DIARY - 19/2/12 - CHRIS HILLMAN & HERB PEDERSON
HILLMAN - MULWALA TO PORT FAIRY
can you tell if he's a worried man/ by the way that he walks by the way
that he stands/he's working his way thru the family plan/hands on the
wheel he'll spin in the sand/and they love him in their own small way/
the children listen to the songs he plays/ the past you just can't hide
away/ a dream hangin on from yesterday." - When Your Back's Against
The Wall - Chris Hillman.
remind Chris Hillman about his Australian music debut - just 40 years
ago when he played Mulwala rock festival at Easter 1972.
Hillman was guitarist and mandolinist in Texan tourist Stephen Stills
country rock band Manassas who headlined the Murray River festival
with Canned Heat.
Black clouds rolled in from the north as Jupiter Pluvious emptied
his tank on the sinners below and turned it into a murky mud bath.
The festival, inundated with a pre-seasonal Satanic Sabbath storm,
was washed out as the sun failed to shine on the third day.
None of the local bands were paid - the two headliners were reportedly
offered $35,000 each - and the promoters went broke.
publicist - Jenny Washington Ham - discovered she was also out of pocket
she offered the blankets in the press tent to long suffering drenched
I still have mine - some pure Warrnambool Woolen Mill fabric to remind
me of the festival and the long defunct mill in my hometown.
There were no blankets offered when I covered the 1970 Pinewood pop festival
east of Mt Gambier and 1971 Myponga festival south of Adelaide on the
Fleurieu Peninsula on a dairy farm.
Both preceded the Sunbury and Mulwala festivals in 1972.
Pinewood featured schoolboy Bill Chambers in a local band Deerstalkers
and Black Sabbath headlined Myponga with Daddy Cool, Spectrum and Billy
Thorpe after Cat Stevens cancelled.
But the drenching didn't deter the multi-instrumentalist who endured storms
of life with Gram Parsons in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Hillman returned to Australia in the late seventies with Roger McGuinn
and Gene Clark as McGuinn-Clark-Hillman and played goat-roping HQ Dallas
started out a rodeo queen, future looked just fine/ fell in love with
a boy in school, married an assembly line/ they were huntin' down the
American dream, wonderin' where it'd gone/ when they found themselves
to be fair game lost their home/ he was laid off on a Friday night went
out drinkin' with his friends/ she stayed in the car with the kids all
night, he never came back again/ oh what was she to do, where was she
to go/ is home really were the heart is when the heart can't feel at home."
- Homeless - Chris Hillman-Steve Hill.
time Hillman and duet partner Herb Pedersen have a more lavish locale
- the 36th Port Fairy Folk festival.
They also play Carnival Of Suburbia festival in Oakleigh and other east
Hillman and Pedersen were partners in the Desert Rose Band during their
They also released five albums as Hillman-Pedersen and two more with Tony
and Larry Rice.
That was long after Hillman soared to fame with Parsons in The Byrds and
Flying Burrito Brothers.
Hillman recently released Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying
Burrito Brothers - with author John Einarson for Jawbone Press.
Chris addresses those years in detail, pulling no punches about the band's
limitations and the unravelling of what was initially a close working
and personal relationship with Parsons.
He also corrects myths about the Burritos that evolved over the years
in many books about Gram.
Hillman traces his colourful career back to his school days in San Diego.
HILLMAN - IN HIS OWN WORDS
stories she's stolen from my empty heart/ she's making her getaway like
a hurricane/ and once again I'm stuck here playing the same old part/
just a blind man trapped on a runaway train." - Like A Hurricane
- Chris Hillman-Steve Hill.
a third generation Californian with deep roots in the Cowboy history of
the American West, was born in Los Angeles on December 4, 1944.
He spent his early years on his family's ranch home in then rural North
San Diego County, riding horses and doing ranch chores.
His interests changed from spurs and saddles to guitars and mandolins
after his older sister turned him on to folk and country music.
