A American singer and musician an one of the original members of The Byrds in 1965 with Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, and Michael Clarke.
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.
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.
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, Flying Burrito Brothers, 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.
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 playing style on the instrument.
The Byrds' first single, a jangly cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", was a huge international hit and marked the birth of the musical genre "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 including "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Eight Miles High," and "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star".
Internal strife dogged the Byrds, and by the beginning of 1968 the band was 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.
Hillman teamed with Parsons again, this time as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter, to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. 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.
Before the Flying Burrito Brothers disbanded, Hillman joined Stephen Stills' band Manassas, where he remained until 1973, when he briefly rejoined the original lineup of the Byrds for a reunion album on Asylum Records.
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.
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.
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 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Albums as a solo artist include.
Slippin' Away (1976) Asylum
Clear Sailin' (1977) Asylum
Morning Sky (1982) Sugar Hill
Desert Rose (1984) Sugar Hill
Like a Hurricane (1998) Sugar Hill
The Other Side (2005) Sovereign Records
All information may be obtained at the web address above.
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