April 16, 1929 – July 20, 1969
April 1955 / Unchained Melody/ Epic 9102/ # 6 R&B #1 (3)
January 1958 / Don’t Let Go/ Epic 9257/ #13
1958 / Pledging my Love / # 45 BB
February 1961 / You Can Have Her/ Epic 9434/ #12
Roy Hamilton (b. April 16, 1929, Leesburg, Georgia – d. July 20, 1969, New Rochelle, New York) was an American singer who achieved major success in both the R&B and pop charts in the 1950s.
He moved to Jersey City in 1943, studied commercial art, had operatic and classical voice training, and was a heavyweight Golden Gloves boxer, before joining gospel quartet The Searchlight Singers.
In 1947 he entered and won an amateur talent show at the Apollo Theatre with his dramatic rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel”.
However, he did not record commercially until 1953, after he was discovered singing in a New Jersey club by local DJ Bill Cook, who became his manager.
Columbia Records saw him as a possible “crossover” singer with a foothold in both pop and R&B , and signed him to their subsidiary label Epic. His first single, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, became an R&B number 1 for eight weeks, and a national US Top 30 hit in 1954, and shot Hamilton to fame.
He followed up with a string of singles that reached both R&B and pop audiences, many of which were popular show tunes of the day. These included “If I Loved You” (# 4 R&B), “Ebb Tide” (# 5 R&B), “Hurt” (# 8 R&B), “Unchained Melody” (# 1 R&B, # 6 pop), and “Don’t Let Go” (# 2 R&B, # 13 pop). His style and sound directly influenced later artists such as Jackie Wilson and the Righteous Brothers.
In mid 1956 Hamilton announced his retirement due to illness and exhaustion, but returned the following year.
When he came back he had adopted the harder gospel sound of his youth to compete with rock ‘n’ roll and the emerging soul sound, appearing in the movie “Let’s Rock” in 1958.
His last hit record, “You Can Have Her” (# 6 R&B, # 12 pop) came in 1961, and was followed by the album Mr. Rock And Soul in 1962. The Epic label treated Hamilton as a major star and issued 16 albums by him. However, in the mid 1960s his career declined while recording with MGM and then RCA Records.
His final recordings were made in Memphis at producer Chips Moman’s American Group Productions studio, at the same time that Elvis Presley recorded there, in early 1969. Songs released from those sessions were versions of James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street”, Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe”, and “Angelica”, a Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil song that had been submitted to Presley, but which he then turned over to Hamilton.
He died later in 1969 not long after suffering a stroke, aged 40.