"My older sister was in college in the 1950s and she came back home
with a bunch of folk albums when I was 14 years old," Hillman recalled.
"I was greatly influenced by that and started watching live country
music shows on KTLA Channel 5 out of Los Angeles - Spade Cooley, Cal's
Corral, Town Hall Party, and Cliffie Stone - and soon got hooked on the
Hillman's mother bought him a $10 dollar guitar in Tijuana, Mexico.
"If you stick with this a year I'll help you get something better,
she said ", recalled Hillman.
He also started listening to bluegrass, and after hearing Flatt and Scruggs
and Bill Monroe, fell in love with the mandolin.
The 15 year-old student learned young bluegrass group The Kentucky Colonels
was based out of Los Angeles and convinced his family to let him go and
see the group.
Hillman met group mandolinist Scott Hambly, filling in for Roland White
while he was in the army, who offered him lessons.
on guitar and mandolin was well known in San Diego and proprietors of
the Blue Guitar shop, Larry Murray and Ed Douglas invited him to join
their band, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers.
The Barkers lasted just two years and recorded one album Bluegrass Favourites
with a stellar line-up - Kenny Wertz, Bernie Leadon, Larry Murray, Ed
Douglas and the late Gary Carr.
Hillman, just 17, and the rest of the band were paid $10 dollars each
and got a box of albums for their work.
His reputation paid off as he was invited to join the Golden State Boys
- the premier bluegrass band in Southern California.
It featured future country music star Vern Gosdin, brother Rex, and Don
Parmley from the Bluegrass Cardinals.
Golden State Boys soon morphed into The Hillmen, named after Chris even
though he wasn't leader of the group.
He only sang one lead vocal - a cover of Bob Dylan's When The Ship
Hillman, just 18, used a fictitious ID in the name of Chris Hardin to
play bars as the playing and drinking age in clubs was 21.
He also performed weekly on Cal's Corral - a live country music show on
L.A.'s channel 5.
you want to be a rock & roll star/well listen now to what I say/ get
yourself an electric guitar/ and take some time and learn how to play/
and when your hair's combed right/ and your pants are tight/ it's gonna
be all right/ with time you go downtown/ to the agent man, he won't let
you down/ sell your soul to the company/ they're all waiting there/ to
sell a plastic prayer." - So You Want To Be A Rock's N Roll Star
- Chris Hillman-Roger McGuinn.
8 months the group folded and former manager and producer Jim Dickson
invited him to World Pacific Studios to hear three men with acoustic guitars.
were Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby.
Dickson offered Hillman the opportunity to join the trio and drummer
Michael Clarke in the Beefeaters.
Hillman was recruited to play electric bass - an instrument he had
no familiarity with.
But Hillman absorbed and mastered it in The Beefeaters before they
morphed into the Byrds.
into the studio in 1965, recorded Dylan song Mr. Tambourine Man,
and took a combination of Dylan songs and their own compositions and made
history as America's answer to the Beatles.
For the first three albums Hillman stayed in the shadows with drummer
Michael Clarke, providing strong backbeat to the three-part harmonies
of McGuinn, Clark and Crosby and McGuinn's 12 string guitar.
With departure of Gene Clark following recording of 5-D, Hillman began
to stretch out in singing and songwriting.
He wrote Younger Than Yesterday, So You Want to Be A Rock and Roll
Star with McGuinn - a parody of the music business.
Another single, Have You Seen Her Face was Hillman's first lead
vocal in the band.
Hillman recruited old bluegrass mate Clarence White to play guitar on
Time Between - reportedly the first country-rock song.
White also helped out on another country-flavoured Hillman tune The
Girl with No Name and led the Byrds to explore country music.
With departure of Crosby and Michael Clarke by 1968, the Byrds were down
to just two original members - Hillman and McGuinn.
The band recruited Hillman's cousin, Kevin Kelley to replace Michael Clarke
and new kid in town - Gram Parsons.
