Byrds/Roots Legend Chris Hillman Shares All In Rare Extensive Interview

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We have so many things to be thankful for that Tom Petty had done in his career and one of his last, most beautiful contributions was producing Chris Hillman’s new solo album, Bidin’ My Time. Capturing the singer and master mandolin player in his finest glory is a testament to both men, that great music can be created and executed at any age or stage in one’s life. Petty, who passed away in October at the age of 66, allowed Hillman to literally shine, while he sat back and listened. “He was a fan in a sense and he wanted to guide me through what I wanted to do. He never came and told me what to do,” Hillman told me during our interview a few days before Thanksgiving.

For Hillman, he thought his days making a full studio album were over. After releasing The Other Side in 2005, other than a live album with Herb Pedersen, his singing partner and former bandmate in the Desert Rose Band, in 2010, Hillman was content playing shows with Pedersen on a lower scale, acoustic with an emphasis on harmonies and lyrics. At 72, Hillman is happy this way as it allows him time with family and when on the road, meeting diehard fans in a more personal way than when fangirls were mooning over him during his shy kid days in The Byrds and more freewheelin’ Flying Burrito Brothers. They talk, they relate, they snap a photo; both sides showing respect.

But Pedersen wasn’t ready for Hillman to slip quietly out of the spotlight just yet. He knew there was another record in Hillman and once he talked to Petty, all Hillman could do was say okay. So Hillman pulled together some songs from his long-ago past and not-so-distant past and they hit the studio. He recorded a couple old Byrds tunes – “Bells Of Rhymney” and “She Don’t Care About Time;” a Sonny Curtis song the Everly Brothers took to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart called “Walk Right Back;” “When I Get A Little Money,” a sweet little ditty written by a young songwriter; an unrecorded song he wrote with Roger McGuinn called “Here She Comes Again;” some originals he co-wrote with Steve Hill, such as the title track and “Restless;” and finally a cover of Petty’s “Wildflowers” to end the album.

Hillman has been in this business long enough to know that fame can be fleeting; but he has certainly had his share of time in the spotlight. His love of bluegrass started early and he was soon in his first band, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. In early 1964, he was invited to go hear a new band just forming called The Byrds, of which he would become the bass player. Their first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man,” became a huge hit with more to follow quickly: “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Eight Miles High” among them. The Beatles loved them. Hillman stayed with The Byrds through the good times, the bad times and the ugly times. He formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, was a member of the blues-based Manassas with Stephen Stills and Dallas Taylor, before settling down in the country outfit, the Desert Rose Band featuring Pedersen and John Jorgenson. They scored several #1 hits and were a popular touring band for almost ten years.

As Hillman fell further and further back into his bluegrass, mandolin-focused roots, he has spent the latter years playing shows with Pedersen, and recently with Jorgenson filling out a trio. And although Bidin’ My Time feels like a lovely coda to a most blessed career, with guests like David Crosby, McGuinn and Petty’s Heartbreakers all appearing on songs, fans hope this won’t be the real end for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer and his time in the studio.

You weren’t really thinking about doing another record. Why did you think The Other Side was it for you – a fitting end to your recording career?

Well, I did a couple of things after The Other Side. Herb and I did a live album but, you know, the record business as I knew it and as we all knew it, doesn’t exist on the same playing field anymore. You don’t really sell records. I guess it helps get more work, performances, touring and all that, but as far as record sales, that doesn’t apply to me or people my age or near my age. Very rarely does that happen. This one [Bidin’ My Time] is doing quite well but I just wasn’t thinking about if anything was relevant to do another record. I was fine. I thought I would wind it down to working a few times every month in spring, summer and fall with Herb, or with Herb and someone else, acoustically. That would be fine. Then things changed.

So when did Herb talk you into doing a new record?

That was a year ago last October and he had finished up working with Tom Petty on the Mudcrutch tour Tom had done; Herb was hired to do background vocals. They had discussed it on the road, I guess, and Herb said, “I’m going to try and get you a record deal.” Tom already wanted to do it and of course it wouldn’t be too hard to get a record deal if Tom was involved, which is understood. But Herb did get it. He came through with that. And I’m sitting here going, I don’t know if I even have any songs. I had a few songs but I wasn’t prepared for it.

