Tiny Hill

Last updated
Tiny Hill
Tiny Hill 1967.jpg
Background information
Birth nameHarry Lawrence Hill
Born(1906-07-19)July 19, 1906
Origin Sullivan, Illinois, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 1971(1971-12-13) (aged 65)
Genres Jazz
Big band
Years active1931–1971
Labels Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, Harmony, Decca, Mercury

Harry Lawrence "Tiny" Hill (July 19, 1906 December 13, 1971) was an American band leader of the big band era. During the height of his career, Hill was billed as "America's Biggest Bandleader" [1] because of his weight of over 365 lb (166 kg). His signature song was "Angry", which he first recorded in 1939 on Columbia Records' Vocalion label. He used sandpaper blocks and a güiro to generate a double shuffle "beat that makes the listener itch to dance". [2]


Early life

Hill was born in Sullivan Township, Moultrie County, Illinois. His parents were William Fred Hill (1880–1915) and Osa Crowdson Ault (1890–1982). His parents separated when he was seven years old and he went to live with an aunt. He was active in high school sports and was president of his senior class. He graduated from Sullivan High School in 1924. [3] Hill then attended Illinois State Normal School for two years. Financial difficulties forced him to leave college to go to work. He went to Detroit, where he worked in a produce warehouse. After a series of short term jobs, he ended up driving a team of mules for the Midwest Canning Company in Rochelle, Illinois.

His own band

In 1931 Hill formed his first big band, which was known as the "Fat Man's Band". Hill played the drums with the trio, which played for several years in and around Decatur, Illinois. In 1934 Hill joined the Byron Dunbar band in Decatur as a drummer and vocalist. After a year with Dunbar, Hill left to form his own band, taking many of Dunbar's band members with him. They had their first appearance at the Ingleterra Ballroom in Peoria, Illinois on October 31, 1935.

Members of Hill's new band were Dick Coffeen and Harold King on trumpets; John Noreuil on trombone, Jim Shielf on piano, and Reightno Corrington on bass. The reed section included Bobby Walters, Bob Kramar and Nook Schreier, who also did arranging. The group's style was Dixieland jazz and hillbilly music. Their theme song was "Dream Girl". By 1937 the band was playing its warm and easy-to-dance-to music three nights a week to packed audiences at the Ingleterra Ballroom.

In September 1939, the band was heard over Remote WGN Radio broadcasts from the Melody Mill Ballroom in the Chicago suburb of North Riverside, Illinois. [4] The band played for several years at the Melody Mill and acquired a large following throughout the Midwest.

Augmented by vocalists such as Allen De Witt, Bob Freeman, Irwin Bendell and Hill himself, the group's popularity soon extended to Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa, growing steadily throughout the 30s and 40s. Soon the band was playing in ballrooms coast to coast. Hill toured the country for a while and landed on the coast to play four months at the Casino Gardens, Ocean Park, California. He returned to Chicago in 1942. [5] Further appearances included Aragon and Trianon in Chicago and The Rainbow Ballroom in Denver.

In 1943 Hill and his orchestra became the summer replacement band on the Lucky Strike Your Hit Parade radio show.

Hill was featured on the cover of the September 23, 1944, edition of Billboard magazine.

In 1945, he was hired as folk music director at Mercury Records. He was featured again on the cover of Billboard magazine on August 4, 1945.

He resigned as country A&R man at Mercury in March 1948.

At a performance at the Trianon Ballroom, South Gate, California, June 18, 1946, booked by MCA, the members of the orchestra consisted of: [6]

Hill and his band continued to enjoy success for many years, well into the 1950s, until the end of the big band era.

Married life

Hill was married three times. He was first married to Alta M. Blystone (née Frederick) from Sullivan, Illinois. She traveled with Hill and his mother, cooking meals for the band when they were on the road.

