Ray Hildebrand was attending Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, on a basketball scholarship. He lived in a boarding house and, as luck would have it, the owner had a niece named Jill Jackson. Jill and Ray began singing together and performed a song he had written on a local radio station during a benefit for The American Cancer Society.
The reaction to the song was positive and they were advised to bring it to the attention of Major Bill Smith, who had produced Bruce Channel’s number one hit, “Hey Baby.” They waited all day in his recording studio and, when someone didn’t show for their session, they recorded “Hey Paula” in two takes. Smith released the song on his own LeCam label. When it became a local hit in the Atlanta area, he sold the rights to Phillips who changed Jill and Ray to Paul and Paula.
“Hey Paula” first reached the Billboard Hot 100 December 29, 1962, and 50 years ago this week reached the number one position where it remained for three weeks. It sold over two million copies and also topped the Rhythm & Blues Chart.
It was one of those simple songs that inhabited AM radio play lists during the early 1960s pre-Beatles era. It had simple words and a simple melody that just stayed with you. It is a song that represents the time period well.
The career of Paul and Paula only lasted close to three years. Ray became disenchanted with the music business and quit in the middle of a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tour. Oddly, Dick Clark stepped in and sang with Paula to complete the tour.
Every once in a while Ray has agreed to perform with Paula, but for all intents and purposes the career of Paul and Paula was over. What they left behind was one of the signature hits of the early 1960s that topped the music world 50 years ago this week.