On the show, the team sang an original tune written a few days earlier by Ray. It went over so well that it was suggested that they make a professional recording of the song. So encouraged, Ray and Jill drove to Fort Worth in November, 1962, hoping for an audition with Major Bill Smith, the owner of LeCam Records.
At the studio, the two were told that Major Bill was about to record someone else and could not see them that day. Determined to get a hearing, they decided to hang around just in case something happened. Something did.
Major Bill was waiting for singer Amos Milburn Jr., who failed to show up, and that meant he had five musicians standing around (for $5 apiece). Finally, someone said that there were a couple of kids hanging around the office that would like the Major to hear some of their songs. With nothing to lose, Ray and Jill were granted an interview right then and there.
Major Bill said, "let's hear what ya got, son" and Ray began to strum the guitar and sing "Hey Hey Paula". "Ok boy, let's stop Heyin' and start recordin'", said the Major.
When the session was over, the Major asked "What do you call yourselves"? "Jill and Ray" came the answer, and that's what was printed on the record label.
Major Bill Smith knew he had something good and began to pitch the record to Ewart Abner, of Vee Jay Records, who turned it down in favour of another artist's tune that Smith had with him. Not one to be discouraged easily, Major Bill decided to release the record himself and pressed it on Election Day, 1962. Radio station KFJZ was the first to add it to their play list.
"Hey Paula" sold sixteen thousand records in one day and it didn't take long for Shelby Singleton of Mercury Records to call the Major, wanting to buy the master tape. "One other thing", said Singleton. "This is 'Hey Paula', by Jill and Ray...that doesn't make any sense at all. We're gonna change it to Paul and Paula". At first, Jill and Ray didn't like that idea, because everyone in Texas knew them by their real names, but they got used to it.
Mercury Records released it on their subsidiary label, Phillips. It broke nationally right after Christmas, 1962 and spent nearly three weeks in February at number one. Incredibly, it also hit number one on the R&B charts too. In all, "Hey Paula" spent fifteen weeks on the best seller list, closing in on two million copies.
Soon after, Jill and Ray got married...but not to each other. Jill married the duo's manager. The pair toured the country with Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars and reached #4 in the spring of 1963 with "Young Lovers". A third release, "First Quarrel" made it to #27 later the same year. By 1965 however, Ray had grown tired of life on the road and decided he'd had enough. Paul and Paula officially split up.
Ray found work as a song writer and record producer. Jill continued as a solo performer in and around Texas for many years and later married an attorney from California. Jill and Ray met up with each other again in Brownwood, Texas in the early '80s and sang together once more, at a town party.
In early 1983, Ray Hildebrand teamed up with singer / guitarist Paul Land for a night of music and fun at a local Christian coffeehouse. Their performance as a duo that night made them both aware of their musical strength and versatility together. The pair teamed up as Land & Hildebrand to perform and record a series of Gospel music albums through the '80s, '90s and into the new millennium. In 2002, Hildebrand and Jackson returned to Howard Payne College to be the homecoming guests of honor and Grand Marshalls.
Ray and Jill also got back together occasionally to record and perform as Paul and Paula and were still appearing at oldies shows in 2012.
Be Sure To Read Gary James' Interview With Ray Hildebrand