TOMMY HILL

Born John Thomas Hill, 27 April 1929, near Coy City, Texas
Died 21 March 2002, Nashville, Tennessee

Songwriter, producer, engineer, label owner, musician (fiddle, guitar).

Tommy Hill has been the consummate journeyman in the country music business. He has played on and produced hundreds of songs. Three of his compositions went to the top of the country charts. Raised near San Antonio, Texas, Hill played fiddle and guitar for Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Jim Reeves and other artists in the studio and on the road. For Webb Pierce, he wrote "Slowly", which spent 17 weeks at # 1 in 1954. One year earlier, he had written an answer song to "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" for his younger sister, Goldie Hill. Titled "I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes", the record was # 1 for three weeks. Though he recorded for labels like Decca, Hickory and Starday, Hill couldn't get his career as a performer off the ground. He took part in RCA's multi-artist 1957 European tour and toured as a solo act on the Phillip Morris Country Music Show. It was there that he met Ronnie Self and in December 1957 he was invited to play lead guitar on "Bop-a Lena" (and on Billy Brown's "Flip It", recorded on the same day). The following year he laid down what were to be his final vocal sides when he rounded up a core group of sidemen, including Hank Garland, Floyd Cramer, Ace Cannon and D.J. Fontana, to cut a batch of country rock demos. The recordings finally saw the light on the Bear Family CD "Get Ready Baby" in 1993. In 1959 he entered into a partnership with Starday Records' owner Don Pierce, and as the company's house engineer / producer he worked on steady-selling records by Cowboy Copas, Justin Tubb, Frankie Miller and Johnny Bond. Hill stayed until Starday was sold in 1968. In the late 1960s he formed his own independent imprint, Stop Records, along with steel guitarist Pete Drake. Gusto Records came next in 1972 and within two years, with the help of his new partner Moe Lytle, the label had bought out both the King and Starday catalogues. Although by now he had ceased to make personal appearances, Hill maintained his composing talents, most notably in 1976 when he supplied Red Sovine with the truck driving song "Teddy Bear". It gave Starday its biggest ever hit (# 1 country, # 40 pop). After selling his interest in the company, Hill continued to work for Gusto until 1982. He retained the old Starday studio and has since worked on King and Starday tape restoration for Gusto. He died at the age of 72 due to heart and liver complications.

More info: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/TommyHill.html CD: Get Ready Baby (Bear Family BCD 15709). Now deleted.

 
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