamilton IV "A Blue Ridge Sunday" (Lamon, 2003)
George Hamilton IV "Songs Of Faith And Inspiration" (RGO, 2004)
George Hamilton IV "Heritage And Legacy: 50th Anniversary" (Lamon, 2006)
George Hamilton IV "Tenderly Calling: The Songs Of Fanny Crosby" (Lamon, 2007)
George Hamilton IV "Music And Memories Of Joseph Scriven" (Hillcrest, 2007)
George Hamilton IV "Easter Live In The Country: A Resurrection Celebration" (Hillcrest, 2008)
Hick Music Index