Who was/is David Hill ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
How many ‘50s rock and rollers later starred in classic ‘70s horror movies? At least one that we know of: David Hill, who played the lead villain in 1972’s ‘Last House On The Left’ under his birth name of David Hess (we won’t even describe how he met a most painful end in that occasionally revolting flick, but it’d make any gent reflexively cross his legs). Long before Hess made his terrifying mark on the silver screen, he was cranking out singles that didn’t sell for him but in a couple of cases did extraordinarily well when remade by others.
A native of New York City, where he was born September 19, 1936, David actually got his hands on R&B songsmith Otis Blackwell’s All Shook Up before Elvis did. He waxed it in a pop-slanted style for the Mesner Brothers’ Aladdin label at New York’s Capitol Studios on November 7, 1956, two months before Presley cut the rocker, with Ray Ellis directing the band and a wailing sax solo at the halfway point. But Aladdin missed the boat, issuing its self-penned session mate Jellybean first under the name of David Hill. By the time the Mesners got around to pressing up Hill’s rendition of I’m All Shook Up (as the label listed it) in March of ’57, Elvis had the number out too. So much for that.
Hill caught on as a staff songwriter with Shalimar Music, co-writing actor Sal Mineo’s ’57 hit for Epic, Start Movin’ (In My Direction). That same year, he moved over to RCA Victor as an artist. Instead of writing his own numbers there, Hill picked up the catchy By My Side from the compositional tandem of Bobby Darin, still awaiting his big break, and future music publishing magnate Don Kirshner. Hill and Bobby Stevenson teamed up to pen That’s Love, issued as Hill’s RCA followup in late ’57. The twangy lead guitar found a cool comfort zone between rockabilly and New York-style rock and roll under Joe Reisman’s musical direction, David’s vocals matching the aggressive axeman in the energy department.
Reisman had been elevated to producer status, relegating bandleading duties to Mort Garson, on Hill’s next Victor outing in the spring of ‘58, the rumbling Wild Child. Writers Billy Dawn Smith (who co-penned The Five Satins’ To The Aisle and The Crests’ The Angels Listened In and Trouble In Paradise) and Luther Dixon (co-author of The Crests’ top seller 16 Candles and future producer of The Shirelles and Chuck Jackson at Scepter/Wand Records) got plenty of action on Wild Child—falsetto-blessed R&B singer Donnie Elbert had already issued a competing version on DeLuxe. The Stroll-worthy Big Guitar, the opposite side of Hill’s 45, was an even more popular cover item, though The Owen Bradley Quintet’s charting version for Decca and saxist Sam (The Man) Taylor’s M-G-M rendition were instrumentals.
Hill stuck with RCA through the remainder of 1958, bidding farewell with a Christmas double-sider, then moved over to Kapp Records. There he finally tasted pop chart success with the Irving Gordon-authored Civil War epic Two Brothers and then a cover of Cliff Richard’s British chart-topper Living Doll. The singer returned to RCA in 1961 under a new moniker: David Dante. He co-wrote Speedy Gonzales with Buddy Kaye and waxed it with RCA producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, but it went nowhere. When Pat Boone tried Speedy on for size over at Dot the next year, the novelty was a smash. Maybe David was just meant to be an actor rather than a singer.
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