April 16, 2008
The feminist ideal is often described as freedom of choice. It’s interesting to think about that ideal when considering the career of Goldie Hill. In the early fifties, she became one of the few female stars of the early radio days. But she chose to walk away from her success to raise a family, leaving many wondering about the music that might have been.
Goldie was born in Texas in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. When her older brothers left the family farm to become country singers, Goldie tagged along, but it didn’t take long before little sister was outshining her elder siblings.
Goldie’s brother Tommy Hill had gotten enough attention to land a slot on the Louisiana Hayride, a radio broadcast that was at its peak of popularity in the early fifties. Goldie soon earned solo spots on the show, leading to her being dubbed “The Golden Hillbilly.” In 1952, Kitty Wells showed that a woman could sell a massive hit with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, which led to women getting more attention from record labels. Hill’s exposure got her a deal with Decca Records.
Her first single went nowhere, but in 1953, she borrowed a page from the Wells playbook and answered a hit male record of the day, Perry Como’s “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.” Hill responded with “I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes”, which went #1 and earned her widespread exposure, leading to magazine covers and appearances on television.
Throughout the mid-fifties, Hill was a presence on the radio and on television, having a few hits singing with Justin Tubb and Red Sovine. She became a Grand Ole Opry member in 1953. But in 1957, after marrying country singer Carl Smith, she chose to walk away from the business, settling down and raising a family.
Hill made some brief attempts at recording again in the late sixties, but her heart was never fully in it. She added Smith to her stage name and released two albums for Epic, but when they didn’t take off, she returned back home. Hill passed away in 2002, leaving behind some doors knocked down for future women, and some lingering questions about what might have been.
- “I Let the Stars Get in My Eyes”, 1953
- “Looking Back to See” (with Justin Tubb), 1954
- “Yankee, Go Home”, 1959