Roy Hamilton

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Roy Hamilton
Roy Hamilton 1957.JPG
Hamilton in 1957.
Background information
Birth name Roy Hamilton
Born (1929-04-16)April 16, 1929
Leesburg, Georgia, United States
Died July 20, 1969(1969-07-20) (aged 40)
New Rochelle, New York, United States
Genres Traditional pop, show tunes, swing, vocal jazz, R&B, soul
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1947–1969
Labels Epic, MGM, RCA
Website Official website

Roy Hamilton (April 16, 1929 – July 20, 1969)[1] was an American singer. By combining semi-classical technique with traditional black gospel feeling, he brought soul to Great American Songbook singing.[2] Hamilton's greatest commercial and artistic success occurred in the 1950s, he is best known for his recordings of "You'll Never Walk Alone", "Unchained Melody" and "Ebb Tide".[1]

Hamilton's style and sound directly influenced later artists such as Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson and The Righteous Brothers, all of whom covered his music.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Roy Hamilton was born in Leesburg,[1] Georgia where he began singing in church choirs at the age of six. In the summer of 1943, when Hamilton was fourteen, the family migrated north to Jersey City, New Jersey in search of a better life. There, he sang with the Central Baptist Church Choir, New Jersey's most famous African American church choir. At Lincoln High School, he studied commercial art and was gifted enough to place his paintings with a number of New York City galleries.[3]

In February 1947, seventeen-year-old Hamilton took his first big step into secular music, winning a talent contest at the legendary Apollo Theater,[3] but nothing came of it. “I couldn’t get a break,"[2] Hamilton recalled. "I really had nothing different to offer. They were seeking blues singers at the time, and I didn’t know any blues at all."[2] So, to support himself while he developed the different sound and singing style he wanted,[4] Hamilton took a job as an electronics technician during the day and became an amateur heavyweight boxer at night, amassing a record of six wins against only one defeat.[3]

In 1948, Hamilton joined the Searchlight Gospel Singers and also studied light opera, working with New Jersey voice coach J. Martin Rolls for more than a year.[4] Hamilton continued to perform gospel with the Searchlight Singers, in churches and at gospel concerts, until 1953 when the group broke up and each member went off in his own direction. Hamilton headed back into pop music, but this time, he felt he finally had something different to offer.[2]

Music career[edit]

Epic beginning (1954-56)[edit]

In late 1953, Hamilton was discovered singing in a Newark, New Jersey night club, The Caravan, by Bill Cook, who became his manager.[5] Cook held the distinction of being the first African American radio disc jockey and television personality on the East Coast,[6] after listening to a demo tape of Hamilton's singing, an executive at Columbia Records envisioned him as a possible "crossover" singer with a foothold in both pop and R&B, and signed him to the company's newly launched subsidiary label Epic.[5] His first single, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical Carousel, became an R&B number-one for eight weeks, and a national US Top-30 hit in 1954, and shot Hamilton to fame.[7] His follow-up single was another Rodgers and Hammerstein tune from Carousel, "If I Loved You", which reached number four on the R&B charts. Hamilton's third release, "Ebb Tide", a song previously recorded by Vic Damone and later by Frank Sinatra, was still another hit.[8]

On Saturday night, September 11, 1954, Hamilton made his national television debut on CBS's Stage Show, hosted by big band leaders and brothers Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.[9] But the national television appearance that put Hamilton's career on the fast track to crossover success was the one he made on the night of March 6, 1955 when he sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" on CBS's top-rated Ed Sullivan Show; in the words of a Variety magazine TV reviewer: "Hamilton made good with his single...which he endowed with the values of a spiritual."[10]

On March 16, 1955, to capitalize on the popularity increase Hamilton received from his "Ed Sullivan Show" appearance ten days earlier, Epic Records rushed him into the studio to record a cover version of the recently-breaking hit song "Unchained Melody".[11] Two months later, Hamilton's gospel-tinged version of the song became his second number-one R&B hit as well as his first, and only, top-ten US pop hit, peaking at number six.[12] More traditional pop and Great American Songbook singles followed in succession: "Without a Song" (#77 pop), "Cuban Love Song", Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Everybody's Got a Home But Me" (#42 pop) from the musical Pipe Dream, "There Goes My Heart", and Frank Loesser's "Somebody Somewhere" from the musical The Most Happy Fella.[13]

