Hull, Russell E.
Songwriter, World War II Veteran
Russell Hull's World War II draft card, dated October 16, 1940, listed his address as 830 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. At that time he was 28 years old and was employed by Bell Music Company in Columbia City, Indiana. His contact person was listed as his mother, Mrs. Claude Hull, of Warren, Ohio. His place of birth was listed as Warren, Ohio.
He was enlisted in the Navy on March 10, 1942. According to World War II Navy Muster Rolls, Hull was aboard the U.S.S. Florence Nightingale for the quarter ending on December 31, 1942. At that time he was rated as HA1c or Hospital Apprentice 1st Class. His service ended on December 18, 1945.
Hull was a known composer of country and gospel music. He received monthly royalties on the music copyrights that he had written and jointly composed. Hull also received royalties for copyrights that he acquired of songs written by his contemporaries. "He told me that he was receiving from $75 to sometimes $400 a month in music copyright royalties from all over the country," recalls Attorney Mark Finamore in 2020, preparer of Russell Hull's last will and testament.
During the time of his will preparation in the early 1990s, Hull was having trouble determining who to give his music copyrights to since the royalties would still be paid out after his death. Finamore suggested that Hull leave the music copyrights to the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University as an ongoing donation. Hull agreed that this was a great idea. Finamore then put a provision in Hull's will that his music copyrights would be bequeathed outright to the Dana School of Music's General Scholarship Fund.
After Hull's death in 1992, Finamore received a telephone call from the CEO of Bumstead Productions, a Hollywood production company.
Finamore recalls in 2020:
The CEO said that his production company represented the Canadian country singer K. D. Lang and that she was in the process of putting together a new album, and wanted to include a song that she recently heard. He told me that she got the song from a fan in Japan who mailed her a cassette tape recording of it.
The CEO said the tape was of very poor quality, and not all of the lyrics were audible enough to specifically identify the song. Furthermore, the fan in Japan did not leave any contact information or include the artist or composer name. The CEO said that the only words they could make out was the chorus line melody "Sweet Little Cherokee Woman," repeated over and over.
In an attempt to identify this song, the CEO contacted BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) in New York City and Warner Chappell Studios in Los Angeles, which are the main companies where production artists register and copyright their music manuscripts to protect their intellectual property for sale and licensing. He conducted an exhaustive search that revealed three songs which appeared to have the words and chorus "Sweet Little Cherokee Woman," in them. He said that one of the songs was a song written by Russell E. Hull sometime back in the 1940s. He asked if there was any chance at all that Russell Hull's estate would have the original or a copy of his song so that they could determine if it was the song on the cassette from Japan that K. D. Lang wanted on her album.
At the time, Finamore was not aware of the existence of any manuscripts or music scores, but reached out to Hull's niece, Audrey Bixler. Bixler quickly went searching at the premises of her late uncle and was successfully able to locate the original music manuscript of a song written by Russell Hull entitled, "Sweet Little Cherokee Woman." The original signed, licensing, and registration agreement granting all of the production, licensing, and royalty rights to Russell Hull was also found, dated in June of 1947.
Finamore contacted Bumstead Productions and faxed copies of the licensing and manuscript proof. About one week later it was confirmed by Bumstead Productions that this was indeed the song that they were looking for.
Bumstead Productions paid $50,000 for the license to use Russell Hull's song. The song may be heard on the motion picture soundtrack, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." The soundtrack, performed entirely by K. D. Lang, was released in 1993. "Sweet Little Cherokee Woman" was the 15th track on the album.
According to Finamore's research, Russell Hull owned or controlled the registration and licensing rights to over 800 pieces of manuscript music. Any use of these songs would produce royalties to the Dana School of Music.
Finamore also noted that when Russell Hull lived in Tennessee, he published music under three different aliases. "Rock of Ages" was the name that his gospel music was published under, "Wagon Jack" was the name his country music was published under, and "Bell's" was another.
The first few years after the estate was closed, the royalty benefits paid for the use of Russell Hull's copyrighted songs to the Dana School of Music averaged between $35,000-$40,000 per year.
"Sweet Little Cherokee Woman" was originally recorded on October 19, 1952 by Kenny Roberts and released in January 1953:
"Sweet Little Cherokee Woman" was recorded by K. D. Lang and released on November 2, 1993:
Another song composed by Hull was "There Stands the Glass," which was first released in September of 1952 by Blaine Smith.
"There Stands the Glass" was also recorded by Webb Pierce and released in September of 1953. The song was #1 on the Billboard country music chart for 12 weeks and spent a total of 27 weeks on the chart.
As of March of 2021, "There Stands the Glass" has been recorded by 33 different artists. Notable musicians include Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Patty Loveless.
Additional research contributed by Christine Novicky in March 2021.