With Hillman he changed the Byrds' musical direction and ushered in a
new era of music - country rock.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo - their highly acclaimed disc cemented
merging of country and rock.
Dylan tune, You Ain't Going Nowhere propelled by Lloyd Green's
steel guitar kicked off the album.
They cut tunes by Parsons, Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard and others.
It featured an array of California country musicians - Jay Dee Maness,
Clarence White, Earl P. Ball and Nashville vets Green and John Hartford.
It brought The Byrds back to full throttle with a sound that mixed pure
country with folk.
When Parsons left the band Hillman brought in Clarence White to replace
old town is filled with sin, it'll swallow you in/ if you've got some
money to burn/ take it home right away/ you've got three years to pay/
but Satan is waiting his turn/ this old earthquake's gonna leave me in
the poor house/ it seems like this whole town's insane." - Sin
City - Chris Hillman-Gram Parsons.
the Byrds in September 1968 to join Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, and
Chris Etheridge in the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Their first release The Gilded Palace of Sin created a new musical
force and preceded outlaw country and success of The Eagles, Poco and
The Nitty Gritty Dirt band.
Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote Wild Horses
in honour of the Flying Burrito Brothers.
A song off that first album - Sin City - described Los Angeles
at the end of the 1960s and was later included in the Smithsonian Institute's
History of Country Music collection.
But the Burritos were never accepted in either musical environment.
Diehard country mistrusted them and rock underground radio couldn't fit
them in a play list.
Hillman & Gram Parsons
Parsons spent most of that first year writing songs together but by the
second year and second album Parsons lost interest in the band and his
personal lifestyle took its toll.
With Parsons' departure Hillman rebuilt the band with Bernie Leadon, Rick
Roberts and Al Perkins and captured the live essence of the Burritos with
the album Last of the Red Hot Burritos - possibly best and last of the
Flying Burrito Brothers' recordings.
Near the end of his tenure with the Burritos, Hillman was with the band
in Washington, D.C. and heard a girl singer in a nearby folk club.
Hillman was so impressed with Emmylou Harris that he recommended her to
Gram Parsons and musical history was made.
for the living and give for the giving/ moment by moment/ one day at a
time/ it doesn't matter/it's nothing but dreaming anyhow."- It
Doesn't Matter - Chris Hillman-Stephen Stills.
phone call from old friend Stephen Stills set Hillman on a new musical
journey - they formed the eclectic band Manassas.
"I had been writing in the Byrds and Burritos, but with Stephen
I went up another level," Hillman revealed.
"I learned more about songwriting during my two years as Stephen's
second-in-command than at any other time of my life. He taught me
how to structure a lyric, how to turn a phase, how to craft a tune."
Manassas album did what Roger McGuinn tried doing before Sweetheart
of the Rodeo - combining major elements of most forms of American
contemporary music and fusing them together.
They blended rock, country, bluegrass, salsa and blues on the two albums
the group created.
Stills and Hillman also co-wrote a song still part of Hillman's set list
- It Doesn't Matter.
"That band Manassas could tackle the entire spectrum of music with
awesome musicianship and authenticity," Hillman said.
"When we were on it was magic."
But the pressures of a record company that demanded a Crosby-Stills-Nash
& Young reunion, coupled by hazards of a hedonistic lifestyle on the
road eventually took its toll on the band.
Manassas broke up by 1973.
By this time Hillman faced two major tragedies in his personal life -
the deaths of close friends White and Parsons.
"Gram's death upset me a lot," Hillman said, "but I was
more upset by Clarence's because it was an accident, out of the blue.
I was ready for Gram's death, I guess; for months before I'd watch him
just disintegrate. "He was seduced by the trappings of rock and roll.
