Home > Obituaries > George Hoven
Old Chester, PA:
June 18, 1974
Fire Kills Song Writer
CHESTER - George Hoven [biography], 61, accordionist and composer whose music for the tune, "It's No Sin," helped launch "The Four Aces" vocal group to international success, died early today in a fire at his home, 2505 W. 3rd St.
Hoven was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. at Crozer Chester Medical Center, Upland.
City Fire Chief Robert Ogden reported the fire was reported at 12:05 a.m. It apparently started in the kitchen of the two-story store-front home. Hoven was in the rear bedroom, directly above the concentration of the fire.
Ogden reported that intense heat, smoke and flames were generated. Plastic tiles on the kitchen walls intensified the heat, Ogden said.
Hoven was found unconscious in the bedroom and was taken to the hospital by Chester Fire Department rescue squad.
Franklin and Felton Fire Companies responded to the fire and had it under control in less than 10 minutes. They remained on the scene about 80 minutes.
State Police are investigating the fire. However, Ogden said his preliminary observations lead him to believe the fire was not of suspicious nature.
Hoven was 38 and Chester R. (Chick) Shull, his friend and lyricist was 34 when "Sin", as recorded by "The Four Aces" made the Hit Parade.
The song-writer duo had met in 1939 when they both worked for the Old South Chester Tube Co. They continued working together - Hoven on music and Shull on lyrics - after Shull went to work for Sun Oil Co. in 1943 and Hoven opened his music store at 2505 W. 3rd St., the place where he has lived and worked throughout the years.
Hoven reported in 1951 that he became inspired to write the song after hearing Bing Crosby's rendition of "Autumn Leaves" while driving down 9th Street one day. He heard the melody in his mind and rushed home to pen it. One-half hour later the tune was written.
He called Shull and played the tune about 25 times. Three weeks later, he had the lyrics. Shull reported at that time he was inspired to start writing when he saw a young girl with a serviceman saying goodbye at 30th Street Station, Philadelphia.
The duo took their tune to "The Aces" who were then packing in crowds on weekends at The Ukrainian Club in Chester. It was at The Ukrainian American National Home, 4th & Ward Sts., that Al Alberts, then lead singer for "The Four Aces," introduced the song.
With the pushing of the Aces and strong assistance from Jimmy Lynn, then a disc jockey for Chester Radio Station WVCH, the tune moved. It was first published by Arlene Music Co., New York City, and later picked up by Victoria Records, Philadelphia Fifteen thousand records were sold the first week. Since then, the tune has been recorded by most major popular singers and gained international acclaim.
During the mid-1950s several law suits were lodged against Hoven and Shull. An Allentown recording studio attempted to claim a percentage of the profits. A second suit in New York involved the copyright for the song.
Hoven was born in Marcus Hook and lived in the Chester area all his life. Before "Sin" became popular, he had written some 150 polkas, marches and waltzes. He sold music and musical instruments at his store, where he also gave accordion lessons until 1953 when he retired from the music business. Since then he has continued to write music for his own enjoyment.
Shull commented about the fire:
"It's really tragic. I think George was one of the best musicians I've ever known. He lived and loved music."
Shull, a Parkside resident, retired from Sun Oil Co. in 1960.
Hoven was a member of the Polish-American Citizens Club of Chester.
Thanks to Mr. Hoven's daughter for sharing this obituary.
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© 2006 John A. Bullock III.
This page last updated 02/12/06