|Img Capt:||Chris Hillman performing in 2004.|
|Birth Name:||Christopher Hillman|
|Born:||December 4, 1944. Los Angeles, California.|
|Instrument:||guitar, mandolin, bass guitar, vocals.|
|Genre:||Folk, Bluegrass, Folk rock, Rock, Country rock, Country.|
|Occupation:||Singer-songwriter, Musician, Songwriter.|
|Years Active:||1960 - Present|
|Label:||Columbia, Sugar Hill, Asylum, A&M, Rounder.|
|Associated Acts:||Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, The Hillmen, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, Souther Hillman Furay Band, McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, Desert Rose Band, Herb Pedersen, Tony Rice, Larry Rice, Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen.|
Along with frequent collaborator Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman was a key figure in the development of country rock, virtually defining the genre through his seminal work in The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, and later became the leader of the country act Desert Rose Band.
Chris Hillman, the youngest of four children, spent his early years on his family's ranch home in rural North San Diego County, approximately 110 miles from Los Angeles. He has credited his older sister with exciting his interest in country and folk music when she returned from college in the late 1950s with folk music records by The New Lost City Ramblers and others. Hillman soon began watching many of the country music shows broadcast on local television in southern California at the time, such as Town Hall Party, Spade Cooley and Cal's Corral. Hillman's mother encouraged his musical interests, and bought him his first guitar, but shortly after he developed an interest in bluegrass, and fell in love with the mandolin. When he was barely 15, Hillman went to Los Angeles to see legendary bluegrass band the Kentucky Colonels at the Ash Grove, and later convinced his family to allow him to take the train by himself up to Berkeley, California to take lessons from mandolinist Scott Hambly. It was around this time that Hillman's father committed suicide.
Hillman became well known in San Diego's folk music community as a solid player, which garnered him an invitation to join his first band, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. The band lasted barely two years and only recorded one album, Bluegrass Favorites, which was distributed in supermarkets, but has earned a legendary, albeit posthumous, reputation as the spawning ground for a number of musicians who went on to play in the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds, Hearts and Flowers, and the Country Gazette. When the band broke up at the end of 1963, Hillman received an invitation to join the Golden State Boys, then regarded as the top bluegrass band in Southern California, featuring future country star Vern Gosdin, his brother Rex, and banjoist Don Parmley (later of the Bluegrass Cardinals). Shortly thereafter the band changed its name to The Hillmen, and soon Chris was appearing regularly on television and using a fictitious ID, "Chris Hardin," to allow the underage musician into the country bars where many of his gigs were held. When the Hillmen folded, he briefly joined a spinoff of Randy Sparks' New Christy Minstrels known as the Green Grass Revival.
At this point a frustrated Hillman considered quitting music and enrolling at UCLA, but he received an offer from The Hillmen's former manager and producer Jim Dickson to join Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke in a new band the Byrds. Hillman was recruited to play electric bass guitar. Although he had never picked up the instrument before, thanks to his bluegrass background he was able to quickly develop his own unique, melodic performance style. Their first single, a jangly cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," was a tremendous hit which marked the birth of "folk rock". During the mid-'60s, the Byrds ranked as one of the most successful and influential American pop groups, recording a string of hits like "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Eight Miles High," and "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star".
Hillman kept a low profile on the band's first two albums (on which McGuinn and Clark alternated as lead singer, with Crosby adding harmonies). The departure of Gene Clark in 1966 and the growing restlessness of David Crosby allowed Hillman the opportunity to develop as a singer and songwriter within the group. He came into his own on the Byrds' classic 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday, co-writing and sharing lead vocals (with McGuinn) on the hit "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." Hillman also wrote and sang the minor hit "Have You Seen Her Face," as well as two other pieces that showed his bluegrass and country roots. Hillman's prominence continued with the Byrds' next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, on which he shared songwriting credit on seven of the album's 11 songs.
As a bonus, the compact disc version of Notorious contains snippets of bitter conversation among the band members over Clarke's lack of effort on the drums during numerous takes of Crosby's "Dolphin's Smile." When Clarke glibly stated he was only in the band for the money, Hillman observed that his petulance was costing the band money and suggested finding session drummer Hal Blaine to finish the job. Hillman's role as quality control manager continued with all of the groups he played in, a role he relished.
