Born Hillman Baker, 28 October 1931, Big Sandy (near Nashville), Tennessee. Died 16 May 2013, Ravenna, Ohio.
For many years, Jaycee Hill was an enigma to collectors. In August 1979, Stuart Colman wrote: "Jaycee Hill has not yet been written-up in any substantial way and will probably remain so until someone eventually tracks him down" (sleeve notes for the LP "Rockabilly, Vol. 3 : CBS, Epic & OKeh Rockabilly Classics, Vol. 3", CBS 83911). Well, things have changed since then. The booklet that accompanies the recent Bear Family CD "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 23 : Rockabilly From the Vaults Of Columbia Records" has an extensive story (by Colin Escott) on Jaycee. What follows is an adaptation of those notes, with a few additions of my own. Escott calls him Jay Cee, but the label credit on his records reads Jaycee Hill, and in one case (the Argo single) J.C. Hill.
Born in Tennessee in 1931, Jaycee (or Hillman Baker, his given name) moved to Cleveland in 1945 and then to Valley View, Ohio, where he finished high school in 1949. He and his buddy, Joe Sway, formed an act, Hill & Joe, the Valley Boys, and began performing country music in and around Cleveland on radio and TV. Cleveland was one of the United States' breakout markets, and Elvis made his first northern appearance there. Shortly thereafter, Hillman and Joe changed their country tune. On July 3, 1956, they went to Audio Recording Studio in Cleveland to record four songs. "A Love So Fine" and "Romp Stompin' Boogie", two fine but very different rockabilly tracks, were selected for release on Epic 9185 in September. "Since My Baby Left Me" saw its first release this year, on the above-mentioned Bear Family CD, while the fourth track, "My Suspicious Heart" still remains on the shelf. Meanwhile, Hillman Baker had become Jaycee Hill. It was, he says, his own idea. The single from the Cleveland session must have sold well enough for Epic's producer Joe Sherman to bring Jaycee back to the studio in New York with some top session men (George Barnes, guitar ; Danny Perri, guitar ; Milt Hinton, bass ; Panama Francis, drums), on October 29, 1956. Sherman gave Jaycee a bunch of songs and told him to pick four. Out of this session came the single "Bump!"/"Crash-Out" (Epic 9193), released in November. "She's Gone" was finally issued in 2006 on Bear Family.
Epic kept the faith until 1958 and released two further singles. Jaycee rarely toured in support of his records. Instead, he played record hops and remembers just one appearance on the Dick Clark Show. After leaving Epic, he recorded a single in Cleveland and sold the masters to Chess ("Solong - Goodbye"/"Only True Love" came out on Argo 5311 in September 1958). In 1959 he cut one session for MGM and was unaware that the record ("Dum De Dah Dah Dah Dah"/"Little Boy Blue", MGM 12765) had been released, until Colin Escott told him recently. He co-wrote "Yea, Yea" for the Kendall Sisters (Argo 5291, # 73 in 1958), produced Buddy Covelle's "Lorraine" for Coral, and sent some tapes of then- unknown Dottie West to Chet Atkins, but his enthusiasm for the music business quickly waned. "I got divorced", he told Escott, "and got out right after that. I wasn't going anywhere. I went back to school. And I got into tool and die making."
Only a few BMI statements showing airplay overseas gave him any indication that his records were changing hands for high prices and that he had become something of a cult hero with some European fans. However, this was no incentive for Jaycee to give up his job at a tool and die manufacturing plant in the Cleveland area.
"That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 23" includes five tracks by Jaycee : "Romp Stompin' Boogie", "A Love So Fine", "She's Gone", "Bump!" and "Since My Baby Left Me" (BCD 16723).
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