Memories of the Hilltoppers



Vernon Stone


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Yes, I recall the Hilltoppers.

I introduced the Hilltoppers to Eastern Iowa radio listeners in Fall of 1952. A master's student at the University of Iowa, I was working part-time at KXIC, Iowa City, and doing a disc jockey show. The Hilltoppers had recently come out with their first record. Its "Trying" was doing well regionally, but little Dot Records had not yet gone national in promotion. So I wrote Dot for a copy for KXIC. They sent me several copies of the 78 rpm record (pre-vinyl and brittle), enough for me to distribute to all stations in the market and keep two for myself. Soon the air play was bringing in requests for my old fellow students on the Hill. I'd known Jimmy Sacca and Seymour Spiegelman when we lived in the same Potter Hall dorm my senior year, and friend David Livingston sometimes mentioned his off-campus friend Billy Vaughn.

A few years later, but still in the 1950s, when I was a newsman at WHAS TV & Radio, Louisville, the Hilltoppers were guests on a live teen show, with music and refreshments, done in a large studio across the reception area from our newsroom. In charge of the reception desk was Blanche Gutig, 70ish with WHAS tenure back into the 1930s, when, she'd recall, Dale Evans was a staff singer and Barry Bingham hosted a program of classical music. Blanche adored WHAS musicians like Herbie Koch and Randy Atcher, but was happily oblivious of current popular recording artists, including the quartets.

"I'm Jimmy Sacca, here with the Hilltoppers."

"Oh, I'm sure everyone will be glad. Just take them in the studio across there and put them on the table next to the 7-Up."

Yes, the 1950s, when the Hilltoppers and I were young. Those were the days . . . of the Four Aces, the Crew-Cuts, the Hi-Los, the Platters, Frisch's Big Boys . . . and the Hilltoppers . . . on the table next to the 7-Up.


western kentucky university, Hilltoppers Quartet


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