The Man Behind The Golden Voice
James William Sacca, Jr., was born in Lockport, New York, to James and Susan Sacca on July 26, 1929. A natural performer from the start, Jimmy starred in operas as well as shined with choir solos during his high school career at Lockport High School. His talent wasn't limited to the stage, however; he was also a great football player. And it would be his athletic ability (and doing a friend a favor) that led him to WKU.
In 1949, Jimmy's football buddy, Joe Montedoro, asked Jimmy if he would accompany him to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to try out for the WKU football team. Jimmy agreed, and although he went for Joe's sake, he ended up impressing Coach Clayton and earning a football scholarship. Jimmy took it and came to WKU to play football and major in music, although knowing no one here. That didn't last long though because it was at WKU that he met two important people who forever changed his life: Billy Vaughn and Annie Holloway.
Jimmy caught the ear of musician and songwriter Billy Vaughn when he performed as a guest singer at the local Boots and Saddle Club. Vaughn approached Jimmy to see if he would be willing to gather a couple of other guys and record a song Vaughn had written; Jimmy agreed and recruited Don McGuire and Seymour Spiegelman. The four recorded Vaughn's song "Tryin'" on campus, in Van Meter Auditorium. Little did they know that just a few months from then that song would be on Billboard's Top 40 chart and land them appearances on national TV, including The Ed Sullivan Show. That one song would rocket the Hilltoppers, as they named themselves, to an incredible level of stardom; over the years Sacca would lead the Hilltoppers to 19 Top 40 hits.
Sacca also met Ms. Annie Rivers Holloway at WKU. The two fell madly in love and were married in New Jersey in 1953. That same year, Jimmy was drafted into the army; he served for two years in Okinawa and returned in March 1955. Unfortunately, because of the war and the four men getting older, things didn't remain the same with the Hilltoppers. McGuire and Spiegelman were also drafted into the war and Vaughn went to work for Dot Records. Sacca kept the group alive, however, finding replacements and continuing is career with the Hilltoppers. Then, in 1960, Jimmy went to work in record distribution for Dot Records, singing with the Hilltoppers off and on throughout the years.
The Hilltoppers performed for the last time in 1976, and then Sacca became a talent booking agent, first in Jackson, Mississippi, and then in Lexington, Kentucky--where he and Annie would remain the rest of his life. The Hilltoppers were no longer together, but their memory did not fade. In 2005 they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pennsylvania, and then into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Sacca was also personally awarded when he was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2008, as it was his great voice and leadership that led to the success of the group.
Surrounded by loved ones, Jimmy passed away at the age of 85 on March 7, 2015, in Lexington, Kentucky. Jimmy lived a long and successful life: he and Annie were married for 62 years; they had three sons: Jimmy, Terry, and Tommy who, with their wives, gave them 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren; and, of course, he led one of the most popular singing groups of the 1950s. So although he is gone, his memory is long from forgotten. His legacy, spirit, and Hilltopper pride will live on forever through this fund. Through this scholarship in his honor, students at WKU will continue to be touched and impacted by Jimmy Sacca, the man behind that golden voice.
Jimmy Sacca and the Hilltoppers
perform "Tryin'" on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1952
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