Tennessean Eddie Hill (James Edward Hill) was born on July 21, 1921, in either McMinn County or Polk County. Being from a family with a rich musical tradition, Eddie already started singing and playing the guitar at very young age and he formed his first band while still in his teens. His first experience with radio work came while living in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his family had moved because of Eddie’s father’s work. Eddie first started working for local radio station WROL but in the early 1940s, he and his band moved to WNOX to work at the “Mid-Day-Merry-Go-Round” show, as “Smilin’ Eddie Hill and the Mountain Boys”. Some time later, Eddie moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where he joined WKRC, but in 1943 Johnny Wright convinced him to return to Knoxville to join the Tennessee Hillbillies, a group build around Johnny & Jack and Kitty Wells. In 1945, Eddie quit the Tennessee Hillbillies to try his luck in Hollywood’s movie business, but he soon moved back to Knoxville to return to WNOX, together with his Mountain Boys that now consisted of Leonard Dabney (guitar), Johnny Gallagher (bass), Billy Bowman (electric guitar) and Bob Sumner (fiddle). It was around this time that Eddie got married to his wife Jacqueline Adkins.
Although Eddie remained very active in the music industry, both as an artist and as a DJ, it lasted about two years before Eddie again got signed by a major label: in 1951 he joined Mercury where he did several recording sessions before joining RCA in late 1953. Through his work for WSM he became one of the most popular DJ’s in the nation and he eventually grew to become a major name and influence in Nashville’s music community, also because of his work as a studio musician. Eddie left WSM after about three years due to a financial disagreement and subsequently joined WENO in Nashville’s suburb Madison.
In 1956 Eddie signed with Columbia. It was the heyday of rock ‘n’ roll and due to change in popular taste, Columbia’s policy at that time was to focus less on country music. Nevertheless, Eddie’s first recording session produced four typical country songs. These clearly rank among the best that Eddie recorded during his entire career, partly because of the accompaniment of such topnotch musicians as Don Helms on steel, Tommy Jackson on fiddle, Grady Martin and Ray Edenton on guitar and Lightnin’ Chance on bass. “Unredeemed Diamonds” and “I’m Worried” were released on September 10, 1956, as Columbia 4-21556. It would be Eddie’s only release as part of the 20000-series, as the other two songs, “I’m Gonna Be Loser Again” and “I Cried In My Dream Last Night” were released on January 14, 1957, about two months after the 20000 series had officially ended. Later that year, on December 10, 1957, Eddie did one more recording session for Columbia during which he recorded three rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Late 1956, Eddie joined the “Phillip Morris Country Music Show”, a show that also featured fellow artists Carl Smith, Red Sovine, Ronnie Self, Mimi Roman and Bun Wilson and that was sponsored by the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. In 1957, Eddie hosted a popular television show for WLAC from Nashville, interviewing some of the most famous names in the music industry. That same year, he was again elected as most popular DJ, this time by the C&W Jamboree magazine.
In 1968, at the age of 47, Eddie suffered a severe stroke, which kept him hospitalized for four months. In January 1969, his old pal Lightnin’ Chance organized a series of benefit concerts for to help Eddie pay for his medical bills. Among the musicians that participated in the shows where such big names as Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce, Jimmy Newman, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, Chet Atkins, Grandpa Jones, Hank Snow, Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith and Bobby Lord.
In 1975, Eddie was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame, thereby becoming its first living member, an honor he shares with Grant Turner. Eddie passed away on January 18, 1994.
(biography taken from Willem Agenant blogspot, « Columbia 20000 serie »)
Eddie Hill : an appreciation by bopping’s editor.
The majority of Hill’s output is made up of uptempo hillbillies, never fast paced, nevertheless solid and enjoyable songs. From the ten songs I selected, it’s hard to prefer one or another, as each one has some appeal to it. Best known tracks are « The hot guitar » and two other tunes from his first Mercury session, « Educated fool » and « Steamboat stomp » : Chet Atkins and Hank Garland were the best guitarists Hill could dream of to back him, and they compete together in shiny short solos in imitation of other players. It’s probably another great, Jerry Byrd, who handles the steel. « Cold, cold woman » from his second Mercury session (December 1951) is equally good, with Paul Buskirk on the guitar duties. Mrs. Atkins and Garland do return for the next song chosen, « Salty dog rag » (February 1952). « Buckshot », from the last Mercury session, remains a mystery, as no backing members has been identified.
Later on Eddie Hill went to RCA-Victor and had with them several good songs. « Lovin’ spree » has a xylophone, a rather unusual instrument in Country music (January 1954). « My sugar booger » (February 1954) has Chet Atkins and the old compere Louis Innis on twin lead guitar. « Knock it off » (September 1954) is the last tune I selected, before the changing Nashville fashion included chorus. Later sessions (including his two Columbia sessions) have been omitted this way. « Wild cat » for example is a piece of Pop-Rock’n’roll. Let’s jump to Hill’s last recordings in 1959 for the University label ; I retained the poppish « Monkey business ». Also chosen the novelty from Hill’s Apollo days in 1947 (Hill & Country label) « (Shake that little foot) Sally Ann ».