Then I talked to Tom and he really wanted to do it so I said, “Okay, I hope you like the songs.” And he said, “Well, I’m not worried about it. I’ll let you know if there is something I don’t hear.” And I said, “Fair enough.” And off we went last January and it was one of the easiest projects I’ve ever been involved with in five decades. There’ve been some great times in the studio but this was a really special time and I knew in my heart I probably would never do another one after this one. I probably won’t, most likely I won’t. But it was a good last record.

The last conversation I had with Tom, I said, “I really appreciate what you did and this is just a perfect endgame record.” And he said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Well, I mean for the last record.” And he said, “I’m not done with you yet. I got other ideas. We’re going to make some more records.” I thought that was quite complimentary. Unfortunately, things changed. But I’m very happy with the end result, as I said, and it’ll go where it’s going to go at this point, you know.

You’ve written a lot of songs with Steve Hill. How does that creative process work with you two guys?

We’re very close friends. Most of the time, Leslie, we would get together to write if we had a project, if I had a record to do or something. Otherwise, once in a while the last few years we’d get together on a social basis and we’d play and sing and maybe write one or two tunes over the few days. And those were the ones that were sitting around that I recorded on the Bidin’ My Time album. But we get along so well that it’s a mutual, equal sharing of lyric and melody between us. We both just work together and contribute on an equal basis.

Since all these songs seem to have a special meaning for you, was it hard to figure out what to put on here?

You know, I never thought about it. I just had the ones I thought would work; other than “Walk Right Back,” the Everly Brothers song, which was by accident and then “Wildflowers,” which I wasn’t even aware of that song until Herb and I performed it at the MusiCares banquet that Tom was being honored for. We played “Wildflowers” and I had never heard the song before. But I thought it would be a perfect addition to the record and it was. It closes the record off really well, I think. But otherwise, I just had the songs. I knew sort of what I wanted to do so we weren’t scrambling every day looking for a song to record. It was pretty much there.

Was there one in particular that you really, really wanted on here?

I really wanted to do “Here She Comes Again” cause it was such an old song, from 1979, that never got recorded. It so reminded me of 1965, The Byrds and early Beatles. It just had that feel about it. So that was a joy to record, especially doing it live with the Heartbreakers. That was really fun.

Which one does David Crosby appear on?

He sings on “The Bells Of Rhymney,” the first song on the album. Pete Seeger actually took a poem and put music to it. It was a Welsh coalmining story written by a Welsh poet and he put music to it a long time ago, probably in the late fifties, and then we picked it up and recorded it electrically in The Byrds on the first album. It’s a beautiful song.

“Different Rivers” you told me was about your children

That was written back in the eighties when my kids were little. We were sitting around one day and I wrote the first verse about my daughter and then the second verse is about my son. It sort of works even better to record it now cause they’re grown and it’s a wonderful memory to describe them when they were so young.

“Restless” is another original song you wrote with Steve

I like that song a lot. I think we were goofing around one day and I just said, “I’m really restless lately, really restless.” And Steve said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “I’m 72 years old,” 71 at the time, and I said, “There’s no mountains I want to conquer but I just get restless.” And we wrote it. It’s sort of describing going on in years and getting a little older. It doesn’t mean it’s ALL over at all, it’s just sort of describing that you’re looking back and you’re seeing what you did do and what may lay ahead. I don’t know. I never analyze my own songs (laughs). Other people come up to me and go, “I know what you meant on that song,” and then they say something that had nothing to do with what I was writing (laughs).

Since most of these songs were all written some time ago, when you got into the studio to record them, did you change any of them up from how you originally had them?

Only “Old John Robertson.” I wasn’t going to record that cause we’d already done it in The Byrds in 1967, but I added to it, I added a little musical bridge to it, enhancing the story of John Robertson, that he had been a movie director and actor and all that. I said, “In Hollywood he wore many hats.” It wasn’t that leap of a writing assignment but then we recut it and we recut it more in a bluegrass mode with the banjo starting out and everything. Otherwise, I don’t think I changed anything around, not really. We just sat down and practiced it once or twice and cut it, whatever we were doing.

What can you tell us about “When I Get A Little Money”?

That’s another accident because this young fella had written this song, and he’s a schoolteacher, I think in Wisconsin, but he goes to the same church my wife’s cousin goes to and she said, “Will Chris listen to his songs?” I said, yeah. I never hear anything that good from people that are sort of amateur writers, and this time I did. After all these years I hear “When I Get A Little Money.” It was such a sweet love song. I loved it and I still love doing that song. People love it when we play it onstage. It’s a sweet little simple love song.

And then you have “Given All I Can See,” which is very poignant for today’s world.

