Just before the Beatles hit it big, a guy named Ray Hildebrand had the biggest hit in America. One song would change his life forever, thus beginning a long journey that eventually led him to the Kansas City metro.
Fifty years later, Hildebrand is still belting out the hit that catapulted him to stardom as he sings the lyrics "Hey, hey Paula, I wanna marry you. Hey, hey Paula, no one else will ever do."
As a 21-year-old college student in Texas, Hildebrand struck music gold when he wrote Hey Paula and performed it as a duo under the name Paul and Paula. It shot to number one on the billboard charts in 1963 and Ray and his singing partner, Jill Jackson became an overnight sensation.
"We went from fan to famous in three months," Hildebrand said.
He went from watching American Bandstand on TV to performing on the show live.
"Dick Clark and American Bandstand ... oh my gosh! You get breathless," Hildebrand said.
He said it seems like yesterday that Clark was presenting him with a gold record after Hey Paula sold 1 million copies.
"As he was giving it to us, it fell apart," Hildebrand said as he thought back to that day.
The innocent accident was to be a foreshadowing of what was about to happen to Hildebrand even as his career was skyrocketing.
"And from somebody looking from the outside, we're No. 1 in America, we're No. 1 in Japan in two languages, and Germany - we're recording in German," he said.
Paul and Paula were so big that, while touring in Great Britain, the Beatles asked them if they could have their picture taken with them.
"If you're famous it's because you're either on television or you're traveling and going places and you're never home, and if you're never home, you don't have many relationships," Hildebrand said.
But just as quickly as he found fame, Hildebrand gave it all up. While traveling with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, he decided to leave show business.
"I wrote them a note and I said ‘I can't do this anymore. I got to go back home to real life,'" he said.
And that's what he did. He married his girlfriend Judy and, a short time later, accepted a job with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"It was just a marriage in heaven, and they said ‘would you move to Kansas City?' And I said ‘yeah,' so I took my wife and my little girl and we jumped in an old car and moved up here in 1967, July 15. It's been a drama, but it's been good," Hildebrand said.
While with the FCA, he began a new solo music career and became one of the pioneers in contemporary Christian music, a career that continues today.
"I've had a blessed life. Praise God. And it ain't over yet," Hildebrand said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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