Entertainers Bill and Sue-On Hillman came into Winnipeg
Sure, the singing, playing, songwriting couple from
Strathclair had been nominated themselves, but the Hillmans really didn't
expect to win. After all, they hadn't played Winnipeg enough to make a
So it was an unexpected thrill when they heard their
She and her 36-year-old husband took the top honors on the basis of their 1979 single, One Night Stand, which reached the top 10 on Winnipeg's country music charts. The song, which Bill wrote, was their first province-wide hit.
The Hillmans have been performing together ever since their marriage 14 years ago. He plays guitar and sings, she is the singing drummer and a third band member, Kevin Pahl, plays keyboards.
Bill, a Strathclair native, had already been perfoming for a few years when he met and married Sue-On, who was born in China but grew up in nearby Newdale. She was musical herself and decided to be a partner, not a spectator, in her husband's career.
"Lots of musicians' wives just go along and watch, but you can only watch for son long without getting bored," she says.
Bill and Sue-On both taught high school in Strathclair until two years ago when their son was born and Sue-On retired from teaching. Bill still teaches, so they play only weekends around the province. Summers are spent touring Canada, the U.S. and England.
Two of their nine albums were recorded in England, where country musicians are "in great demand," according to Sue-On. They distribute and sell the records themselves as they move around.
"To get a distribution deal you either have to gon on the road or sign away everything you own," Sue-On says. "To go on the road full-time you really have to slug it hard, and we can't do it right now because of our son."
So, for now, the award-winning duo are quite content to stick with their semi-settled life in Strathclair and mix teaching, motherhood and music "until the right opportunity comes along."
HAS WINNER IN
~Winnipeg Free Press ~
Jimmy King's Night Beat Column ~Winnipeg Free Press ~Saturday, January 12, 1980
Country-western fans know that Bill Hillman and his wife, Sue-On, have released several of their own record albums. The Hillmans live in rural Manitoba - in Strathclair; however, their entertaining activities take them to far-off places. Last summer they toured Britain for the third time, playing shows in clubs and halls. Their most recent recording session was done while there, in Durham. Having heard the pre-release demo tape, I can predict that their next album should become quite radio-active both in Canada and abroad.
Both Bill and Sue-On hold university degrees and teach high school music, drama and geography in Strathclair during the winter. They also play gigs. In the summer their tours have taken them to Canadian exhibitions and western U.S. state and county fairs.
They have their own production house - Maple Grove Productions in Strathclair - and their recordings are on the Maple Grove label. Bill holds claim to having one of Canada's largest tape and record collections of radio nostalgia from the 1930s, '40s and '50s - more than 7,000 shows.
Sue-On was born in South China. When she came to Canada to live in Newdale, Man., she became involved in choir work and completed seven years of classical training on piano. She subsequently met and married Bill who encouraged her to play drums and guitar and shw soom became an integral part of the Hillman Express. The attractive lady has a fine singing voice and can handle a tender ballad or driving show-stopper with equal aplomb.
The keyboard player with the Hillman Express is Kevin Pahl, a commercial pilot who has been responsible for getting the group to distant engagements on many occasions.
The obvious appreciation the group has for all types of music has given the Hillman Express an exciting style. It combines elements of country, rock, folk, pop and oriental music, and enables them to please audiences from the Canadian Prairies to Soho.
We appeared on the 1980 Big Country Awards Show
where we performed One Night Stand
|MANITOBA-BASED TALENT GIVEN
COUNTRY MUSIC Column by Johnny Murphy
Winnipeg Free Press ~ September 27, 1980
The Big Country Awards presentation and show last Sunday in the Winnipeg Inn did indeed live up to advance notices as a prestige event. It has yet to achieve the stature of a Grammy presentation or the Country Music Association awards show in the U.S. because it isn't carried regularly on live television. However, it doesn't fall far short in the areas of sparkle and sustained excitement, not to mention the price of an individual ticket for the awards. The few available tickets were snapped up at $50 apiece.
Manitoba-based recording artists were featured in performance
spots during the awards show. Extremely well received were Len Henry, Gurney
Anderson, Dale Russell and Bill and Sue-On Hillman.