That was his downfall. But some of the best stuff I've ever been around
was in that era when we first got together. That was the good part of
Gram, back then, the hungry, inspired kid."
fire cold dark rain I'm feeling so low/ won't you play it again
there'll be tears of sorrow tears of strife/ running hiding through the
long hours of night/ hard to live easy to die." - Heavenly Fire
- Chris Hillman- Len Fagan.
Hillman, Furay Band
and a short-lived original Byrds reunion David Geffen contacted Hillman
to put together a new Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Geffen approached Hillman, J.D. Souther, and Richie Furay who became the
Souther, Hillman, Furay Band.
"It looked great on paper", Hillman said.
And the first album was full of good songs including Heavenly Fire
- Hillman's heartfelt tribute to Gram Parsons but the three never
jelled together as songwriting partners or as personalities.
The band finally went its separate way after a second album that failed
to live up to the promise of the first.
"We're all good friends now and we all share a good laugh over the
ill fated SHF experience" Hillman commented.
Hillman then went back into the studio and released two solo albums -
Slippin Away and Clear Sailing for Asylum Records.
Hillman toured for 18 months with his own band, and then after a 1977
British tour reunited him with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, they formed
the trio, McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman.
They released three albums on Capitol Records, with two top ten singles.
By the beginning of the 1980s, Hillman returned to his roots in bluegrass
and country music.
in the night, hide in the shadows/ make a new life, escape from the battle/
is it justice they seek that we all take for granted/ a fair shape in
a world so slanted towards the rich man/ from the jungles and the towns
south of the border/ treated like dogs in the name of law and order/ their
prayers ever heard is their pain ever felt/ no answers to be found, is
there anyone around except the rich man." - For The Rich Man -
Chris Hillman- Steve Hill
cut two critically acclaimed acoustic, steel flavoured recordings
and was reunited with longtime folk and bluegrass pal - Herb Pedersen.
Pedersen and Hillman, both 67, grew up in music, having become close
friends in their late teens.
Pedersen fronted his own band The Laurel Canyon Ramblers and found
his niche playing with David Grisman and the late Jerry Garcia.
He also recorded three solo albums - Southwest 1976 and Sandman
1977 on Epic and Lonesome Feeling 1995 on Sugar Hill.
also contributed music to TV shows including The Rockford Files
and The Simpsons and movies such as Maverick and
Smokey and the Bandit.
found a songwriting partner and good friend in Steve Hill. The stage was
set for the next evolution in the career of Chris Hillman - the Desert
The genesis of the Desert Rose Band was when Dan Fogelberg asked them
to record with him in the studio and accompany him on his High Country
Snows tour in 1985.
When Hillman and Pedersen returned to Los Angeles, Hillman enlisted bassist
Bill Bryson and multi-instrumentalist John Jorgenson on guitar.
Bryson was a veteran of The Bluegrass Cardinals and Country Gazette, and
Jorgenson had played same Disneyland Bluegrass circuit as Hillman had
done nearly 25 years earlier.
Hillman and Pedersen brought on board steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness -
a veteran of the Sweetheart Sessions and former Rick Nelson and the Stone
Canyon Band drummer Steve Duncan.
till the end of 1993 the Desert Rose Band cut seven albums and scored
a string of 16 top country hits - the majority riding high in Top Ten
They also won a brace of awards from the Academy of Country Music and
the Country Music Association.
Strong vocals, fine harmonies, excellent instrumentation were two things
that made the Desert Rose Band special - their songs addressed current
issues in our culture.
In 1991, while in The Desert Rose Band, Hillman's Byrds were inducted
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - a fitting tribute to one of the
most influential bands of the 20th Century.
By 1994 Hillman, saddened by passing of close friend band members, Gene
Clark and Michael Clarke, decided to put the Desert Rose Band in hiatus.
"We definitely quit while we were ahead," he said.
the youngest boy in a family of four/we lived in Oklahoma/ the wind whistled
thru our door/ we scratched out a living in the dirt and the clay/I never
will forget it until my dying days/the dust storms they came at us the
sky turned cold and black/we packed up our belonging and never looked
back/we rode out west toward the sun just a heartbeat away/ I never will
forget it until my dying days/ we were Bakersfield Bound and the California
dream." - Bakersfield Bound - Chris Hillman
Hillman has recorded seven albums.
