Hull-born singer Ronnie Hilton, born Adrian Hill on 26 January 1926, enjoyed a six-week stay at number one with the old-school No Other Love.
Hill had left school at the age of 14 to work in an aircraft factory during World War Two, before becoming part of the Highland Light Infantry. Following demobilisation in 1947 he became a fitter in a Leeds sewing plant. In an evening, he would sing with The Johnny Addlestone Band. It was in 1954 that Hill took the plunge and became a full-time singer, adopting his new stage name.
Hilton found fame with his covers of popular American songs of the era. No Other Love was taken from the 1953 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Me and Juliet, and had been a US number 1 that year for Perry Como. Hilton’s version contained more ‘oomph’ than Como’s, who, as always, was content to play it cool.
It’s serviceable enough, a standard ballad of the era. Clearly, the older generation still loved these romantic ballads and weren’t going to be swayed by the rogue pelvis of Elvis Presley, whose debut album had been released a few months previous. However, by the time No Other Love had dropped from the charts, Presley had managed three hit singles. Rock’n’roll wasn’t going away.
The following year, Hilton failed in his attempt to represent the UK in the inaugural Eurovision Song Contest. In 1959, Hilton’s last chart hit for some time was The Wonder of You, which Presley took to number 1 in 1970.
Hits were thin on the ground for the singer in the 60s, and he became a regular fixture in pantomimes in his home town. In 1967, he released a version of David Bowie’s The Laughing Gnome as a double A-side with If I Were a Rich Man. It failed to chart, unlike his only album success, an LP of songs from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in 1968.
The 70s were tough, with money problems and a stroke in 1976 to contend with. But after years in the wilderness Hilton later found fame in the 90s by presenting BBC Radio 2’s nostalgic Sounds of the Fifties. He died of a stroke on 21 February 2001, aged 75.
Written by: Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
Producer: Wally Ridley
Weeks at number 1: 6 (4 May-14 June)
Dramatist John Godber – 18 May
Magician Austin Osman Spare – 17 May
Theatre critic Max Beerbohm – 20 May
5 May: Manchester City won the FA Cup with a 3-1 victory over Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium. Amazingly, their goalkeeper Bert Trautmann played the last 15 minutes of the game with a broken neck. Ouch.
7 May: The Minister of Health Robin Turton rejected a call for the government to lead an anti-smoking campaign, arguing that no ill-effects had yet to be proven.
8 May: John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger was first performed, at the Royal Court Theatre. Actor Alan Bates was described in the theatre’s press release as an ‘angry young man’, a term that would soon become famous.