Music Still Keeps Late Rock Star’s Memory Alive
Danny Hamilton was one of those rock stars whose work far eclipsed his name.
You can’t tune in an oldies radio station for very long without hearing Hamilton’s 1971 hit that has become a standard:
Don’t pull your love out on me baby.
If you do then I think that maybe I’ll just lay me down.
And cry for a thousand years. …
“Don’t Pull Your Love Out” was playing one day last week on a radio inside the Spokane funeral home where Danny’s body lay.
“That’s your brother singing, isn’t it?” a funeral director asked Judd Hamilton, who had walked into the mortuary with a suit for Danny to wear. Judd nodded, struck by the eerie timing.
Danny Hamilton, former lead singer of Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, died in Los Angeles two days before Christmas from a rare hormonal disorder. He was 48.
Judd, 52, thought it fitting to bury his brother here. The one-time national singing sensation had been born in Spokane and had attended high school in Wenatchee.
After living in Europe for years, Judd returned to Spokane in 1990. He started a small recording studio and hoped to collaborate with Danny on a greatest-hits CD.
Although Danny’s hits are radio staples, you can’t find them outside of collectors’ records stores. “What amazes me is that his songs are still playing all over the world,” says Judd.
“Don’t Pull Your Love Out” reached No. 4 on the Billboard list of top pop singles. “Fallin’ in Love,” which Danny wrote, hit No. 1 in 1975 and remained on the charts 17 weeks.
“He was staying with me in England when he wrote it,” recalls Judd. “One morning he came out of the bedroom with his guitar and said, ‘Hey, listen to this:”’
Baby, baby, fallin’ in love,
I’m fallin’ in love again.
Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds had six lesser hits, ranging from 21 to 72 on the top 100. An earlier version of the band - the T-Bones - reached No. 3 in 1965 with a novelty instrumental based on an Alka-Seltzer commercial.
If Danny had anyone to thank, it was his big brother, who also happens to be his biggest fan.
The moment Judd heard Elvis, he dreamed of being a guitar-playing star. He learned some chords and formed a group called The Furys which was good enough to open for The Ventures when the group came to Wenatchee in 1961.
Ventures guitarist Bob Bogle told Judd he should “look him up” if he ever happened to be in L.A. It was one of those offhand remarks that didn’t mean anything, but a few months later, Judd was knocking on Bogle’s door.
“I had to invite him in,” says Bogle, laughing. “He was sleeping in his car and not eating.”
That’s how Judd became road manager for the legendary instrumental group that is credited with spawning the twangy surf sound.
But it was Danny who got the big break. While visiting Judd in Hollywood, he learned The Ventures were looking for new material.
Danny just so happened to have a song. That song, “Diamond Head,” didn’t do much in America, but it sold millions in Japan. The Ventures still are huge in Japan in part thanks to the long-lasting popularity of Danny’s song.
“Danny was a super-talented kid, good-looking and a good singer,” says Bogle. “I feel a deep, personal loss with his death.”
There’s a lot of sadness about what happened to Danny Hamilton. Like many music stars of the past, he was managed poorly and made a pittance off royalties.
Until he fell ill in 1993, Danny worked Las Vegas clubs, singing the oldies with Joe Frank. Judd says his brother still had the clean, rich voice that had put him on top of the charts in the 1970s.
His death has intensified Judd’s efforts to produce a greatest-hits CD on a Spokane label. “I love him as a brother and I love him as a talent,” says Judd. “Danny was just incredible.”