On May 1, 1946, Hill married 31-year-old Jenny Lou Carson, a county music singer and songwriter. The couple purchased a log cabin on Naches Pass near Mount Rainier, Washington in 1948. The couple had a successful business partnership, with Hill performing many of Carson's songs and eventually recording eleven of her songs, including "Never Trust A Woman" in 1947. [7] Hill's mother did not like Carson. Carson filed for divorce in April 1949; it became final on July 5, 1949.

On March 7, 1957, Hill married Catherine Marie Pearson (1922-1958), a native of Joplin, Missouri.

Hill's band performed in ballrooms across the country and on radio and recording such songs as "Angry", "Sioux City Sue", "Heartaches", "I'll Sail My Ship Alone", "Who's Sorry Now?", "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue", "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", "Move It On Over", "Mockin' Bird Hill", If You Knew Susie, and "Slow Poke".

In 1951 Hill had a hit with a cover of "Hot Rod Race" written by George Wilson.

In all, Hill made over 95 recordings on six different labels.

Later years

In January 1950, Hill moved to Colorado where he would spend time when not on the road. He purchased a 140-acre (0.57 km2) dairy farm at Fort Lupton named Mountain View. In 1951 the band traveled 46,000 miles (74,000 km) in ten months. In 1952, the band racked up 61,000 miles (98,000 km) in 11 months, in his fleet of Packard automobiles. Fast cars were one of Hill's hobbies. In '51 and again in '52, the band was his guests at the Indianapolis Memorial Day Races. Another of his hobbies was cooking. In 1956, Hill opened Radio Station KHIL in Brighton, Colorado.

He eventually spent less time on the road and more time with his business interests.

Despite the ending of the Big Bands era, Hill continued to play in small combos in the Denver-Brighton area, often returning to the Midwest for guest appearances. Undeterred by the decline in the commercial appeal of the big band sound, Hill resolutely remained at the helm of the combo until his death in 1971. His final public performance was to a capacity audience in Emden, Illinois on July 17, 1971. The inscription on his tombstone reads: "Forgotten quickly by many, remembered forever by a few."

Today, the Tiny Hill Orchestra is based in the Ozark Theatre of St. Louis, Missouri in the summer months and in south Texas during the winter. Performances feature the historic hit records, previously unreleased period pieces and contemporary music. The orchestra is directed by arranger and multi instrumentalist Dan Stevens.

Selected discography of the Tiny Hill band

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benny Goodman</span> American jazz clarinetist and bandleader (1909–1986)

Benjamin David Goodman was an American clarinetist and bandleader known as the "King of Swing".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Billy Eckstine</span> American jazz singer and bandleader (1914–1993)

William Clarence Eckstine was an American jazz and pop singer and a bandleader during the swing and bebop eras. He was noted for his rich, almost operatic bass-baritone voice. In 2019, Eckstine was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award "for performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording." His recording of "I Apologize" was given the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999. The New York Times described him as an "influential band leader" whose "suave bass-baritone" and "full-throated, sugary approach to popular songs inspired singers like Earl Coleman, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, Arthur Prysock, and Lou Rawls."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bobby McFerrin</span> American folk and jazz singer and conductor

Robert Keith McFerrin Jr. is an American folk and jazz singer. He is known for his vocal techniques, such as singing fluidly but with quick and considerable jumps in pitch—for example, sustaining a melody while also rapidly alternating with arpeggios and harmonies—as well as scat singing, polyphonic overtone singing, and improvisational vocal percussion. He is widely known for performing and recording regularly as an unaccompanied solo vocal artist. He has frequently collaborated with other artists from both the jazz and classical scenes.

Western swing music is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region's Western string bands. It is dance music, often with an up-tempo beat, which attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma and California during the 1930s and 1940s until a federal war-time nightclub tax in 1944 contributed to the genre's decline.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ben Selvin</span> Musical artist

Benjamin Bernard Selvin was an American musician, bandleader, and record producer. He was known as the Dean of Recorded Music.

