Legendary Singer, Dead At 82

Born on December 21, 1940, in Joshua, Texas, Ray Hildebrand encountered his future singing partner, Jill Jackson (later known as Paula), during his college days at Howard Payne College, which is now Howard Payne University, situated in Brownwood, Texas. Despite the chemistry in their musical duets, it’s important to clarify that they were never romantically linked.

The duo, famously known as Paul & Paula, successfully captured the attention of music lovers nationwide. They had a series of hits that found their way to Billboard’s charts. Some of the chart-toppers included songs such as “Young Lovers,” “First Quarrel,” “First Day Back at School,” and “Something Old, Something New.” However, out of all their hits, their 1963 song “Hey Paula” stands out as their most iconic. Not only was it a multi-million-seller, but it also held its position at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for a solid three weeks. Interestingly, “Hey Paula” was written by Hildebrand himself.

Their talent did not go unnoticed. Mercury Records’ head, Shelby Singleton, took a keen interest in them and subsequently signed them on. He reissued “Hey Paula” through Mercury’s Phillips subsidiary. Moreover, it was Singleton’s decision to rebrand the pair as Paul & Paula. The idea behind this was that having a duo named Ray and Jill singing “hey, hey Paula” and “hey, hey Paul” might seem a tad confusing or less catchy to the listeners.

Their musical journey together comprised the release of two albums in addition to a special Christmas-themed set. However, by 1965, the duo decided to go their separate ways. Hildebrand’s decision to part was influenced by his eagerness to complete his college education and to explore a different musical avenue.

Nevertheless, their personal bond remained intact. They retained their friendship and even joined forces occasionally for special performance events.

Hildebrand’s personal life was deeply rooted in his Christian faith. This spiritual connection prominently reflected in his solo recordings after his Paul & Paula days. One of his records, “Say I Do,” holds significance in the world of music as it’s considered a pioneering record in the contemporary Christian genre. Later in his career, he collaborated with Paul Land, and together they made Christian music under the moniker of Land & Hildebrand.

His devotion wasn’t restricted to just creating faith-based music. Hildebrand passionately traveled throughout the country, spreading the message of his faith through his music. Additionally, he actively collaborated with The Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The conclusion of Hildebrand’s journey on Earth saw him leaving behind his cherished family members. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Judy Hendricks. His legacy continues through his daughter, Heidi Sterling, and his son, Mike Hildebrand, who both reside in Kansas City.