Retirement and comeback (1956-62)[edit]

In mid-1956, Hamilton announced his retirement due to his illness with tuberculosis and exhaustion, but returned the following year.[citation needed] When he came back, he adopted the harder gospel sound of his youth, to compete with rock and roll and the emerging soul sound.[vague] Hamilton appeared in the film Let's Rock, in 1958 and had the second US top-twenty pop hit of his career with "Don’t Let Go" (#2 R&B, #13 pop).[12]

In 1959, Hamilton appeared, in a cameo role, in the Filipino motion picture produced by People's Pictures "Hawaiian Boy" where he sings "Unchained Melody".

Hamilton's last hit record, "You Can Have Her" (#6 R&B, #12 pop), came in 1961, and was followed by the album Mr. Rock And Soul (1962). The Epic label treated Hamilton as a major star and issued sixteen albums by him.

Hamilton's "You'll Never Walk Alone" disc was brought in from the US by a sailor friend of Gerry Marsden,[14] as a result, Gerry & the Pacemakers recorded the track to further success.

Later years (1963-69)[edit]

By the mid-1960s, Hamilton's career declined while recording with MGM and then RCA.

In January 1969, in Memphis, Tennessee, Hamilton made the final recordings of his career, the tracks were laid down at record producer Chips Moman's American Sound Studio, at the same time Elvis Presley happened to be recording there.[15] Songs released from those Hamilton sessions were cover versions of James Carr's "The Dark End of the Street", Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe", and "Angelica", a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil song that had been submitted to Presley, but which he then turned over to Hamilton.[16]


Hamilton died later in 1969, not long after suffering a stroke, at age 40, in New Rochelle, New York.[1] Hamilton was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2010.



Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label & number Chart positions Album
Hot 100
US R&B[12]
1954 "You'll Never Walk Alone"
b/w "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)"
Epic 9015
You'll Never Walk Alone
"If I Loved You"
b/w "So Let There Be Love"
Epic 9047
b/w "I Taught Her Everything She Knows"
Epic 9061
Non-album tracks
"Ebb Tide"
b/w "Beware"
Epic 9068
You'll Never Walk Alone
b/w "Star Of Love" (Non-album track)
Epic 9086
1955 "I Believe"
b/w "If You Are But A Dream" (from Roy Hamilton)
Epic 9092
"Unchained Melody"
b/w "From Here To Eternity" (Non-album track)
Epic 9102
"Forgive This Fool"
b/w "You Wanted To Change Me"
Epic 9111
"A Little Voice"
b/w "All This Is Mine"
Epic 9118
Roy Hamilton
"Without A Song"
b/w "Cuban Love Song"
Epic 9125
"Everybody's Got A Home"
b/w "Take Me With You" (from Roy Hamilton)
Epic 9132
Non-album track
1956 "Walk Along With Kings"
b/w "There Goes My Heart"
Epic 9147
The Golden Boy
"Somebody Somewhere"
b/w "Since I Fell For You" (from Roy Hamilton)
Epic 9160
"I Took My Grief To Him"
b/w "Chained"
Epic 9180
Non-album tracks
1957 "A Simple Prayer"
b/w "A Mother's Love"`
Epic 9203
"So Long"
b/w "My Faith, My Hope, My Love"
Epic 9212
"The Aisle"
b/w "That Old Feeling"
Epic 9224
"(All Of A Sudden) My Heart Sings"
b/w "I'm Gonna Lock You In My Heart"
Epic 9232
1958 "Don't Let Go"
b/w "The Right To Love" (Non-album track)
Epic 9257
You Can Have Her
"Crazy Feelin'"
b/w "In A Dream" (Non-album track)
Epic 9268
"Jungle Fever"
b/w "Lips" (Non-album track)
Epic 9274
"Wait For Me"
b/w "Everything"
Epic 9282
Non-album tracks
"Pledging My Love"
b/w "My One and Only Love"
Epic 9294
With All My Love
1959 "It's Never Too Late"
b/w "Somewhere Along The Way"
Epic 9301
Non-album tracks
"I Need Your Lovin'"
b/w "Blue Prelude" (Non-album track)
Epic 9307
At His Best
"Time Marches On"
b/w "Take It Easy, Joe" (Non-album track)
Epic 9323
"On My Way Back Home"
b/w "A Great Romance" (from At His Best)
Epic 9342
You Can Have Her
1960 "The Ten Commandments"
Original B-side: "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen"
Later B-side: "Down By The Riverside"
Epic 9354
"The Clock"
b/w "I Get The Blues When It Rains" (from Have Blues Must Travel)
Epic 9390
Non-album track
"Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen"
b/w "Down By The Riverside"
Epic 9372
"I Get The Blues When It Rains"
b/w "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart"
Epic 9373
Have Blues Must Travel
"Please Send Me Someone To Love"
b/w "My Story"
Epic 9374
"Cheek To Cheek"
b/w "Something's Gotta Give" (from Why Fight The Feeling)
Epic 9375
With All My Love
"Blow, Gabriel, Blow"
b/w "Sing You Sinners"
Epic 9376
Come Out Swingin'
"Never Let Me Go"
b/w "A Lover's Prayer" (Non-album track)
Epic 9398
You Can Have Her
"Lonely Hands"
b/w "Your Love"
Epic 9407
Non-album tracks
1961 "You Can Have Her"
b/w "Abide With Me"
Epic 9434
You Can Have Her
"You're Gonna Need Magic"
b/w "To The One I Love" (Non-album track)
Epic 9443
Roy Hamilton's Greatest Hits
"No Substitute For Love"
b/w "Please Louise"
Epic 9449
Non-album tracks
"There We Were"
b/w "If"
Epic 9466
1962 "Don't Come Cryin' To Me"
b/w "If Only I Had Known"
Epic 9492
"I'll Come Running Back To You"
b/w "Climb Every Mountain"
Epic 9520
"I Am"
b/w "Earthquake"
Epic 9538
1963 "Let Go"
b/w "You Still Love Him"
MGM 13138
"Midnight Town-Daybreak City"
b/w "Intermezzo"
MGM 13157
"The Sinner"
b/w "Theme From 'The V.I.P.'s'"
MGM 13175
1964 "There She Is"
b/w "The Panic Is On"
MGM 13217
"Unchained Melody"
b/w "Answer Me, My Love"
MGM 13247
Sentimental Lonely & Blue
"You Can Count On Me"
b/w "She Make Me Wanna Dance"
MGM 13291
Non-album tracks
1965 "Sweet Violet"
b/w "A Thousand Tears Ago"
MGM 13315
"Heartache (Hurry On By)"
b/w "Ain't It The Truth" (from The Impossible Dream)
RCA 8641
"Tore Up Over You"
b/w "And I Love Her"
RCA 8705
The Impossible Dream
1966 "The Impossible Dream"
b/w "She's Got A Heart" (Non-album track)
RCA 8813
"Walk Hand In Hand"
b/w "Crackin' Up Over You"
RCA 8960
Non-album tracks
1967 "I Taught Her Everything She Knows"
b/w "Lament"
RCA 9061
"So High My Love"
b/w "You Shook Me Up"
RCA 9171
"Let This World Be Free"
b/w "Wait Until Dark"
Capitol 2057
1969 "The Dark End Of The Road"
b/w "100 Years"
AGP 113
b/w "Hang-Ups"
AGP 116
"It's Only Make Believe"
b/w "100 Years"
AGP 125
"The Golden Boy"
b/w "You'll Never Walk Alone" (from Roy Hamilton's Greatest Hits)
Epic 10559
Roy Hamilton's Greatest Hits Volume 2

