+50 Years on the Road with Bill and Sue-On Hillman
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Early Years Pages
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The Guardian Studio Sessions
Journal Entries: Music Excerpts 
Bill and Sue-On on Stage with Desperado ~ Alun Edwards
Bill in Pity Me Telephone KioskSue-On, Ja-On in Pity MeBill, Sue-On, Ja-On, Engineer Terry at Guardian Board

We took many hundreds of photos during our three performing tours of England.
Unfortunately they are all in slide format and until we can find 
an economical way of converting them to digital files 
the following journals will remain unillustrated.

This chapter of our Musical Odyssey 
contains excerpts from the 
Hillman July/August 1979 Travel Journal.
Related expanded anecdotes are found in the companion chapter: 
Volume 9: On Stage In England

Click for full size
Guardian Studio Photos of Album 9 Session

July 16, 1979   Monday
Sunny hot

Sue-On, 1 1/2 year-old baby Ja-On, Mom Hillman and I drove into Winnipeg
We made an 11th hour pickup of our new passports at the Richardson Building.
Said goodbye to Nana and she took the car home.
We got three front row seats on a DC-10
Great seats that gave us more room with a very restless Ja-On.
We finally got baby tranquilizer medicine from the stewardess
Ja was knocked out for the rest of the trip.

July 17, 1979   Tuesday
Hot and sunny but became cloudy in the North

We landed at Prestwick (Glascow) and on to Gatwick.
Mick Sandbrook had driven all night from his home in Stockton to pick us up.
No trouble getting gifts, duty-free and my Fender Thinline guitar through Customs.
We piled into his small company "mini van" and started long drive back.
Slow hard drive through London traffic.

July 18, 1979  Wednesday
Cloudy and cool - Occasional sun

Mick and Margaret Sandbrook invited us into their home for most of the stay.
We stayed in the master bedroom even though Margaret was nine months pregnant
Great hosts
We met Paul Duckers, drummer and then rest of Mick's band, Desperado:
        Mick Sandbrook ~ Alun Edwards ~ John Whittingham ~ Colon Bradley
I set up a joint recording session with Desperado.
About half of the 20 songs I finally choose will be numbers that we both know.
We will then share backing tracks, but the songs will have two different mixes.
Desperado will have a mix with their lead vocals, and we will have one with ours.
We used a Workingman's Canteen off Portland Lane for a practice hall.
Spent this first session on learning my original stuff. Still rough but coming.
We took Ja to the practice for awhile
Our son wouldn't sleep so one of Mick's friends took Sue-On and Ja home early.

July 19, 1979   Thursday
Cloudy and cool

We borrowed Mick's Morgan van to visit the Jones family in Spennymoor
Then on to Guardian Studio in the little, hard-to-find village of Pity Me near Durham.
The studio is in two adjoining row houses on 26 Front Street.
Manager Terry Gavaghan wasn't there and there is a session in progress,
Ja soaked his last nappie (diaper), so we return to Sandbrook's.
We had brought two suitcases full of Pampers, not trusting the UK disposables
After a traditional Thursday night meal of fish and chips we left Ja with Marg
Off for a 7:00 practice.
Worked on my originals and things went better in this second session.
We tried Sue-On's ballads but will probably leave them for the keyboard player.
Desperado worked on their own originals
The band had a few disagreements on the direction they are going to go with originals.

July 20, 1979  Friday
Sunny and Cool

Start the morning off with letter, diary and lyrics writing.
I had no luck tracking down last year's keyboard player, John Ashcroft.
Band set up at a large canteen for ICI workers at Billingham, past the Fiesta Club.
Met guitar player Colin's wife Angela and her two girl friends.
Slow crowd, older, and all the lights were left on.
Good band sound but many of crowd complain it was too loud
The sluggish crowd gradually got into a dance mood as the night went on.
Paul was having some trouble fitting in.
I made many music notes,
Trying to decide on which songs would be good for a joint recording project.
Packed up and home.
SPOT 1 ~ 45 minutes
1. Needles and Pins (Smokie)
2. New Kid In Town (Eagles)
3. Yes, He Lives (Cliff Richard)
4. Dance With Me (Orleans)
5. Down At The Club (Drifters)
6. Can't Stop Loving You (Leo Sayer)
7. My Life (Billy Joel)
8. Promised Land (Chuck Berry)
9. Desperado (Eagles)
10. Take It Easy (Eagles)
SPOT 2 ~ 45 minutes
1. Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
2. Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits)
3. Still the One (Orleans)
4. All Over Now ( Rolling Stones)
5. Shadow Dancing (Andy Gibb)
6. Dancing In The Moonlight (Thin Lizzy)
7. Going Back Home Again (Desperado)
8. Rock and Roll Medley (Various)
9. Riot In Cell Block #9 (Commander Cody)

