70s music era folk group and one hit wonders The Hillside Singers were originally assembled by record producer Al Ham to sing the Coca-Cola TV ad jingle “I’d like to Give a World to Coke.” Advertising agency McCann Erickson came up with the jingle and had wanted the folk group the New Seekers to perform it, but the group was forced to decline this offer due to conflicting scheduling issues. McCann Erickson then contacted record producer Ham who then formed the Hillside Singers whose roster included his wife Mary Mayo and their daughter Lorri. After the jingle was aired, it became very successful – in fact it had grown to be a kind of cultural event. This encouraged Ham to revise the song, becoming “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing.” It became a Top 20 hit single in 1972. The New Seekers, meanwhile, also came up with their own version of the song, even out-performing the Hillside original (and becoming an oldies music classic). After the Hillside Singers, Ham went on to become a producer Music of Your Live, a syndicated radio format devoted to easy listening favorites. He died in 2001.
The early career of The Hillside Singers
Best remembered for their breakthrough hit, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” in 1971, The Hillside Singers were an American folk group formed by an advertising agency McCann Erickson. The ensemble consisted of Joelle McDermott, Billy Marino, Frank Marino, Laura Marino, Rick Shaw, Ron Shaw and Susan Wiedenmann. McCann Erickson had penned a Coca-Cola ad jingle called “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” and first asked the British folk-pop group The New Seekers to record it. However, the group was forced to turn the offer down due to their busy schedule. McCann Erickson then contacted producer Al Ham who agreed to form a group for this project; this lineup included his wife Mary Mayo and their daughter Lorri.
The Hillside Singers’ fleeting fame with “I’d Like to Teach the World Sing”
Airing the Coca-Cola commercial in 1971, things started to click for The Hillside Singers as “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” did extremely well. The success of the ad jingle inspired Ham to rewrite the song as “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” It became their first (and also their final) hit, registering at #13 and #5 on the pop and adult contemporary charts respectively in 1972. It also sold a million copies and gained a gold disc. The group had also released an album and also a Christmas record. Around that time, The New Seekers did their own version of the Hillside Singers’ hit and issued as a single as well.
Other achievements of The Hillside Singers
The Hillside Singers had a minor hit in the winter of 1972 with “We’re Together” which hit at #100 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In October of the same year, they issued their final single “Ah Man See What You’ve Done.”
A vocal version of Move Closer to Your World (a TV news theme) was performed by the ensemble which was used for a long time by WPVI-TV, a local channel in Philadelphia.
The Hillside Singers did a comeback in 2009, using the name Treehouse 10. They released an album called Bugs in a Puddle, which consists of children songs originally composed by the group.