A MUSICAL ODYSSEY
www.hillmanweb.com/albums/album02.html
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN
RECORD ALBUM #2
THE WESTERN UNION II
UNION IV RECORDS: WUS 1002
1971



OFF-TRACK AND BEHIND THE SCENES
None of us were very happy with our first record album which was done on Winnipeg's Galaxy Records. But we had been bitten by the bug and we were sure we could do much better if we had more control over the process. A few years earlier, while performing at the very first Morris Manitoba Stampede Rodeo, we met the Hildebrand and Paley brothers who were well known in Winnipeg as Ronnie and the Eternals. Now, in 1971, about a year after our Galaxy "fiasco," I saw a news item that the former Eternals were opening a modern 8-track studio on King Edward Street in Winnipeg. Sue-On and I paid their new studio a visit. It turned out that they hadn't opened yet, and we spent much of our visit helping the guys tack acoustic tiles to the walls. We were impressed with their enthusiasm and with the modern equipment they were installing -- and they assured us that their studio sound, when operational, would be far superior to that which came out of Galaxy's makeshift set up in the Grain Exchange. The drums were properly baffled, separated and miked. The control room was separated from the studio area by class and insulation. The 8-track Ampex multi-track recorder which used one-inch-wide tape on 10 inch metal spools was pretty high tech for the time and there was an impressive array of quality mics and sound processing effects units.

Our next step was to talk the other band members into doing a second album -- and assuring them that we could come up with a much better product if we financed it and produced it ourselves in a real recording studio. To expand our sound a bit we planned to add a few musicians to the band line-up. Sue-On felt that she wasn't ready to play session drums yet and preferred to concentrate full-time on her vocal tracks. The choice of a session drummer was easy. The studio had already worked hard at developing a good studio drum sound using Ted Paley, one of the studio owners and drummer for the Eternals group.

We were studying geography at Brandon University at the time, and had developed a friendship with many of the profs. Coincidentally, one of the new lecturers in the department was Larry Clark -- the same Larry Clark who had sat in on drums on our old TV noon shows back in the early '60s. Larry was a well-known jazz musician in the Brandon area, and for years had played organ nightly at the Suburban Restaurant. Larry offered to sweeten and expand our sound by arranging and playing piano, vibes and organ on the session. This was a real boon as it was before synthesizers became a staple in the recording process, and thanks to the multi-track recording process, Larry ended up playing one to three instruments on every track.

The luxury of having eight recorded tracks to play with opened many doors for us. Sue-On now could overdub harmonies on her solos and we could double track and add more harmonies to our duets. I could now lay down acoustic rhythm tracks as well as adding more than one lead guitar line to our songs. Barry could play bass behind his fiddle solos. We even experimented with different percussion sounds: hand claps, tambourine, slapping guitar cases, etc. The big problem with all this experimentation however, was that we soon learned that we were limited by having only 8 tracks - it necessitated careful planning and even bouncing and combining tracks.

Bill in Century 21 control roomSue-On and Engineer John Hildebrand
Bill and Sue-On with engineer John Hildebrand
Century 21 Studios ~ King Edward St., Winnipeg

As with our first album, each of us was responsible for doing three songs.

Jake did a country ballad, Raggedy Ann. His uptempo number was a Bobby Goldsboro song, Muddy Mississippi Line. We liked the arrangement so much on this one that we placed it as lead off song on side one of the album. A few years later, after Jake had left the group, Sue-On and I used the backing tracks and redid the vocal. We then re-released our version of the song on album number 4. Jake's third song was a cover of the Frank Isfield hit, I Remember You, complete with the falsetto tricks.

Barry did a fiddle medley of The Irish Washerwoman and Cock of the North - a medley we called Irish-Scotch. His uptempo choice was based on a Cajun theme that he called Fiddle Duddle - this was around the time that Prime Minister Trudeau uttered his famous "fuddle duddle" line in Parliament. For a change of pace he then did the famous Bob Wills number, Maiden's Prayer.
I did guitar solos on all three.

Sue-On's first ballad was The Kentuckian Song, the beautiful title song from an old Burt Lancaster western movie, "The Kentuckian." This had always been a favourite of mine but we couldn't find a copy of any recording of it. I remembered, though, that the Ray Little CKY touring western show had featured the words in a souvenir song book I had bought at one of their shows in Strathclair's Bend Theatre back in the mid-'50s. I finally found the booklet in one of my piles of old memorabilia, and relying on memory, taught the song to Sue-On. It was a natural for her and is one of my all-time favourite Sue-On songs. Her second song was another of our stage medleys ~ two country ballad classics: Don Gibson's Sweet Dreams and Born To Lose. We segued into Born To Lose with a guitar solo and key change.
 


From The Bend Theatre - Strathclair - Feb 19, 1955
Tex | Ray | Anne | Porky | Jimmy

LISTEN

CKY Radio's  Porky Charbaneau
Promo postcard from the '50s

Reflecting our growing fondness for duets, we did an electric version of Ian and Sylvia's On My Mind on which Larry played percussive organ riffs. Our second duet was the Gene McLellan gospel song, Put Your Hand in the Hand. We were really excited about how these turned out, and in our naivety we even got a copy of the album to Ian Tyson after one of his concerts. We were blissfully unaware of the complexities of performance copyrights, royalties, or any of that end of the business. (Being avid fans we also went so far as to tape his live concert using the revolutionary Phillips portable cassette recorder.)

