Last surviving member of "The Hilltoppers" music group passes away

Published: Sep. 9, 2018 at 8:06 PM CDT
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Don McGuire, the last surviving member of the popular singing group "The Hilltoppers" has passed away.

According to his son, Kreis, who lives here in Bowling Green, Don passed away on Friday at age 86 in Lexington.

"Dad was a mountain boy from Hazard, Kentucky which is a small town in Eastern Kentucky. He came to Western on a basketball scholarship in the Fall of 1949 and in the Fall of 1951 he met three guys by the name of Jimmy Sacca, Seymour Spiegelman, and the genius of a man, Billy Vaughn at the campus hang out called "the goal post" on Western's campus. Billy wrote a song called "Trying" and six months later, they were on the biggest show in America which was the toast of the town, the Ed Sullivan Show," said Kries.

He went on to say, "For the next eight years, they performed on the biggest shows in America, all over the world. They met, performed, became friends with stars like Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart, and one of dad's favorite comedians he worked with in Las Vegas for two weeks was Howie Morris who was the famous Ernest T. Bass on the Andy Griffith Show."

According to WKU's Alumni Association web page, "The Hilltoppers" was a 1950s musical quartet that achieved status as the number one musical group during 1953-54. The group was the number one vocal combination by Billboard and Cash Box magazines in 1953 and consistently remained one of America's Top Ten through 1960.

The group was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

For his family and friends, Don will be remembered for much more than just his music.

"No matter how famous he ever got to be, he never forgot where he came from, that was Hazard, Kentucky. Dad was like a father, brother to me, and gave me my passion for music today. The best dad a kid could ever have. He was the best and I miss him dearly."

Visitation for Don McGuire will take place Sept. 11 from 4 - 8 p.m. at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Rd. in Lexington.

The funeral will be Sept. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at the funeral home by Dr. Robert G. Baker.

A private family service will be held at Camp Nelson National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Bobby and Don McGuire Scholarship Fund, c/o WKU College Heights Foundation, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, KY, 42101.