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Opry star George Hamilton IV passes away

Thursday, September 18, 2014 – George Hamilton IV, a star of the Grand Ole Opry, died on Wednesday at 77 after suffering a heart attack on Saturday.

Hamilton was born in Winston-Salem, N.C. on July 19, 1937. He enjoyed his first hit while a student at the University of North Carolina with "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" for a local label, Colonial Records. The John D. Loudermilk-penned song reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song later was picked up by ABC Paramount and went Gold.

Hamilton moved to Nashville in the late 1950s for his music and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1960. That same year, Chet Atkins signed him to RCA Records. In 1960, Hamilton enjoyed his biggest hit up until that point with "Before This Day Ends," which reached number 4 on the country charts.

He would enjoy his only number 1 hit, "Abilene," in 1963. The song stayed atop the charts for four weeks. Hamilton then enjoyed a run of 9 straight songs that made the top 10, starting with "Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston" in1964 and ending with "Little World Girl" in 1968. Other hits included "She's a Little Bit Country" in 1970 and his final top 15 hit, "Anyway," which reached 13, in 1971.

Hamilton spent 15 years on the RCA Victor label, starting with the album ""To You and Yours" in 1961 and ending with "Back Home at the Opry" in 1976. He surfaced on MCA for a few albums and then went 25 years without releasing any material. Hamilton's final disc was "In the Heart of Texas" in 2011.

He also enjoyed a following in England, while also playing the Soviet Union, Poland, Australia and other countries. He earned the nickname The International Ambassador of Country Music. Hamilton continued playing the Opry until recently.

"It's been my musical homeplace which I first started visiting as a teenager," Hamilton said on the Opry web site. "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."

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