Yeah, it’s a gospel song. It’s really sort of a Christian song; well, it is a Christian song – “Given all I can see, Given all I can feel, In all that’s before me, It seems so unreal.” And it is addressing that, that invisible presence of God. It touches on a few things, “Will the righteous still stand when evil strikes this land.” So that goes off in some other area but I love the tune. “So clearly I can see, My heart and my soul, Forever I will seek, The mercy and grace, Given all I can see.” I love that song. It’s one of my favorites, if not my favorite on that record.

You sing Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time.” What do you think has made Gene Clark’s songs so timeless?

He was a really, really gifted writer, and that was written when he was nineteen or something. He was so literate and yet he wasn’t literate. We never saw him reading a book, ever, and we were on the road with him. But he was so literate and I don’t know where that came from. It was just divinely inspired. And he was prolific. He would write all the time and maybe he’d get seven or eight songs and three of them would just be perfect gems. He didn’t always hit a homerun but he was successful with his songwriting. That song was one of many he wrote over the years. A really, really good writer, unappreciated.

He’s kind of like the unsung songwriter because he kind of gets overlooked.

It happens and later on he’ll probably be looked at, as my son always says, “Dad, you’re probably a Van Gogh type,” meaning when I’m gone (laughs). I’m not looking for that but Gene, he was great and the people that know who he is, really appreciate him. He had a tragic life but he was so prolific from The Byrds on till when he passed away, which I believe was in the early nineties [May 24, 1991]. I worked on a lot of his records. He’d always call me and I’d go and play on them. He was an interesting guy. He was a great singer, a great songwriter.

What was his personality like?

Well, when I first met him when we were kids, we were in our late teens, he was a sweet guy. He’d come from Kansas, he had eleven brothers and sisters, a big Catholic family, and he was a sweet guy. And then I don’t know if Hollywood ate him up, I just don’t know. He got lost there. We were friends and I always respected him. I didn’t always like him but he probably didn’t like me either sometimes. But yeah, he was a very gentle guy but he had a demon in him that would come out, as we probably all do and we all have to keep that demon locked up. We all have that good and evil thing inside of us, I believe that, and we have to really keep that door bolted shut. Most people are pretty level-headed and good and that’s why we have religion, to try to keep us on the right side of things and the good side of things.

In your opinion, what is the Byrds true legacy to music?

I think we set out a path for other bands that came along. I think that we had such a unique sound. We weren’t rock & rollers and we didn’t have a blueprint and we weren’t a garage rock band. We really loved The Beatles in the beginning but then when we started to do the Bob Dylan material and that worked perfectly. But then we got away from that and we had developed into a really good band and here we were doing songs like “Eight Miles High” and “Rock & Roll Star.” And “Turn Turn Turn,” here was a song that Pete Seeger had taken out of Ecclesiastes, scripture King Solomon wrote, and Pete put that chorus to it and that was connecting all the scriptural verses and I don’t know anybody else that had a #1 record out of the bible.

But what The Byrds left, other than our individual songwriting efforts, it wasn’t like we were making money like some of the bands now, it was a different time, but what we left was a style of music that was emulated by other groups. You can hear it in REM, even Bruce Springsteen you can hear something and go, that sounds like a jingle-jangle Byrds-type deal; and especially Tom Petty, who acknowledged that, “Hey, The Byrds were my favorite band and the first few records we did, we really tried to sound like The Byrds.” The ultimate compliment. He also cut some of our songs, which is great, did a great job on that. But that’s what we left. I think we influenced a lot of people.

And The Beatles were fans

The Beatles loved us. That lasted for a while and then they went on to something else. But we got to meet them and run around with them. They were very nice, they were respectful, as were the Stones, great guys. So that’s what we left and I couldn’t be happier. And sometimes I am only known as being one of The Byrds. That’s fine. Am I going to complain about that? No, I’m not going to complain. We’re in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and we got elected on the first ballot in 1991 and all that’s great cause I got into music because I liked to play music. I never got into, oh, I’m going to make a million dollars and play music.

It was such a passion and that’s why I packed up and I went to LA. You would just sort of go around to the folk clubs and you’d play and meet people and all of a sudden this door would sort of open up and you’d get an opportunity and you took it. And I always thought I was going to go enroll in college. I’m going to go enroll in college next semester and something would happen and all of a sudden, fifty years go by. God blessed me with a wonderful career and a wonderful family. And the most important thing in my life, and the music is really second, my family is first and foremost.

