Hildebrand wrote the song, originally titled ‘Paul and Paula’, taking inspiration from the Annette Funicello hit ‘Tall Paul’. Hildebrand and Jackson performed the song on a local radio station and the song soon became popular enough for the duo to try to make a professional recording. They went to a studio in Fort Worth, Texas, and were fortunate enough to find a producer with studio time and musicians booked and a missing lead vocalist. He recorded their version of the song and released it on his Le Cam Records label, changing the name to ‘Hey Paula’, credited to Jill & Ray. When the record became a success, it was picked up by the larger ‘Philips Records’, which changed the billing to ‘Paul and Paula’.
When the song was released on Philips, it hit the national charts in late 1962, reaching Number 1 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1963. It spawned a follow-up top ten hit, ‘Young Lovers’, and a series of other hits for the duo.
Paula is an unusual name, and I have only ever personally known one person in my life bearing it. I was living in Canada at the time. The year was the spring of 1964, a year or so after this record was first released. I was engaged as a professional singer in a night club in Montreal at the time, and I believed myself to be a great singer who was simply awaiting discovery and imminent stardom. After all, the world’s musical capital at the time was Liverpool in England. A short time earlier, the Beatles had burst upon the world’s music scene and were soon followed by dozens of singing stars coming out of Liverpool such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy Fury, The Searchers, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Cilla Black, The Merseybeat’s, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Liverbirds, etc.
I simply thought that if the sound and the stars of the early sixties across the world hailed from Liverpool in England (a mere 50 miles from my family home in West Yorkshire), then, why couldn’t I also jump on the musical bandwagon and join this artistic crowd of celebrities from the shores of Great Britain?
Each night at the club (ironically called ‘The Last Chance Saloon’), there would be singing performances by three regular singers and three other singers whose appearances would be booked in rotating order from about one dozen part-time performers. We would commence around 9:00pm and sing well past midnight in half an hour slots.
Working into the early morning hours, we would sleep on the premises until noon the following day, after which we might play cards or go out around town. Paula worked behind the bar and lived about three miles across town with her sister. The two sisters were awfully close and protective of each other. Being a new settler in Canada, Paula (herself and sister, former immigrants), knew how hard it can initially be until one finds their feet on foreign soil. Paula would invite me to eat with herself and sister some weekends. There was no intimate male/female relationship between us; she was ten years older, and we were merely good friends who worked at the same place.
About two months into my relatively new singing career, in which I genuinely believed myself to have been the best new singer to have arrived in Canada for many a year, I had to accept that ‘good’ I might well be, but by no means was I ‘the best’. Having grown accustomed since childhood to always come number one in anything I undertook (especially singing), my ‘Achille’s Heel’ of not being able to reconcile myself to being in the number two spot led me to withdraw from the singing scene altogether. If I couldn’t be ‘the best’ I did not wish to compete, so, I gave up my singing career there and then. Fifty-three years would pass by before I ever sang in public again!
At the time, Paula tried to dissuade me, along with another couple of singers at the club, but another stubborn feature and character flaw of mine that I inherited from my father, was that once I make up my mind, I never change it! Or, I should say, I never used to change it until my mid-fifties.
Since I started my daily singing practice again three years ago (to improve my lung functioning and increase the oxygenation in my blood), I have once more found the joy in singing that my mother experienced all her life. Although mum could not sing for toffee or string two notes together in the melodic coupling they were intended to be sung, she believed that everyone in the world had the right to sing, whether they were the best or the worse singers on the face of the planet. Mum believed that singing expressed one's happiness and gratitude for being alive and she would sing doing her housework all day long. She knew not the words of any song she ever sang from start to finish, but such, she considered to be a mere detail of inconsequence. What words mum did not know, she simply inserted her own!
Although too much water has flowed beneath the bridge of time to enable me to sing one-tenth as well at the age of 77-going-on-78 as I was able to sing at the age of 21 years, I now get more pleasure out of singing daily than I could ever have imagined. And the reason is that I no longer hold any unrealistic pretensions of being any better a singer than what I am. Today, I sing for my increased health and happiness. I no longer sing out of vanity. Like my mother before me, I sing because I am happy and glad to be alive, and singing expresses these feelings of happiness and appreciation in me.
Love and peace Bill xxx