July 21, 1979   Saturday
Cloudy and Cool with some rain

Set up at club at North Kenton near Gosworth - small but good reception.
Keith and Margaret Jones came in... they liked the band sound.
Packed up and back home after successful night.
Sue-on posed for a photo in Mick's Formula 2 Racing car outfit
Mick will wear this orange maintenance jumpsuit at tomorrows race in Hartlepool.

July 22, 1979  Sunday

I spent the day with Mick at the Formula 2 Hartlepool races
Mick works the pits for #705 driver Peter Manson.
The drivers are real stars with dollies on their arms and packs of groupies.
We arrived at Guardian at 7:30
Waited for two hours waiting for a demo session with 3 songwriters to finish.
I finally met owner/manager/engineer, etc.,
Terry resembled cross between Tiny Tim and Alice Cooper in appearance.
The meeting went well - very keen, enthusiastic and competent.
The studio was small and hot with 24-track Studer board.
Terry had toured as lead guitarist with the Carpenters
He saved enough money to open his own studio here in the North East

July 23, 1979  Monday
Cloudy and Nice

The band gathered at Mick's and then we waited for Alan.
To Pity Me and set up.
Terry took 2-3 hours to set up, plug everything in, and get started.
Recommended keyboard player, Alan Clark, brought a Rhodes 63 & Clavinet.
A solid musician but smoked constantly ~ acrid fumes
He was also a health food freak and had many strange organic mixtures.
Paul insisted on setting up his own drum kit.
Drums didn't work out, sounded awful and had to be torn down.
We set up the Yamaha house kit which had belonged to Who's Keith Moon.
Terry had bought them at a London auction.
The low upright piano was from The Chateau in France
This piano had been used by Elton John for Yellow Brick Road.
We took a long time getting the bed tracks... things were slow coming together.
Paul had trouble with the drums - cracked hi-hats.
He was new to session drumming with a very busy bass pedal and mushy snare.
The rest of the band came together really well.
I directed the session while playing my Tele through a Vox practice amp
Led bed tracks with rough vocals and guitar.
(I ended up using my rough guitar track in the final mix to save time.)
Generally a great atmosphere but Terry was making furious phone calls
One call was to the coal man who had double charged him.
We did 12 bed tracks: Needles and Pins, Sail On 747, Disco Stomp, Reelin' In Soho,
        Auction Block, Hold Me Darlin', Lady Luck (Desperado original), Take It Easy,
        Rock Medley, Promised Land, I Can't Stop Loving You, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.
We packed up after midnight
The end of a tough, grueling day with hot steady work
I was under a lot of pressure with many crucial on the spot decisions all day... long day
We didn't take time to eat although we had gone down to the pub around 9:30 for a beer.

July 24, 1979   Tuesday
Cloudy and Warm - Some sun

Sue-On, Mick and I met the other guys at Pity Me a little later than we planned.
We started work on five more bed tracks: Joker, Bring Back the Good Times,
        How Many Arms, Summer Time, You Light Up My Life.
Paul couldn't handle ballads Arms or Light Life so Sue-On took over on drums.
Terry had to rush out to confront a grouchy neighbour
The man had kicked his dog and hit his young 7 or 8 year old son.
Terry had a few domestic pressures as his wife was very pregnant
She also had been bandaging their son in the groin area for some injury.
We finally started the vocals in the late afternoon.
We worked late and Sue-On and I did all the vocals on the songs we brought
We hadn't learned the Desperado songs yet.
Sue-On's songs were last but we worked hard and did all of hers in record time.
At the end of a long day the session appears to be sounding good.
Sue-On went out for pies and pastries, etc. but that had been our only meal..
Mick, Alun, Sue-On and I were there all day, right through.
We phoned Marg before we closed... Ja was all right.