Were you a curious child growing up, interested in lots of different things?

I had a horse when I was young. I loved horses when I was a kid, seven or eight years old, and was totally into that for a few years. I surfed cause I was living in California and various different things. Musically, I got into music about age fifteen. Basically I played guitar, mandolin and used to play bass. I don’t really do that anymore. The last time I played bass was on the album on “Here She Comes Again.” But the bass is back in the closet right now (laughs). Sometimes I look back and wish I’d spent more time on music, practicing more and maybe learning more instruments, but that’s okay. It went where it was supposed to go.

Your first real band was the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. What about them and your time with them was so special?

That was the first group I was in and it was wonderful. The bass player, Ed Douglas, was an older guy than the rest of us, older meaning he was about thirty-two years old, okay, and I was about eighteen. And he was an ex-San Diego policeman. He was a police officer and then another fella, Larry Murray, he had been in the Navy, and then other two guys. It was just such a good band, Leslie, and we did this album in four hours, the entire record. You just played it as best you could then cause we were learning and were kids. And I’ve had more compliments over the last fifty-three years for that record with the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers.

But here’s the funny part: the only band that I ever got back together with and did a few shows was the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. About four or five years ago we played this San Diego thing. But Ed, the bass player, he really was like a big brother to me cause when I was eighteen and they asked me to join that band, my father had died and I had nobody and he really took me under his wing and he was a big influence on me. That was a special band.

When did you meet Herb Pedersen?

Well, we’re both native Californians, which is a rarity in itself. He grew up in the northern part of the state and I grew up in the southern part, down by San Diego. And both of us loved bluegrass music as kids. The natural place to go to with that love of music was Los Angeles cause there were things going on there and you hoped maybe something would happen and I met him in 1963 but  I lost track of him when I was in The Byrds in the sixties.

He was a huge in-demand session singer and he would sing on Kenny Rogers record, James Taylor, you name it. He had, and still has, such a great voice and he would be hired to sing background parts. And once in a while I would see him. I’d be on a session with him but that wasn’t what I did. He was totally into doing it. But we remained very good friends over the years and Herb and I started to mess around in the eighties playing acoustic music together again and then we put the Desert Rose Band together with John Jorgenson and it just really clicked. He’s a wonderful guy, he’s a consummate professional and he is so in-demand. When you get to know somebody quite well and it clicks, it’s almost like brothers. I can always anticipate where he’s going to go vocally. When we sing a song, even if it’s a brand new song or a new arrangement, I always know where he’s going and he knows where I’m going and we get very good harmony, duet harmony, out of that.

We both draw from the same well, I’ll put it that way, and that’s traditional folk and bluegrass music. That was our strength. When I was asked to join The Byrds, I was a bluegrass mandolin player and I told them I could play the bass and I faked my way into a job. But it wasn’t that much different. I found out that all of them came out of folk music. There were no rock & roll guys in that band in the beginning. But Herb and I, we share that same background of traditional folk and bluegrass music. What did we do with that? We took it and it was the roots and extended that into all the different styles of music we played.

But like I said, Herb and I are native Californians and that’s a rare thing. That is a very, very rare thing. I’m third generation and Herb is second, I think, and very rarely do you meet someone who is a native Californian. Everybody moves out here.

How did your family get there?

I know on my mother’s side of the family, my great-grandfather came out to California from Massachusetts. Then my grandfather was born here. My grandmother came out to California in 1908 or something with her father and she met my grandfather and they married and stayed out here. My mother was born here. Did you ever do the DNA test? I did it on Ancestry.com and it was interesting. Nothing I didn’t know already, that most of my side was Scotch-Irish and then Russian, Ukranian- Belarus Russian, a small part of my ancestry. Very interesting.

You didn’t start really singing with The Byrds till a few albums in and writing songs. By the time Manassas came around, were you really comfortable as a singer and songwriter?

Not quite yet, Leslie. I was getting there but not quite yet. The vocals, well, I still wasn’t a good singer. I could sing in tune but that didn’t mean much. I really started to get a grasp on it about another ten years down the road when Desert Rose Band came along. I could have done it earlier but I don’t look over my shoulder and go, well, if only … I don’t do that. And obviously there was a method to this and God put me in certain places. So I always felt, and I’ve said this a million times, that I was a team guy, I was a band player. Then all of a sudden I was like Stephen’s lieutenant, second in command. Then I got to the point where with Desert Rose I was the captain of the ship.

