For some reason, when I was listening to this song in 1963, I thought that Paul and Paula were married in real life. That, of course, is not true and has never been true, even though they sound like the perfect couple. Paul is really Ray Hildebrand and he wrote the hit, “Hey Paula.” He had heard Annette Funicello sing her song “Tall Paul” (#7 in 1959) and liked the sound of the name “Paul,” so he sat down and wrote “Hey Paula.” It was obviously a couple song. It could not be sung by just one person, so he asked the niece of the owner of the boarding house he lived in to be his “Paula.” Her name was Jill Jackson. Ray was attending Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas at the time. So, he took the song to a local radio station who had a recording studio in it’s basement and they recorded “Hey Paula” in two takes. The song was originally called “Paul & Paula,” but they changed it when they cut the record. The singers were originally Ray & Jill.
The record got some local airplay and then someone in Atlanta, Georgia started playing the song and that attracted the attention of Shelby Singleton of Mercury Records. He thought it would be a good single for his new Philips label. The only thing he changed was the name of the singers. He changed them from Ray & Jill to Paul & Paula.
Ray had written “Hey Paula” to be six minutes long and that was obviously too long for a single which ran around three minutes, sometimes even shorter. So, he removed a big chunk of the song and re-worked it into their second hit called “Young Lovers” which peaked at number six two months later. The career of Paul & Paula was limited, however. The college Ray was attending, Howard Payne was a Baptist college and Ray saw himself as a Christian. He didn’t feel that the life of a pop star fit very well with the way a Christian should live. So, in the middle of a tour, Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, he just up and walked away, refusing to sing. On the night he left, Dick Clark stood in for him and sang the Paul part. Ray declared that the rock and roll life was not for him and he went back to private life. He did later do a couple Christian albums, so he didn’t stop singing altogether.
Jill Jackson checked in with him once in awhile to see if he would join her for a reunion, but he usually refused. There have been a couple times when he would join her for a special occasion, but those times are few and far between. Today Ray lives in Kansas City, Kansas and Jill lives in the San Fernando Valley in California
“Hey Paula” debuted on the pop chart on January 12, 1963 and spent three weeks at number one, selling more than a million copies.