Internal strife dogged the Byrds, and by the beginning of 1968 the Byrds were down to two original members, Hillman and McGuinn, along with Hillman's cousin Kevin Kelley on drums. They then hired Gram Parsons to replace Crosby. Together with Hillman, Parsons changed the Byrds' musical direction, helping to usher in a new era of music known as "country rock," when they recorded the album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". Once again, Hillman receded into the background, leaving most of the vocals to Parsons and McGuinn while he concentrated on bass and mandolin. Parsons left the band shortly thereafter, and Hillman brought in former Kentucky Colonels guitarist Clarence White as a replacement, but this lineup was short-lived when Hillman himself left a few weeks later.
Hillman joined up with Parsons again in the Flying Burrito Brothers, this time as a vocalist and guitarist. Further honing their pioneering Country rock hybrid sound by combining the energy, instrumentation and attitude of rock and roll with some of the issues and themes of country music, the Burritos recorded the landmark The Gilded Palace of Sin, followed in 1970 by Burrito Deluxe. Again, Parsons left Hillman and the group behind in 1971 and Hillman stayed on for two less successful records, bringing in the Byrds' Michael Clarke, future Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon and future Firefall singer Rick Roberts. This lineup was also short-lived.
In 1974, Hillman teamed with singer-songwriter Richie Furay who had co-founded both Buffalo Springfield and Poco, and songwriter J. D. Souther, who had co-written much of the Eagles' early repertoire, in the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. The three never quite gelled and finally went their separate ways in 1975 after two albums and internal squabbles.
Hillman released two solo albums, Slippin' Away and Clear Sailin, which included several songs co-written with Crawdaddy magazine editor Peter Knobler. One of their songs, "Step on Out," was recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys on their 1985 album and became the title cut. He was also an in-demand studio musician, playing and singing on sessions for Gene Clark, Dillard & Clark, Poco, Dan Fogelberg and others. After an early 1977 British tour reunited him with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, the trio stayed together for two McGuinn-Clark-Hillman albums and one under the McGuinn-Hillman moniker, experiencing one hit single with "Don't You Write Her Off" in 1979.
By the beginning of the 1980s, Hillman returned to his bluegrass and country roots, recording two acclaimed, mostly-acoustic albums for Sugar Hill Records with singer-guitarist-banjo player Herb Pedersen, a former member of The Dillards. Soon after, Hillman and Pedersen formed the Desert Rose Band, which proved to be Hillman's most commercially-successful post-Byrds project. Their first LP, an eponymously titled 1987 outing, generated two Top Ten country hits in "Love Reunited" that he wrote with Steve Hill and "One Step Forward" and a number one single with "He's Back and I'm Blue." From 1987 till the end of 1993 they recorded seven albums and had a string of 16 country music hits, the majority of which were in the country Top Ten, as well as garnering a number of Academy of Country Music awards, before calling it quits in 1994.
At the peak of the Desert Rose Band's success, Hillman also began appearing infrequently with McGuinn. A duet recorded by the pair for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol. II album, "You Ain't Going Nowhere", reached the country top 10 in 1989. Soon, the pair joined Crosby in a reformed Byrds, playing a handful of club dates. In 1990, they appeared at a tribute to Roy Orbison, performing "Mr. Tambourine Man" along with the song's composer, Bob Dylan. The same year, the Byrds cut four new songs for inclusion in a career-spanning box set, and in 1991 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1996, Hillman reunited with Desert Rose Band alumnus Herb Pederson for the CD Bakersfield Bound. Like a Hurricane followed in 1998, as well as three bluegrass-flavored releases on Rounder Records with Pedersen, Larry Rice and Tony Rice. He appeared on the 1999 album, in a duet with Steve Earle on "High Fashion Queen", which Hillman co-wrote with Parsons. After a short hiatus, Hillman and Pedersen returned in 2002 with Way Out West, a sprawling 17-track collection of country, roots rock, and Americana, followed by The Other Side in 2005.
Contains material recorded in 1963-64. Reissued in 1981 and 1995 on Sugar Hill