About The Group
The Hill Family was a popular family act that worked at radio station WMMT in McMinnville, Tennessee in the early and mid-fifties.
The picture of the Hill Family is from Studio A at the station. Raymond Hill, a member of the group, recalls the members of the group for us. From left to right, Raymond Hill, who played the guitar and handled vocals. Phillip Hill did the emcee chores for the group and sang. He was the first cousin to the other members of the family in the act. Next was Thelma Hill is seated at the piano and the mother of all members (except Phillip). Gayle Hill sang and played the bass. Finally, Don Hill played the fiddle.
Raymond Hill wrote us and told us the family had their own radio show that aired on Saturday afternoons for half an hour. Another group had a show right after theirs. But a disc jockey at the station, Ples Taylor, had the idea to turn the Saturday afternoon shows into a 'live' jamboree show.
The idea was to provide a showcase for the local talents to give them an audience. Invitations were open to any and everyone who were willing to get in front of a microphone. The Hill Family would provide the musical backups for the aspiring performers who showed up. Each person that wanted to be on the show was allowed to do one tune. They could then wait another 30-45 minutes to do another number on the show. Ray mentions that since it was a 'live' show, you never knew what to expect or who would show up.
The Hill Family band was the host band each week for "The Saturday Afternoon Jamboree" show that aired live over WMMT from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Raymond writes that they welcomed and encouraged anyone that had a talent to come and perform on their 'live' broadcast - giving them audience exposure. This aspect of the show we've found repeatedly in our research - the shows gave the younger and new talents a chance to be heard.
The Hill Family was with WMMT for many years, but as time went by, jobs, military service and marriages caused the act to break up as they went their separate ways. But Ray says they're still in touch with each other.
Ray was kind enough to share an anecdote about one of the guests that appeared on their program several times. The singer used them as her back-up band. Ray said, "She had a lovely voice and we often said if the right person could hear her, she could go places in the music world."
It turns out that someone did hear her and went on to her own successful career. Her name was Dottie West, who also had several hit duet recordings with Kenny Rogers.
The members of the Hill Family are all still alive today, with the exception of Thelma, or Mom, who passed away in 1992.
Timeline and Trivia Notes
Group Members included:
Credits & Sources
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