George Hamilton IV: Nashville crooner felt a deep connection with Ulster
Country singer George Hamilton IV, who has died aged 77 in Nashville, had a special regard for Northern Ireland and loved to play the Ulster Hall.
"Ulster folk have a unique passion for country music," the American said on one visit here "and the acoustics in the Ulster Hall are near perfection".
And it was at this Belfast venue that George endeared himself to the Northern Irish public in the early Sixties when he treated them to his version of the gospel ballad One Day At A Time, a song with which he was associated for the rest of his life. He came here regularly with his stage performances and also brought his Christman show to churches in every county. And his performance as himself in Patsy, the musical drama dedicated to the late Patsy Cline who died in a plane crash, was a hit here also.
Several years ago, he dedicated an album he had just cut to the memory of a County Antrim farmer's son who was gored to death by a bull.
A memorial service is being held today to Hamilton IV in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium – the Mother Church of Country Music. In 2007, George worked with Northern Irish group Live Issue on an album based on the life of Banbridge-born poet Joseph Scriven who wrote What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
He began in showbusiness as a pop artist in 1956 but discovered his true talent in country with songs like Abilene, The Way Old Friends Do and A Rose between Two Thorns.
George toured the UK with preacher Dr Billy Graham in 1984 and attracted scores of fans from Northern Ireland to an event in Glasgow.