The man known as the International Ambassador of Country Music is ever eager to live up to his name, which is why George Hamilton IV could be found in England last weekend and in Maryhill tomorrow. At 74, he’s shown no interest in slowing down.
A star of the Grand Ole Opry, the native of North Carolina who now calls Nashville home has been recording and touring regularly since his 1957 debut as teen idol – his first album was George Hamilton IV On Campus. There’s been a steady output since then, and his show May 27 at the Commercial Tavern will feature songs from his new CD, A Tribute to Luke the Drifter.
The album and the tracks thereon highlight the little-known aspects of country music legend Hank Williams, who wrote gospel songs and spiritual poems under the pen name Luke the Drifter. Hamilton’s latest creation was recorded in Williams’ hometown of Georgiana, Alabama, in the little theatre where he took to the stage as a teen back in the 1940s.
“A lot of people didn’t know that other side of Hank Williams,” said Hamilton by phone Wednesday while waiting to fly out of Atlanta to Manchester, England. “There was the gospel and spiritual stuff.”
Given his scheduled Sunday appearance in Maryhill, some gospel music will be perfectly appropriate. Of course, there will be some long-time crowd favourites such ‘Canadian Pacific,’ ‘Early Morning Rain,’ ‘Abilene’ and ‘Break My Mind.’
You can expect to see the Commercial Tavern’s own Paul Weber up on stage, too, rekindling some of the musical magic they made playing together on Hamilton’s former CHCH-TV show, which ran for seven years in the 1970s.
He credits that show, which was syndicated across Canada and then to the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, for exposing his music to a wider audience.
He’s got a strong connection to this country, having recorded five albums of Canadian music. In particular, he’s a huge fan of Gordon Lightfoot’s writing, and has recorded some 20 of Lightfoot’s songs, more than any other artist. His work here left him with an enduring fan base.
A similar TV show experience in England did much the same there, and he’s played there once or twice a year ever since his first visit in 1967. He’s made his way to almost every one of the Whitby Gospel Music Conventions, an event now in its thirteenth year. This time around he’ll be the emcee along with picking up his guitar and singing as a headliner.
More than 50 years into his career, he’s still working steadily.
“I’m not complaining. I’m glad to be busy,” he laughs.
His touring schedule is what earned him the title of ‘International Ambassador Of Country Music’ when he became the first American country singer to perform in the Soviet Union in 1974, later recording an album in Prague in 1982.
His jaunt up to Woolwich Township won’t involve any jet lag, but it’s a trip he’s looking forward to, marking his second performance at the Commercial Tavern.
“Paul Weber is a good friend of mine, and he’s a wonderful musician. He’s doing a great thing with the music there.”
Hamilton brings his show A Tribute to Luke the Drifter: the other side of Hank Williams to the stage at the Commercial Tavern May 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644.