"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend" is a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter, film and television actor Stan Jones.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James & Bobby Purify</span> American soul music vocal duo

James & Bobby Purify were an R&B singing duo, whose biggest hits were "I'm Your Puppet" in 1966, which reached number six in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and in a re-recorded version number 12 in the UK Singles Chart, and "Let Love Come Between Us" in 1967, which reached number 23 in the US. The original "Bobby Purify" was replaced by a second "Bobby Purify" in the 1970s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ernie Freeman</span> Jazz musician and performer

Ernest Aaron Freeman was an American pianist, organist, bandleader, and arranger. He was responsible for arranging many successful rhythm and blues and pop records from the 1950s to the 1970s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jenny Lou Carson</span> American country-music singer-songwriter

Jenny Lou Carson,, born Virginia Lucille Overstake, was an American country music singer-songwriter and the first woman to write a No. 1 country music hit. From 1945 to 1955 she was one of the most prolific songwriters in country music.

David Carroll was an American studio arranger, conductor, and musical director.

"Angry" is a popular song, with lyrics by Dudley Mecum and music by Henry Brunies, Merritt Brunies, and Jules Cassard, written in 1925. Ted Lewis and His Band first recorded the instrumental version on June 22, 1925, and then on June 26, 1925, The Whispering Pianist recorded the first vocal version.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby</span> Song by Dick Powell

"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" is a popular song with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, written in 1938 for the Warner Brothers movie Hard to Get, released November 1938, in which it was sung by Dick Powell.

"Shame on You" is a Western Swing song written by Spade Cooley and became his signature song.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Strangers (American band)</span> American country band

The Strangers were an American country band that formed in 1966 in Bakersfield, California. They mainly served as the backup band for singer-songwriter Merle Haggard, who named them after his first hit single "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers". In addition to serving as his backing band, members of the Strangers also produced many of Haggard's records, sang lead vocals on select tracks, and co-wrote many of Haggard's songs with him, including the No. 1 singles, "Okie From Muskogee" and "I Always Get Lucky with You".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phil Moore (jazz musician)</span> American jazz pianist, arranger, and bandleader

Phil Moore was an American jazz pianist, arranger, and bandleader.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clyde Lucas</span> American big-band leader and musician

Clyde H. Lucas was an American big-band leader who was popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. He was the leader of Clyde Lucas and His California Dons.

"Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me", alternatively sung as "Ma, She's Making Eyes At Me", is a song published in 1921. The lyrics were by the American composer and comedian Sidney Clare, and the music was by the American songwriter and producer Con Conrad.

Kenny Myers was an executive at Mercury Records during the 1960s. He later became general manager for a subsidiary of Dot Records. He also ran his own record label, Amaret Records. He left the music industry in the mid-1970s for the Regensteiner Printing Company. He is also a former musician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Don't Bring Lulu</span> 1925 jazz song

"Don't Bring Lulu" is a 1925 Dixieland jazz song.

Anita Blanch Boyer Dukoff, known as Anita Boyer was an American singer of the Big Band Era, described by Billboard as "one of the music business's most proficient canaries". She was noted for performances with Tommy Dorsey (1939), Leo Reisman (1940–41), Artie Shaw (1940), Nat King Cole (1941–44), Jerry Wald (1942–43) and Hoagy Carmichael (1945). With Dorsey she helped popularize the song "I Concentrate On You", and with Reisman she recorded the song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" for Pal Joey.


  1. Billboard Magazine September 23, 1944 page 4
  2. Billboard Music Week November 20, 1961, page 42
  3. "Sullivan Township High School 1924 Retrospect" (PDF). Sullivan Township High School. p. 22. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  4. Stach, Chris (October 20, 2009). "Remembering the moonlight". Riverside-Brookfield Landmark. Retrieved May 15, 2015.
  5. Billboard Music Yearbook. 1943. page 158.
  6. Billboard Magazine July 6, 1946 pg 37-38
  7. Mercury No. 6062

Further Reading