There is sad news from the Grand Ole Opry tonight as George Hamilton IV has passed away. On Saturday, he suffered a massive heart attack from which he was unable to recover.
Known as the "International Ambassador of Country Music", George performed and brought country music around the world. During his career, he brought country music to England, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria. He was the first American country singer to appear in Russia and Czechoslovakia.
George started out as a pop singer, but switched to country and came to the Grand Ole Opry in 1960, joining on February 6. He left the Opry in 1971 to return to North Carolina with his family, but returned in 1976 and has never left. The hits he had included "Abilene", "Forever Young", "A Rose and a Baby Ruth", "Early Morning Rain" and "Break My Mind." A case can certainly be made that George should be in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity and honor to have met George several times. The first time was in the 1990s, when I met him at Opryland. He was kind enough to sign a birthday card for my wife. Years later, I met him again several times backstage at the Opry. He was kind and generous with his time, taking the time to actually have a conversation with you.
While he was not scheduled to perform on the Opry each weekend, for the past several years he would be backstage each weekend that he was not out on the road, greeting those who paid to take the backstage tour. I would watch as he would talk, sign autographs and have pictures taken. I never saw him once treat anyone with disrespect.
His son, George Hamilton V, who usually was there with his father each time he was at the Opry, wrote a song "We Will Meet Again." Anytime an Opry member died, or someone who George felt close to, he would sing that song on the Opry in honor of that person. I would hope that on Saturday night, time is made that would allow the performers to do this song in honor of George.
Over the past several months, we have lost 2 great Opry legends. First, Jimmy C Newman and now George Hamilton IV. Even at their age, both were sudden and something we really didn't expect. Knowing George as I did, and the respect that I had for him, this one is going to hurt a bit.
I am sure all all of us extend our prayers and thoughts to the family of George Hamilton IV.