Ray Hildebrand obituary


The music that made Ray Hildebrand’s title, Hey Paula, was written to assist out Russell Berry, a teammate on his college basketball squad. Berry wished to impress his girlfriend of that title, and it labored – she married him. But when Hildebrand, who has died aged 82, had merely handed it over and carried on together with his training, he would have missed out on an era-defining single and a profession lasting practically 60 years.

Fortunately, each for him and a technology of smooching youngsters, he determined to file the music together with his school buddy Jill Jackson. The observe alternated between creamy harmonies and sunny particular person vocals. It was a melodic shot of pure adolescent want – “I’ve waited so lengthy for varsity to be by way of / Paula, I can’t wait no extra for you” – that spoke to seemingly each moonstruck younger lover within the US.

The producer of the music, Main Invoice Smith, put it out on his personal native label, Le Cam, underneath the title Jill & Ray.

Jackson had a 15-minute Sunday radio present on KEAN in Brownwood, Texas, and performed the observe, after which bigger stations picked it up, and listeners started to telephone in to request it.

Ray Hildebrand and Jill Jackson carry out Hey Paula in 1963. Hildebrand wrote the music for a buddy who wished to impress his girlfriend of that title

A Philips Information scout made a take care of Smith, altering the duo’s title to Paul & Paula and releasing the music on the Philips label on the finish of 1962. By February 1963 it was No 1 within the US and stayed there for 3 weeks. Equally in style in the remainder of the world, it bought 3m copies in complete.

Hildebrand attributed its success to its singularity. At that time, there have been few younger boy/lady duos professing their love to one another in music; older musical {couples} resembling Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé have been too slick for teenagers, who have been ready for “teenage pizza and peanut-butter songs”, as Hildebrand characterised it, from artists of their very own technology. (A number of years later, Sonny & Cher have been considered as hippy descendants of Paul & Paula.)

In comparison with the musical developments that have been proper across the nook, Hey Paula was Nineteen Fifties in outlook – the protagonists wished nothing a lot as to get married – however its attraction was monumental. It didn’t damage that the pair, who have been by no means a romantic merchandise regardless of having met on a school blind date, regarded good collectively – he was tall and reddish-blond, she dark-haired and petite at solely 5ft 1in. They have been so in demand that on a go to to London in 1963, the BBC radio present Pop Inn dropped the unique headliner and Paul & Paula have been requested to shut the present. Making the most effective of it, the Beatles waited round to get their autographs.

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Ray Hildebrand with Jill Jackson. The pair weren’t a real-life couple, though that they had met on a school blind date. {Photograph}: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Pictures

There was one other hit that yr, Younger Lovers – co-written with Jackson – and three extra High 100 singles, however by then Hildebrand had uninterested in fame. The file label wished to show Paul & Paula right into a nightclub act, and there was infinite touring. Grinding by way of the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars roadshow in late 1963, Hildebrand walked out midway by way of and went to Oregon, serving to a buddy to haul hay. Clark took his place on stage with an offended Jackson.

Hildebrand and Jackson reconciled briefly and put out extra data, although they by no means once more approached the highest of the charts. Throughout that interval, Hildebrand additionally returned to college and completed his English diploma, in 1964, the identical yr that he married his longterm girlfriend, Judy Hendricks. He and Jackson lastly went their separate methods in 1965.

The second act of his profession introduced Hildebrand way more satisfaction. Disenchanted with the pop world, he started to learn the Bible for the primary time in a few years, and was moved to write down music once more. He grew to become one of many pioneers of the style that got here to be generally known as up to date Christian music – a diversion from conventional gospel that included pop and nation parts.

He wrote 500 songs and launched many albums, beginning in 1967 with He’s The whole lot to Me. In 1983, he teamed up with a fellow musician, Paul Land, and, as Land & Hildebrand, made a number of “harmonizing and humorizing” data resembling Phrogs, Pharaohs and Phorgiveness (1986). Alongside this, he labored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, writing and performing pop songs at their occasions.

Born in Joshua, Texas, to Alma (nee Wooden), a instructor, and Walter Hildebrand, a headteacher, Ray was the youngest of their 4 youngsters. He sang in church from a younger age, however his ardour was basketball, which he parlayed right into a basketball scholarship at Navarro junior school in Corsicana, Texas. In 1960, he went on to additional training at Howard Payne School (now Howard Payne College) in Brownwood, additionally on a basketball scholarship. When he met Jackson on a campus blind date, he was singing with a school group known as the Prisoners, however she persuaded him to turn into her duet companion. After dissolving their partnership in 1965, they remained pals, reuniting a number of instances for live shows, together with in later years.

Judy died in 1999. Hildebrand is survived by their youngsters, Heidi and Mike, seven grandchildren, and a brother, Steve.


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