But all the other things that I did from the Flying Burrito Brothers through Manassas and all that, it was a constant learning process. Yes, of course, we all look over our shoulder and wish we’d had put more time into it. I wish I had had more confidence. But that might have been my undoing too. If I had been a big rock solo star, I could have easily disintegrated, cause it was a very precarious, dangerous occupation in the seventies. I say the seventies was one of the darkest decades we’ve gone through, okay. Not only in music but just in the country. We come out of the sixties and Richard Nixon and all that and Vietnam in the seventies was very dark and that’s when the drugs started getting bad and that’s when people were dying.

Speaking of that time, when Vietnam started impacting America and the musicians and the music started changing, how did that time period affect you personally and as a songwriter?

Well, early on I was drafted, in 1964 and 1965. I was drafted two years in a row. The first year I was supporting my mother. This was before The Byrds. My brother was already in the service, my dad had died and I got out. Then they called me back again. They were calling anything that was healthy. The Byrds were going then and I knew enough about that war to say that I’m not going in if I can get out of going in to the service. I am not ashamed of it, I’m sorry that people got killed over there cause it was a waste of time, a total waste of life, as all wars are; but that one was really just terrible.

It affects my songwriting later in the Flying Burrito Brothers. Gram Parsons got his draft notice. We were working on songs together and that’s when we wrote “My Uncle”: “A letter came today from the draft board,” and we wrote this song. He’d be the last guy they’d want in the army. He wasn’t really physically fit. But it was towards the end of the draft at that point, 1969, when they started winding down and going on the lottery system and finally they stopped it. It was a bad time. Thousands of people demonstrated against that war, thousands. It was a hard time in the United States then. Nothing different. We see things happening over here now, they’re a little more violent, but it’s nothing different going on.

Getting back to Manassas, why didn’t this group last longer because there were such great songs and musicians in this band?

Great musicians. I think what happened was that Stills was getting pressure to reunite with Crosby and Graham Nash. That was what was really happening. So Stephen had taken this little hiatus and he had some success as a solo artist and then he put Manassas together, which was a great group for two years. So he was getting pressured there and then I had an offer to do this thing, Souther-Hillman-Furay, which didn’t work out as we thought it would, that’s okay, but it was part of the process at the time. I enjoyed Manassas. Most of them are gone, which is sad to say. There’s about two or three or four of us left out of that band. But man, when we were onstage live it was good.

I love Down The Road, such a great album

Oh the second one where I got that afro going (laughs). That’s the ugliest. I look like Don King, the boxing promoter (laughs). I like the first album we did better. By the second album it was just starting to splinter, the group was starting to splinter.

Any chance you’ll write a book about all this, your career?

I have a memoir. I’m just too lazy to go find anybody to work it – meaning that you have to find an agent to go to a publishing company. And part of me goes, Leslie, does the world need another old aging ex-rock star’s autobiography? I originally started writing it about growing up in the fifties in a really small town of seven hundred people and how wonderful it was. That was the original gist of the story. Then somebody said, well, you’ve got to write about the music. So then I started writing about the music. So we’ll see. You never know, it might come out. But I had a great time and I did remember it. I worked with some wonderful people. I don’t read those books but I did read Linda Ronstadt’s book and I thought that was good. And what I liked about her book was that she never denigrated anybody and she always talked about the music and never about, he was a drug addict or he died or he did this. She loved music and she wrote about it and that was great.

Has your musical tastes varied very far from your center over the years?

That’s a good question. It has. I love American Standard tunes, like the stuff that my parents listened to – Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, all that. I love that music so much and I find myself listening to that a lot of times more than what people would assume I would listen to – bluegrass or folk music or old rock. I do still love The Beatles. I never get tired of listening to Beatles songs, especially the early Beatles. As far as varying, yeah, I’ve really got a love going for the standards, the wonderful songs from Bing Crosby and Sinatra and everybody that my parents listened to.

What about the mandolin?

Oh I still struggle with it. I think that’s the attractiveness of the instrument. I listen to some of these younger guys out there or some of my peers that are just fantastic players and I go, “I can’t do what they’re doing.” (laughs) But it’s constantly a learning process. And you never really master the instrument. You always are learning. I don’t care who you are, what you’re doing, and I don’t care if it’s Eric Clapton or what, and he’ll say the same thing I’m sure: I’m always learning new things, by who I work with and what influences they bring in to the picture. You’re always learning and relearning. I was messing around with this mandolin that I borrowed from a friend of mine and trying to figure out how to play this song on it (laughs). But it’s a great instrument. I looked at the mandolin and went, that’s the one I want to learn how to play. So it went from there.