Again drawing upon what worked for us on stage, I put together a three-song rock medley of '50s hits by Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Buddy Holly. A problem we had that carried on through most of our future sessions was that we often played numbers too closely to how we did them on stage, with the result being that the tempo was often too fast and the vocal pitch too high. This medley really chugged along, however, and by the end of it you can hear the fatigue setting in on Ted's drum beat. This was the last album on which we featured a guitar solo. I put the solos on the back burner, partly because guitar instrumentals are so exacting, and partly because my dream had been to someday record an entire guitar instrumental album. I chose Apache for this, our first guitar solo on a multi-track session, as it was one that I hadn't been able to do on stage because of our instrumentation. But now, in the studio I could overdub all guitar parts: a couple acoustic rhythms and two lead parts. By this time I had customized my Telecaster by adding a Bigsby, homemade B-Bender and re-wired pickups. I played through a DeArmond volume/tone pedal, into an Echochord tape delay echo unit and through a Fender Twin Reverb amp. The arrangement I came up with on this Jerry Lordan instrumental was about three equal parts of Jorgen Ingman and Shadows versions, with my own riffs using the B-bender and volume pedal.

Our stage sound was really beefed up and sweetened by Larry's keyboard and vibes arrangements on each number. The sound of the vibes was especially interesting as this distinctive instrument is used too seldom on recordings. The album sold pretty well off stage and we may even have broken even on our investment. It proved to be a pretty good promotional vehicle and got us media coverage as well as airplay on local radio stations and CBC. It also gave us something to feature on our stage and TV shows and was a nice package to flog to promoters. But more importantly, it got our creative juices flowing. Sue-On and I started thinking about doing a solo album, and we realized that we would get very little airplay or recognition by just recording cover tunes. I started to write.

www.hillmanweb.com/music/cjnu/1209.html
JOHN EINARSON'S
THIS TIME LONG AGO
CJNU-FM RADIO ~ WINNIPEG, MB

September 2011
A couple friends of mine . . . as soon as you leave the perimeter in Winnipeg heading west and you mention their name, everybody knows them. 
They are Bill and Sue-On Hillman --  they are Western Manitoba legends -- and they've been performing, I won't say how long because I don't want to embarrass them with revealing how long they've been going : ) . . . but they are legends across Southern Manitoba. 

They perform country and they perform rock and they're still out there -- still wowing audiences. 

They came and played at our Shakin' All Over event last summer and they were just a delight to have. 

They've recorded a number of albums and this is a track that Bill actually sent me. It's their version of YOU WERE ON MY MIND which was written by Sylvia Tyson and was an Ian and Sylvia song. Unlike the We Five, what Bill and Sue-On Hillman have done is they stick to the Ian and Sylvia arrangement but they rock it up - folk rock it up - and add organ to it.

This is off their second album (and CD compilation No. 12) recorded in 1971 at the original Century 21 Studios over on King Edward Street. 

So this is going out to you, Bill and Sue-On, because it's a great track and I'm glad I was able to get it together in time for the show. We had a little bit of a panic this afternoon but this is YOU WERE ON MY MIND by Bill and Sue-On Hillman from Brandon, Manitoba.

YOU WERE ON MY MIND

 
Back Cover Liner Notes

THE WESTERN UNION
THE WESTERN UNION -- a union of four different music styles. Thus, the album is one of variety, including rock, folk, Country ballads and some Cajun fiddle. The album features vocals by Jake Kroeger, Bill and Sue-On Hillman, with lead guitar by Bill Hillman, percussion by Sue-On, rhythm guitar by Jake Kroeger, and Barry Forman on bass and fidddle

THE WESTERN UNION sound is augmented by the fine work of Larry Clark on vibes, piano and organ and Ted Paley on drums.

The album was recorded and engineered for the Western Union by
John Hildebrand of Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg. 
Photos courtesy of Ralph Holtcamp ~ CKX-TV Brandon
Production and Arrangements by THE WESTERN UNION and Larry Clark.

For information please contact:
BARRY FORMAN
Rivers, Manitoba
Bill and Sue-On Hillman
Brandon, Manitoba
Jake Kroeger
Rapid City, Manitoba
CONTENTS
SIDE ONE
1. Muddy Mississippi Line  (Vocals re-recorded by Bill for Album 3)   
1a. Muddy Mississippi Line (First Vocal - Jake)
2. Rock Medley: Whole Lotta Shakin' ~ I'm Walkin' ~ Oh Boy    (Vocal - Bill)
3. Kentuckian Song    (Vocal - Sue-On)
4. Irish Scotch    (Fiddle - Barry)
5. Raggedy Ann    (Vocal - Jake)
6. Fiddle Duddle    (Fiddle - Barry)

SIDE TWO
1. You Were On My Mind    (Vocals - Bill and Sue-On)
2. I Remember You   (Vocal - Jake)
3. Maiden's Prayer    (Fiddle - Barry)
4. Put Your Hand In The Hand    (Vocal - Bill and Sue-On)
5. Apache   (Guitars - Bill)
6. Sweet Dreams ~ Born To Lose   (Vocal - Sue-On)

Vinyl to Digital conversion on the non-Hillman tracks by Robin Hillman

Promo photo sold off Federal Grain Train Show stageBill ~ Sue-On ~ Barry ~ Jake

Click for larger images
Bill - Sue-On - Jake ~ Barry
The Western Union

Ron and Ted Paley ~ Harry and John Hildebrand

The Eternals

Barry Forman and Ted Paley
Barry and Ted Paley

Fun with Russ's LP on the Record Wall

Barry preparing to record a bass track


Engineer John Hildebrand
Setting up the 1/4" tape for the mixing session


Bill and Sue-On doing vocals over the bed tracks
Century 21 Studio


Click for full collage
 
 
 

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BILL and SUE-ON HILLMAN: A 50-YEAR MUSICAL ODYSSEY

BOOK COVER
BOOK CONTENTS

1. Gig Notes: 1-10
2. Album Notes
3. Guitar Tales
4. Prairie Saga
5. Roots
6. Photos
7. Media
8. 100 Songs

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