Sing along to the music of Kentucky’s own Hilltoppers
In the 1950s, The Hilltoppers was one of America’s most popular singing groups. Their romantic love songs, beautiful harmonies, and youthful enthusiasm captured the hearts of fans around the world, Over the course of their career they had 21 songs in the Top 40, musically and culturally bridging a time between the Big Band sound and the arrival of rock ’n’ roll.
The KET documentary The Hilltoppers tells their remarkable story and showcases some of the great music that made the group a popular sensation. It premieres Monday, Oct. 24 at 9/8 pm on KET.
The group was made up of four young men who met at Western Kentucky University — Billy Vaughn and Don McGuire were from Kentucky, Jimmy Sacca and Seymour Spiegelman of New York. The group took its name from Western’s athletic teams nickname (and the group wore beanies and Western letter sweaters in many of their performances).
A demo they recorded on campus of a song Vaughn had written called “Trying” came to the attention of Randy Wood, who had a small record label called Dot Records. It quickly become a smash hit, and the next thing the group knew they were singing for a national audience on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town. Life had changed forever for these four college students.
KET interviewed the only living original member of the group — Don McGuire, who now lives in Lexington — as well as Ann Sacca, the widow of the lead singer and one of Sacca’s sons.
Also featured are Kentucky writer Bobbie Ann Mason, who founded The Hilltoppers fan club, and Ed McClanahan, another prominent Kentucky writer whose life and work was influenced by the group.
The program features footage of The Hilltoppers performing on popular TV variety shows of the time, along with home movies, family photos, and rare unreleased songs.