George Hamilton IV was born in North Carolina on July 19, 1937. His father George, known as Hege, was vice president and manager of a company which made Goodies headache powders. The family included his mother, Mary Lilian and younger brother Cabot, lived in the town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His grandfather introduced him to country music via his old Jimmie Rodgers records and The Grand Ole Opry to which they listened each weekend on the radio. It was through him that young George first discovered country music.
By the time he was twelve George's fascination with country music had grown to the extent that he had not only bought his first guitar with money earned as a paper boy but had also persuaded his parents to allow him to travel alone by bus to Nashville. There he met his all time hero Chet Atkins as well as many more of his favorite country stars. During his high school years he and his band would play at civic luncheons, parties and other social events where people would give them the opportunity to entertain. The knowledge that his singing gave audiences pleasure further encouraged him to pursue a career in country music.
George was brought up in a Christian home where church and Sunday school played a very important part in life but his Moravian parents were far from repressive and supported their young son in his desire to join The Grand Ole Opry. Just in case his dreams did not come true, however, they urged him to complete his education. He entered the University of North Carolina as a freshman in 1955 then transferred to American University in Washington, DC a year later in order to combine his studies with regular appearances on the Jimmy Dean TV show.
In the summer of 1956 a song he did not much care for changed George's life. For some time he had been trying to persuade the owner of Colonial Records to give him a recording contract. About the same time a young songwriter named John D. Loudermilk submitted a song to Mr. Campbell entitled "A Rose And A Baby Ruth". Colonial's boss decided it was just right for George who only agreed to record it on condition that he could put one of his own songs, a rockabilly number entitled "If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell You" on the B side. The single got a national release and before he knew it George had a top five hit and a million seller on his hands, as well as "a manager, an agent and a bunch of people telling me what to do".
Tours with such stars as Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and the Everly Brothers followed in which George supplied the teen ballads. In June 1958 and with his career as a pop star well established George married his high school sweetheart Adelaide Peyton. In late 1959 he took the brave step of turning his back on the music which had made him a star by moving to Nashville where he made a conscious effort to achieve his ambition in the field of country music. Chet Atkins got him signed to RCA where he was executive producer and was instrumental in having George invited to join The Grand Ole Opry, where he has been a member since 1960. The teen ballads like "High School Romance" and "Why Don't They Understand" were replaced by pure country material such as "Truck Drivin' Man" and "Abilene".
The mid-60s found George associating with folk artists whose involvement with the civil rights movement did not always go down too well in conservative Nashville. About this time he was falling under the influence of Canadian writers such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Ian and Sylvia. The release of "Canadian Pacific" in 1969 saw the dawn of a new era. Appropriately, his highly successful Canadian TV shows were recorded in Hamilton, Ontario. He made several albums in Canada and won a Juno award for his services to Canadian country music.
Britain was to get its first visit from George in 1967. He performed at the first International Festival of Country Music at Wembley in 1969 and appeared there more often than any other American artist. His many TV series for the BBC brought him to the attention of a wider audience while his concert tours gained him yet more fans. When his Canadian TV shows were screened here on ITV at the same time as those on BBC, he made history by appearing on both channels at once. His neat appearance, clear gentle vocals and warm friendly personality have always ensured him of a welcome in the UK.
An offer to join Arthur Smith's TV show in North Carolina in 1972 gave the Hamiltons the opportunity to return to their home state where, for the next fourteen years, they lived in the Charlotte area.
He earned his familiar title of "International Ambassador of Country Music" when he became the first American country singer to perform in The Soviet Union and Prague. He insists that it all began as a joke with some of his British friends but the ambassadorial tag is well deserved as nobody has done more to make country music accepted and respected than George IV. He has appeared in not only America, Canada, Britain and Ireland but Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and many other European countries. In 1993 he visited Jamaica and Africa while filming a documentary on the Moravian church. As well as being shown on TV in the States it was sold on video.
1988 saw the start of George's highly acclaimed church tours with "A Country Christmas” in which he tells the Christmas story in a delightful combination of scripture readings, poems, songs and recitations, all with a country flavor. "Easter in the Country" and "Thanksgiving in the Country" followed, each breathing new life into the Easter and American Thanksgiving themes.
In the 90s George returned to Canada to record two excellent albums produced by Broadland International's Gary Buck. It is difficult to believe that George celebrated forty years as an Opry member in the year 2000, for he is as full of enthusiasm for his work as always. That same year, George was inducted into the North Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall Of Fame. Since many consider him North Carolina's best export, this was a well deserved award.
George IV was given the ROPE (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) award for Entertainer of The Year in Nashville on 8th October 2009. Other nominees included Bill Anderson and Tom T Hall. 2010 started well with George celebrating his 50th anniversary as a member of The Grand Ole Opry. "It's been a real honour to have been associated with The Opry for this period of time," says George IV. "It's been my musical homeplace which I first started visiting as a teenager. Back then I would regularly catch a Greyhound Bus from North Carolina and dream of performing on The Opry. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that one day I would be celebrating 50 years as a member of The Grand Ole Opry."
George Hamilton IV passed away September 17, 2014