October 4, 1980 Country Music column entry:
Excerpts from the Opry North presentations in the Centennial Concert Hall Sept. 19 will be edited into two, hour-long specials on CBC-TV. Dates are yet to be announced. The Winnipeg episodes were taped for television by the Toronto-based production outfit Quadramedia.
|MEMO from PETER GRANT
Bill & Sue-On
I was in Toronto on ACME business and met with Walt Grealis who asked me to pass on this cheque to you for your appearance on the BIG COUNTRY AWARDS SHOW.
Your new single is on our chart now also (Bring Back the Good Times)
Also - a message to Sue-On regarding the money that is owed you [FAKE CHINESE WRITING]
Thank you... for performing at Big Country - RPM Magazine.
BIG COUNTRY AWARDS WEEKEND AGENDA in RPM Sept.27, 1980
Presentation in Winnipeg Ballroom:
Bill & Sue-On Hillman, Gurney Anderson, Ray St. Germaine, Len Henry, Dale Russell, Ron Halldorson Orchestra
RPM Weekly Magazine ~ September 27, 1980
Although both are active in country music, to keep the wolf away from the door, Bill still teaches high school in Strathclair. Sue-On who was born in China but grew up in Newdale, retired from teaching when their son was born. Together with their keyboard man Kevin Pahl, drummer/vocalist Sue-On and guitar/vocalist Bill play weekends around the province through the school year and during the summer tour Canada, the U.S and U.K. Two of their nine albums were produced by Bill in England, a country where they have had unusual success with record sales, concert and club dates.
The Hillmans distribute their own product and currently boast an active catalogue including, On Stage, 14 Original Songs, the two British productions, Free Spirit, and Hillman Express - Track 15.
Why is everybody tuning in, dressing for, switching to COUNTRY MUSIC?
Winnipeg Magazine ~ March 1981
Bill and Sue-On Hillman
"It's really nice to be able to work together," says Sue-On. "We've worked a lot of years."
The Hillmans play a "broad variety" of styles, but all fall under the country umbrella. Says Sue-On: "We've played traditional, bluegrass, cajun. But mainly we play country rock." With nine albums to their credit, Sue-On believes the many shifts in style were integral. "If you don't change, if you don't evolve, the competition becomes too much. I've always said that if we begin to stagnate, we'll quit."
The couple now call Strathclair, Manitoba home but during the mid-seventies they lived in England. "We were given a great reception," she says. "At the time they didn't have many performing Canadians. We were something different for them."
Last year was truly the year of Bill and Sue-On Hillman. Aside from the MACA award, they had two singles charted and one in the top ten. Their latest - Bring Back the Good Times - is receiving airplay as far away as B.C., and is number one in many areas.
"It's been a good year," laughs Sue-On.
|High school teachers Bill and Sue-On Hillman
of Strathclair have an award winning hobby.
They are this year's winners of the Manitoba Entertainer-of-the-Year Award for country music.
In an interview at their farmhouse homestead, the Hillmans said the award is an honor despite the fact it came in the middle of parent-teacher interviews.
"Winning gives you the recognition and a bit of reassurance of what you're doing," said Bill Hillman. "You get different kinds of rewards, from having successful singles and doing tours of state and county fairs."
The Hillman Express has toured Western Canada, the United States and they visit northeast England regularly.
"With the reception we got last summer in English clubs with our foot-stompin' numbers, they must have thought Strathclair was Canada's capital. We were the wild west. One day we were playing in sunny England and the next day in a rainstorm at the Rossburn Indian reserve.
Their eighth and ninth albums are to be released this
summer. The group's last album was recorded between drug raids, "in a ghost
studio somewhere underneath London - the same one used by the Sex Pistols."
|The Hillmans practice during the winter, performing
at dances and weddings when time permits in their busy schedule teaching
English, geography and drama and caring for two-year-old Ja-On, a dog,
and a cat.
Most rehearsing and composing is done in their Maple Grove Productions basement studio, where Bill keeps his collection of some 5,000 radio show tapes from the 1930s and 40s. His record collection covers a wide range from jazz and the Beatles, to new wave.