July 25, 1979   Wednesday
Cloudy and Warm

Harmony vocal day at the studio.
Desperado worked on backup harmonies most of the day.
Paul 'helped' in the control room.
We spent a long time doing the harmonies but they sound really good.
We overdubbed them all as well.
Alan Clark waited around all day to add some synth and strings.
We finished the vocals in late afternoon.
Colin and John then put on some lead stuff.
Frustrated by many telephone call interruptions.
Mick and I went to the fish shop to bring back fish and chips for the band.
Then the band left for the day.
For the evening Alun, Mick and I set up the synths.
Watched and suggested arrangements for Alan who was using ARP equipment.
He did nice work - easy to communicate what I was hearing in my head arrangements
The strings weren't quite as convincing as John Ashcroft's in our Newcastle sessions.
Alan put on low strings, then high, and then added other synth stuff for sweetening & lead
Auction Block:  full strings and French horn and flute (the flute got lost in the mix).
Hold Me, Darlin': Just strings with a synth intro.
Lady Luck: high strings.
Take It Easy: Strings at the end which I later flanged.
I worked with Alan on developing a 5-string banjo technique with a G drone string and rolls.
It came out quite convincing at the end of the song.
I skipped the Rock Medley.
Promised Land: tried to get a full "Rockin' Pneumonia"-type horn section & high alto sax.
Alan Clark was just getting rolling
Terry was pooped however, and dozing off at the board.
I realized I'd been driving these sessions beyond endurance.
We dubbed the day's work onto John's cassette
Took the tape home for Sue-On who had gotten a ride back earlier with the boys.
Got home very late - 2 AM.

July 26, 1979  Thursday
Sunny for much of the day

Sue-On, Mick, Alun and I arrive back at the studio around noon.
A late start today as the previous days started around 10 AM.
We resumed adding string parts.
I Can't Stop Loving You: Strings and Sax/Trumpet-like sound.
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain: Strings, bass runs and weird synth fills.
The Joker: Full treatment of strings and brass.
Bring Back the Good Times: Disruption - we get a bomb-like phone call... One of many.
Alan's manager is insisting on more money for the session.
We had agreed upon 140 pounds for the session with Alan
I had paid him 40 advance.
Finally another long heated call
Alan said that the manager had ordered him out unless we paid him 50 quid more.
I said go, but he then agreed to stay until 7:30 when he would have to take a taxi to a gig.
There were bad vibes for awhile but eventually things got back to normal.
Luckily I had still not paid him the full amount.
We finished How Many Arms, Summertime, and Light Life with a full treatment.
Needles and Pins: beefed up the main riff with synth.
I paid him 100 quid and he ran for his taxi.
The last we saw of him
(we actually saw Alan twice about 15 later when he appeared at the Winnipeg Arena,
first as backup for Eric Clapton and then as part of Knopfler's Dire Straits -
a group he joined a few months after playing on our session.)
We still needed acoustic piano on the R&R Medley, Sail On 747, and a few other parts
We plunged into the vocals.
Sue-On brought Chinese take-away to the studio.
Tough going on the Needles and Pins harmony.
Sue-On had a bit of a rough night.
I double tracked Lady Luck, Take It Easy, R&R Medley and Promised Land.
Sue-On went across the street to the phone kiosk to make phone calls
I was singing Take It Easy in the drum booth that doubled as a vocal isolation booth.
Part way through the song, a brilliant flash of light lit up the room from behind my right shoulder
Mick and Terry appeared startled behind the board and stopped the tape.
I assumed that some piece of equipment had blown up.
Terry motioned me into the control room
He phoned a buddy who lived upstairs above one of the row houses.
The guy rushed in saying, "She's back!?!"
Apparently Mick and Terry had seen the negative image of a short figure in the brilliant flash of light that had lit up the room behind me. Terry went on to relay the story of the ghost of an 8-year-old girl who had been struck by a lorrie in the street 30 years ago. They had brought her in and laid her on a couch that was situated where the drum booth now stood. She died. The girl's ghost was a bit of a legend in the town. There was even a picture of her in the pub down the street. The legend was that she usually appeared before a disaster of some sort happened.  Strangely, a few weeks back, in the middle of the night, Terry and his wife had heard a cry from someone falling down the stairs from their upstairs suite. The only other person in the suite was their young son who slept in another room. They raced out but found their son still fast asleep in his bed. But on another occasion they awoke to see the glowing figure of a young girl standing at the foot of their bed. They learned the next morning that a close relative had died that night. I am not at all superstitious and have still to be convinced about the validity of the supernatural... and I didn't see a ghost girl... but there certainly was a brilliant light behind me that night.
We had a good story to tell Sue-On when she returned from her long phone call.
Mick took her home while I stayed to do the Chuck Berry stuff
I went on to learn and attempt to sing Desperado's The Joker.
After this I was too worn out to attempt their Bring Back the Good Times.
This worked out very well as we later took the two inch master tape back to Canada
We adapted this original Desperado song to a very powerful, but bitter sweet, melancholy duet.
I got back to Stockton and Sue-On after 2 AM.