I really have to ask you about the Nudie suits, cause they could be way out there. For the quote/unquote shy, quiet kid, were you comfortable in that, being that flamboyant?

(laughs) You know what, in the Burrito Brothers, no. We put those suits on once and we played horribly. I think we wore them another time and finally stopped wearing them. But in Desert Rose Band, we wore them quite a bit, and well, the band was a better band, but we wore the Nudie suits quite a bit, you know. Then I got bored with it and after about nine months or a year, I stopped wearing it. My original Flying Burrito Brothers suit is in the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles. We hope it’s being displayed, I don’t know. But that was quite a coat and pants. A lot of stuff on there.

I saw Grams’ suit in the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville

Yeah, his is interesting too (laughs)

You said that you enjoyed being in the studio when you were working on Bidin’ My Time. For Tom, what did he really want to bring out with you?

You didn’t know what to expect, I think. He wasn’t used to doing what we really started off to do, which was an acoustic album, and it sort of evolved into a semi-electric and acoustic album, with drums and bass, etc. But I don’t know, he was a fan in a sense and he wanted to guide me through what I wanted to do. He never came and told me what to do. He didn’t come up and say, “You got to do this song or this song.” He just listened to what I had. There was one song he didn’t really hear and after I worked on it overnight I agreed with him. I said, you’re right, and he asked me if I’d ever recorded it and I said yeah and he said, “Why are we doing it again?” (laughs). But he ever so gently guided me through making the record and it was a real blessing having him. It just sort of fell into my lap, that whole project.

Was there anything that surprised you about working with him on the other side of the glass?

It wasn’t surprising to find out how humble he was. What a guy. He loved music, he was a very humble man and he touched so many all over the world. People gravitated to Tom and they caught that accessibility of him, for he was such a regular guy and was just very good at what he did. He was a phenomenal artist but he didn’t walk around being a rock star. He never acted like that. He didn’t like the show business end of it. I think he just liked to play and he liked music and he had an incredible career. I think his passing touched everybody in the world who knew who he was, far more than anybody else that had passed away, David Bowie or whoever, and God bless them all, but Tom’s really touched a nerve with everybody.

He was a good guy, very humble, a private man, good family, loved his granddaughter – he had a little three year old granddaughter – and loved her and his two daughters and was very supportive of them emotionally, and otherwise I am sure. And nobody ever had any inclination that he had any kind of problem with his heart. I know he had to get his hip replaced. That was going to happen after he got done with the tour. But we didn’t know he had anything; maybe he didn’t know, it just happened.

My last question is about a song on The Byrds 5th Dimension album called “Captain Soul,” an instrumental, cause when I think of The Byrds I don’t think of instrumentals.

Yeah, that or that kind of style. But I don’t know what we were doing (laughs). We were goofing around and we started playing and I don’t know why it even went on the record, to be honest with you. It wasn’t that interesting to me but I’m glad you like it. It was just sort of a little two minute instrumental. I think we were running out of material (laughs). That was Gene on the harmonica. I think he left right afterwards or during it. No, I think we were done with the album. We had “Turn, Turn, Turn” out as a single so he left right after that. But now I’m going to go listen to it. I haven’t listened to it in fifty or forty-five years.

Live photographs by Leslie Michele Derrough; portraits by Lori Stoll

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3 thoughts on “Byrds/Roots Legend Chris Hillman Shares All In Rare Extensive Interview

  1. George Guttler Reply

    Ms Derrough—-
    The best interview ANYWHERE re: Chris’ last album. One of the best Byrds’ interviews I’ve ever read as well. You should be very proud!! Chris started out in The Byrds kind of shy & sullen (check out pix from the day, on or offstage) but he just grew and grew……I taught myself to play bass by listening to his work on the first 6 Byrds Lps and with the Burritos…..if you’re on Youtube you can see what a masterwork The Desert Rose Band turned into…..he’s just an American treasure…..and you captured that…..THANK YOU!!!

  2. Nick Klempp Reply

    Great interview! Love Chris,his work and this album! You asked about David being on it, wish you would have asked about Roger too, they did alot of work together through the years!

  3. Leo Hevia Reply

    Yes! Chris needs to finish and publish his memoires! It’s the history of American music and needs to be preserved.

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