I appreciate all kinds of music. People who love this or hate that really cut themselves off."
Sue-On, born in southern China, lived for years at Newdale, where she became involved in choir and completed seven years of classical training on piano.
"Sue-On is more into interpreting music than writing it, so she's a good sounding board for me," said Bill.
Kevin Pahl, former student of the Hillmans is keyboard artist for the Express, and a commercial pilot "crop duster" who flies the group to some of the distant engagements.
Bill said living in a rural area prevents them from mixing often with other musicians but Strathclair is definitely home: "I enjoy teaching too much to go into a full-time singing career. My grandfather built this house and homesteaded the land 60 years ago and I've lived here all my life (37 years). We plan to stay.
|HILLMANS WIN MANITOBA COUNTRY AWARD
Dining Out Column by Garnet T. Page
The Calgary Herald ~ Thurs. Mar. 20, 1980
WINNIPEG (CP) - Bill and Sue-On Hillman of Strathclair, Man., have won the entertainer-of-the-year award at the fourth annual Manitoba Country Awards.
The Hillmans were chosen over previous winner Ray St. Germain and another nominee, Smokey Furlin.
St. German picked up the award for top recording artist of the year. Furlin was given the Golden Music award for his achievements and dedication to country music in Manitoba. Other honors went to Ronny Halldorson for instrumentalist of the year, Rhonda Hart for top female vocalist and Harvey Henry for top male vocalist.
Congratulations. It's nice to see someone from the old band making good ~ Murry Bateman. p.s. Look us up if you're out this way.
Nominees for Entertainers of the Year:
Ray St. Germaine
Bill & Sue-On Hillman
Winners: Bill & Sue-On Hillman
This was the first of numerous future MACA nominations and appearances on their annual gala awards show.
In the mid-'80s Bill also served on the MACA Board of Directors.
Dear Bill and Sue-On:
Congratulations! You have been nominated for the 1979 Manitoba's Annual Country Awards.
This year the function will be held at the North Star Inn Galaxy Ball Room on Sunday March 16th, 1980 at 6:00 P.M.
All nominees are invited t attend the press conference at the WestBrook Inn Saloon Room on Wednesday, March 5th, 1980 at 2:00 P.M. at this time the three finalists for each category will be announced.
[Entertainers of the Year: Bill & Sue-On
Hillman ~ Len Henry ~ Ray St. Germain
Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, March 15, 1980
The Northstar Inn will be the scene tomorrow evening of the fourth edition of the Manitoba Annual Country Awards. Manitoba-based performers will be honored in seven categories. Among the nominated are Art Young, Reg Bouvette, Ray St. Germain, Wayne Fehr, Dale Russell, Sue-On Hillman, Sheila Dawn, Rhonda Hart, Harvey Henry, Country Tigers and Bill & Sue-On Hillman.
Johnny Murphy's Country Music Column
Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, March 22, 1980
The Manitoba Annual Country Awards acquired a new impact with this fourth edition moving into more ceremonial surroundings and attracting the elite of this province's performers and those associated with country music in Manitoba.
Entertainer(s) of the year was the outstanding husband-and-wife duo, Bill and Sue-On Hillman.
The winners are determined by a committee of judges comprised of individuals active in all phases of country music and related businesses. Top male vocalist award was presented to Harvey Henry, top female vocalist was won by Rhonda Hart. For the second year in a row the recording artist award went to Ray St. Germaine. Repeat winners for the third year as most popular country band was Red Wine. The Country Tigers were named top country band. Instrumentalist recognition went to Ron Halldorson, while Smokey Ferlin was saluted with the Golden Music Award. Tony Sianchuk, founder of the MACA, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to country music in Manitoba.
MANITOBA'S BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN
AND KEVIN PAHL
Strathclair & District Review ~ Thursday ~ March
The year was highlighted by winning the M.A.C.A. (Manitoba's Annual Country Awards) Trophy for Top Entertainers of the Year. In addition to this Sue-On was runner-up for Top Female Vocalist of the Year. The awards were presented at the Country Awards night in Winnipeg's North Star Inn on March 16, 1980.