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Dedette Lee Hill


(1900 - 1950)

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Dedette Lee Hill wrote the lyrics to one of the top jazz standards, but little is known about her early life. She was the wife of Tin Pan Alley’s William J. “Billy” Hill, who wrote the words and music for several very famous songs: “The Last Round-Up” (1933), “In the Chapel in the Moonlight,” and “The Glory of Love” (1936). He also supplied the lyrics to Peter DeRose’s “Wagon Wheels” in 1931 and to “Have You Ever Been Lonely” (1933) under the pseudonym George Brown. He wrote the music for “Empty Saddles” (1934) which was sung by Bing Crosby in a 1936 film. Billy was born in Boston where he studied violin and hoped to join the Boston Symphony, but he went out West instead, holding down odd jobs and eventually forming a dance band in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was out West that he met and married Dedette with whom he relocated to New York City in 1930.

Dedette wrote her most enduring lyric for Willard Robison’s “Old Folks” in 1938. She turned the lovely ballad into an endearing story which has been told by several vocalists over the years, among them Chris Connor, The Four Freshmen, and Ernestine Anderson.

Hill collaborated with her husband on “There’s a Little Box of Pine on the 7:29” and “Put on an Old Pair of Shoes” (1935). She also wrote lyrics for a few of Johnny Marks’ compositions (Marks was the composer of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”): “I Can’t Find Anything to Suit Me,” “We Speak of You Often,” “Address Unknown” (co-written with Carmen Lombardo in 1939), and “Who Calls?” which she wrote in 1941 and dedicated to Billy who died in 1940.

- Sandra Burlingame

Old Folks

Walter Bishop Jr.

Ballad Essentials

Ernestine Anderson
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