Winston-Salem native George Hamilton IV died Wednesday in Nashville after suffering a heart attack over the weekend. He was 77.
Hamilton was a Winston-Salem native who became a star of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. He grew up in Ardmore and graduated from Reynolds High School. He found fame in 1956 as a UNC freshman when his recording of “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” made the Top 10 of the national pop charts.
He toured with some of the earliest stars of rock and roll including Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. But he preferred the country sound. He started with the Grand Ole Opry in 1960 and reached the top of the country charts in 1963 with “Abeline”. He traveled the world and his easygoing manner led Billboard magazine to dub him the "International Ambassador of Country Music.”
He also performed gospel standards - his album "On a Blue Ridge Sunday" won a Dove Award in 2004.
Hamilton was raised in the Moravian Church and was a proponent of Moravian music and culture. In 1980's he hosted a PBS special "Christmas with the Moravians."
Hamilton met his wife, Tinky, at Reynolds, and the couple had three children, including son "George V," with whom he performed.