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Billy Hill

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Biography

b. 14 July 1899, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 24 December 1940, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. A prolific composer and lyricist during the 30s, whose songs have a comfortable, country feeling about them. This is probably owing to Hill spending a good deal of his early life travelling the American west, playing violin and piano in bars and dance halls. He wrote one of his first songs, ‘Old Man Of The Mountain’, with composer Victor Young in 1932, but from then on, apart from an occasional collaboration with Peter De Rose and one or two others, he generally provided both music and lyrics himself. He had his first hit in 1933 with ‘The Last Round-Up’, which was recorded by many artists including Guy Lombardo, George Olsen, Don Bestor, Bing Crosby and Young. Among his many other songs in the 30s were ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue?)’, ‘The Old Spinning Wheel’ (US number 1 for Ray Noble), ‘Oh Muki Muki Oh’, ‘Rain’, ‘Alone At A Table For Two’, ‘Down The Oregon Trail’, ‘Lights Out’ (US number 1 for Eddie Duchin), ‘Put On An Old Pair Of Shoes’, ‘Empty Saddles’ (sung by Crosby in the film Rhythm On The Range), ‘In The Chapel In The Moonlight’ (US number 1 for Shep Fields, and successfully revived by Dean Martin in 1967), and ‘The Glory Of Love’ (US number 1 for Benny Goodman). Two other Hill compositions to make it to the top of the US chart, ‘The Last Round-Up’ (Lombardo) and ‘Wagon Wheels’ (Paul Whiteman) were both featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934. Nothing substantial was forthcoming after 1940 when Hill produced ‘On A Little Street In Singapore’ and the Gene Autrey movie title song ‘The Call Of The Canyon’. The former was impressively revived in more recent times by the classy vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer.

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