July 27, 1979   Friday
More sun

Final day of the Guardian marathon session.
We waited for Alun Edwards, dropped Marg off downtown
We reached the studio around noon.
Our mixing session got off to a bit of a late start.
We started at the front of the tape and went through it in sequence.
I had a difficult time burying and working with the drum tracks:
        a busy and sloppy bass drum - terrible high hat that leaked through to the snare track
        and since the snare had no natural recorded punch, it was difficult to EQ it.
We mixed two versions of eight songs: Needles and Pins, Lady Luck, Take It Easy,
        R&R Medley, Promised Land, Can't Stop Loving You.
Took us 4 reels of 1200 Ampex 20/20 - 2-3 pounds per reel. Desperado 2 reels.
Most were easy mixes but it still took a long time.
Alun got pies and Mick later went out for fish & chips.
The mix took approximately one hour per song so we ran late into the night.
We all got kinda punchy.
I was running out of time so I finished all of Sue-On's in a row
This was to save mixing time, to make sure they were done, and give a more consistent sound
Then we did Desperados two originals.
We wound up around 4. Reached home in encroaching daylight.
Wiped out. One hour's worth of songs on cassette from John's recorder left on the deck.

July 28, 1979    Saturday
Cloudy with some rain

Show at the Normanby Hotel with the Desperado wives and friends attending:
        Alun and Rose Edwards, Colin and Angela Bradley,
        John and Kath Whittingham, Paul Ducker and girlfriend Anne,
        Mick and Margaret Sandbrook. Keith and Margaret Jones came in later
Joneses won a camera in a raffle.
A good show.
Packed up and home for sandwiches, coffee, Star Trek, all left and we headed for bed.

July 29, 1979   Sunday
Sunny then light rain

We listened to the cassette of the sessions many times.
Ja-On enjoyed singing "bye-bye" with Disco (Ja Ja's) Stomp.
We had actually written Stomp together back home
Eventually I put Ja's name into the song and title
Ja and I went for many walks during the day and spent some good times together.
I left with Mick for the Brotton W/C at 6:20
Sue-On stayed with Ja until after the opening act:
Opener was a magician who hanged himself and had a good standup routine.
Keith and I got good stage and crowd pictures.
Finally able to unwind with the band as the recording pressures were off.
Many girl groupies at the gigs.
Tonight, one groupie in black bra and deep cut tight T-shirt pursued the band
Some of the guys started to bark... the insulted girl stomped off in a huff.
Packed up and band members headed for home
Keith, Sue-On and I went to the Enterprise for mousaka - home, TV, talk and bed.

