I saw “Pollyanna” and “The Parent Trap,” with my parents, but it wasn’t until 1961, when I was 17, that Hayley Mills captured my heart with her performance in “Whistle Down the Wind.” Based on a book written by Hayley’s mother, this simple film about the unshakeable faith of children made an indelible mark on me that still holds today. I came out of the theater vowing that I would find a way to capture the attention of its lovely star.
I decided to write a song about Hayley, setting off a life-long career in songwriting. I began the tune in the back of a bowling alley and finished it in the rear seat of my parents’ Ford station wagon over the course of a cross-country trip. It was a novelty song I called “A Letter to Hayley” and it utilized the four guitar chords I knew at the time.
You can imagine my surprise when Jim Hilton and LA producer Bruce Belland of The Four Preps decided to turn my song into a 45 rpm single. I recorded it in a Hollywood garage studio, with a band that included a very young — and yet undiscovered — Glen Campbell on guitar. Because my name wasn’t commercial enough, they called me Billy Kidd on the record label. I also wrote and recorded the B side, “I Got Better Things to Do.”
To my dismay, Hayley Mills still didn’t notice me. It wasn’t until 42 years later, in 2004, that I finally met Ms. Mills. And it was worth the wait. She was gracious, charming and just as delightful as she had always seemed on film. I had two 45 rpm records left of “A Letter to Hayley” and I gave her one. Good things take time.
This edition of the Treasure Ivan Show is devoted to Hayley Mills. In addition to starring in many films, she also had a brief recording career. You’ll hear songs, interviews, and the story soundtrack of Pollyanna. And of course I’ll play “A Letter to Hayley.”
What’s My Line: Mystery Guest Hayley Mills
Let’s Get Together
Pat Sajak: Guest Hayley Mills
A Letter to Hayley
Billy Kidd (Ivan Ulz)
A Letter to the Beatles
The Four Preps
Green & Yellow Basket
Pollyanna Story Record
Side by Side
Hayley Mills & Maurice Chevalier