Studio albums[edit]

Album[18] Music arranged and conducted by Year Label
With All My Love Neal Hefti 1958 Epic
Why Fight the Feeling? Neal Hefti 1959 Epic
Come Out Swingin' Marion Evans 1959 Epic
Have Blues Must Travel Marion Evans 1959 Epic
Spirituals Chuck Sagle 1960 Epic
Soft 'n' Warm Marion Evans 1960 Epic
Only You Sammy Lowe 1961 Epic
Mr. Rock and Soul Sammy Lowe and Frank Hunter 1962 Epic
Warm Soul Marty Manning 1963 MGM
Sentimental Lonely & Blue Dick Hyman 1964 MGM

Compilation albums[edit]

Album[19] Year Label
You'll Never Walk Alone - 10" LP 1954 Epic
The Voice of Roy Hamilton - 10" LP 1955 Epic
Roy Hamilton 1956 Epic
You'll Never Walk Alone 1957 Epic
The Golden Boy 1957 Epic
Roy Hamilton At His Best 1960 Epic
You Can Have Her 1961 Epic
Roy Hamilton's Greatest Hits 1962 Epic
Roy Hamilton's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 1963 Epic
The Impossible Dream 1966 RCA Victor


Television appearances[edit]

Date[20] Program Host Songs
September 11, 1954 Stage Show Tommy Dorsey & Jimmy Dorsey Unknown Songs
March 6, 1955 The Ed Sullivan Show Ed Sullivan "You'll Never Walk Alone" (with Ray Bloch orchestra)
May 1, 1958 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
June 15, 1958 The Steve Allen Show Steve Allen "Ebb Tide" (with Skitch Henderson orchestra)
June 26, 1958 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
October 17, 1958 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
January 4, 1959 The Steve Allen Show Steve Allen "Somewhere Along the Way" (with Skitch Henderson orchestra)
February 18, 1959 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
April 18, 1959 The Dick Clark Show Dick Clark Unknown Songs
June 8, 1961 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
June 16, 1961 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
June 22, 1961 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
July 26, 1961 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
December 20, 1961 American Bandstand Dick Clark Unknown Songs
March 23, 1964 The Mike Douglas Show Mike Douglas Unknown Songs


  • Guralnick, Peter (1999): Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, Little, Brown and Company, London. ISBN 0-316-64402-1
  • Guralnick, Peter (2005): Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, Little, Brown and Company, New York. ISBN 0-316-01329-3


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  4. ^ a b Hentoff, Nat (1955, February 9). Hamilton Booms From $5-A-Night Obscurity. “Down Beat”, p. 2
  5. ^ a b "Biography". Retrieved 2014-06-05. 
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  9. ^ Robinson, Major (1954, September 16). Singer Roy Hamilton To Make TV Debut On CBS. “Jet”, p.66
  10. ^ Jose (1955, March 9). TV Reviews. “Variety”, p.32
  11. ^ Cotten, Lee (1989). “Shake, Rattle & Roll: The Golden Age of American Rock 'n Roll Vol. 1 1952 - 1955” (1st ed.). Michigan: Pierian Press. p. 158
  12. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 181. 
  13. ^ Grendysa, Peter (1979, April). Roy Hamilton Never Walking Alone. “Goldmine”, p.13
  14. ^ "Timeshift: Sailors, Ships and Stevedores (Series 16, Episode 2)". BBC iPlayer. British Broadcasting Corporation. 26 October 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2016. 
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  16. ^ Jones, Roben (2010). Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios (1st ed.). Jackson: University of Mississippi. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-60473-401-0. 
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 299. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (1998). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (3rd ed.). New York: Muze. pp. 2362-2363. ISBN 978-1-5615-9237-1
  19. ^ Larkin, Colin (1998). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (3rd ed.). New York: Muze. p. 2363. ISBN 978-1-5615-9237-1
  20. ^ "Roy Hamilton". Retrieved 2017-03-13. 

External links[edit]