In Bakersfield Bound (1995, Sugar Hill) Hillman and Pedersen revisited
their classic California roots.
They then teamed up with old bluegrass friends Larry and Tony Rice to
record three albums on Rounder Records - Out of the Woodwork (1997),
Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pedersen (1999) and Running Wild (2001).
Sadly, Larry Rice has since passed on.
He also released a solo recording Like A Hurricane (1998, Sugar
In 2002 Hillman and Pedersen again revisited California country in
Way Out West (Back Porch) - an album that had the flavour of old California
Peers honoured Hillman in 2004 with the Americana Music Association Lifetime
In 2005 Hillman also received recognition from Mojo honours List as the
recipient of the Roots Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award to his first
band, The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, by the city of San Diego.
Hillman's most recent project - a solo recording entitled The Other
Side (Sovereign Artists), features new Hillman-Hill compositions and
cuts of Eight Miles High, It Doesn't Matter and two Desert Rose
Band songs Missing You and True Love.
In 2007 he was a featured soloist singing What Does She See on
the Ian Tyson tribute album, The Gift.
Honouring California roots, Hillman recently gave his original Burritos
Nudie suit to the Gene Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles.
The new Hillman-Pedersen collaboration, At Edwards Barn, includes live
versions of 15 tunes that touch on extensive contributions each has made
to the music scene.
It seemed a fitting spot for Herb and Chris to do a benefit show for a
local church near Nipoma, California, and to record a live retrospective.
The music was recorded on November 7, 2009, at the Southern California
locale, which Chris says was chosen for its wonderful acoustics.
At Edwards Barn is in stores now.
ROSE BAND REUNIONS
eyes wait by the window/ she waits she hears the wind blow
taking all she has that she knows/ it's a cold summer wind." - Summer
Wind - Chris Hillman-Steve Hill.
Brad Paisley and wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley, bluegrass greats Larry
Stephenson and Roland White, Emmylou Harris, steel guitar great Lloyd
Green and songwriters Odie Blackman and Gary Nicholson were at Nashville's
Belcourt Theatre for the final night of the Desert Rose Band's mini-concert
tour of 2010.
band - Hillman, John Jorgenson, Pedersen, Jay Dee Maness, Bill Bryson
and Steve Duncan, has not been officially together since 1994.
But in recent years have done a few dates-on-demand, as requests have
come in for the supergroup of musicians, songwriters and singers to
"About two years ago we discussed it and we said why not?"
Chris said at the time.
"We had a couple offers and everyone wanted to do it. It's not
a career move. It's just for fun.
So we did
that two years ago and had a great time. This year we had some more things
come along, so we played three or four shows in California in May, and
then the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia wanted us for two nights, so
we said 'OK, we'll do another run in August, and there you have it. We
have couple more shows in September in Copper Mountain, Colorado, and
Are there any more?
"It really is a labour of love," Chris said.
"We have a great time, we get along with each other, and we play
better now than we did in our heyday. We are not under all that pressure
to have a record on the charts. We all have our own projects - John has
his Gypsy Jazz. Everyone keeps busy, so after September we'll see if we
want to do it again, maybe in the next couple years."
Pedersen says that he finds no interest in much of today's country music.
"It could be called anywhere from pop music to almost R & B.
I don't think there's a big foothold in the classic country sound that
there was 20 years ago, and that's unfortunate because there's a lot of
artists out there who aren't getting signed because they don't look a
certain way - they're not young enough," says Pedersen.
"It's like what Garth Brooks is going through. Garth is undoubtedly
the most successful country artist in the history of the music business
but he still doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up."
CLICK HERE for a Rice, Rice,
Hillman & Pedersen CD Review.
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