July 30, 1979   Monday
Sunny and nice ~ Rain after tea

Borrowed Mick's van to go to the bank to approve funds for the session
Toured Durham Castle & Cathedral & put in time till meeting with Terry in Pity Me
I proposed a deal on session fees
Terry told us that Alan's agent Rob is still phoning for more money... weird : )

July 31 - August 3, 1979   Much replay of 1976 Tour

We made final payment to Guardian Studios and headed for Wales: Llanogen ~ Swallow Falls ~ Port Marion (The Prisoner Series) ~ Castles ~ Liverpool (first signs of punk culture) ~ Chester ~ Blacon Cemetery (Uncle Bill's Grave with Lancaster crew) ~ Manchester ~ Darlington.
Back to Stockton: "It's a girl... Kelly Louise!!!" Celebrate
Off Again: Guisborough ~ Captain Cook Museum ~ Whitby ~ Goathand ~ Flying Dales radar ~ Chop Gate ~ North Allerton ~ Thirsk ~ James Herriot ~ Thirsk Sowerby Club ~ Castle Howard ~ Fountains Abbey ~ Newcastle ~ Heddon ~ Hexham ~ Roman Station ~ Hadrians Wall ~ Holy Island ~ Berwick ~ Gifford ~ Edinburgh Castle ~ War Memorial ~ Derwent ~ Countryside
Back to Stockton: Margaret and beautiful baby Kelly Louise finally home from hospital

August 9, 1979  Thursday

Band played Western Social Club Middlesbrough. OK audience.

August 10, 1979   Friday
To a farm in Stokesly for a barbecue and barn dance performance.
We set up on a lowbed in a large barn
The stage was decorated with camouflage netting from the nearby military base
Waited till 10 to play
A long cold night with a steak barbecue at 11 ~ Much English beer.
Big lively crowd.
Sue-On and I did much old rock and roll but the sound system wasn't great.
Songs like: Memphis ~ Blues ~  Baby What You Want Me To Do ~ Lawdy Miss Clawdy
        Chuck Berry ~ Originals from Session ~ It's So Easy ~ Summertime, etc.

August 11, 1979 Saturday

Show at Billingham Social Club: large club with good crowd, good stage & good lights.
Opening act: a show off keyboard and circus drummer.
Mick still had a bad cold - can't shake it.
Colin's and Alun's wives attended.
Played tape of recording session on PA before the show.

August 12, 1979  Sunday

Phoned home and firmed some bookings,
Carman changed date of dance to one we could make.
One Night Stand single from Volume 7 climbing high on Manitoba charts.
Show at Hartlepool Central Club - upstairs - a dive but redecorating.
A wingy crazy night. Swapped phone numbers.

August 13 - 16, 1979

Tourist Break: Stratford ~ Bath ~ Stonehenge ~ Salisbury ~ Winchester Cathedral ~ Jane Austen' house ~ Windsor ~ Oxford ~ Blenheim Palace ~ Stockton

August 17, 1979   Friday

Band and session windup party at John and Kath Whittingham's.
A fine old house that rocker Chris Rea was trying to buy...
House close to Vipond's Oxford Road digs where we stayed in '76
Kath had a big spread of food, Sue-On brought Big Mac hamburgers,
Much beer, Mick brought the 26 of Canadian Club I had brought him.
We played tapes through John's Fender amp.
Many photos ~ Much chat.
Band's old drummer Norman was there for awhile,
He was leaving for holiday in the south and was driving all night.
Paul and Anne left early for another party.
Angela dragged Colin home... jealous tiff.
Someone invited him to come back, which he did
This prompted many irate calls from his wife and he finally left again.
Women all crying so party ended abruptly ~ Very unhappy farewell party

August 18, 1979  Saturday

Evenwood Club gig at Bishop Aukland.
Sue-On left for club early with Mick
I stayed with Ja until Keith brought daughter Angela over to babysit.
I arrived late. Smelly big club was packed.
Band and Sue-On huddled backstage. No tables available.
I sampled barley wine and beer.
Opening act a solo with tons of loud echo delay backed by house band, tiresome.
Good audience response for band.
Sue-On left early while we packed and came later,
They had car trouble and got home after we did. TV, sandwiches, bed.

August 19, 1979  Sunday

Back to Pity Me for pictures and final tape tweak.
Terry was in session but changed to old denim for photos.
The musicians in the session were the same ones that we met there the first day.
Photos: Ja at the deck ~ outside the front of the studio ~
        me in borrowed hat at the Pity Me roundabout sign ~ Sue-On and Ja by sign
        ~ at the pub ~ me at the telephone kiosk.
Terry coudn't clean up the cough on the Needles and Pins track until 10:30 tonight.
Back to Spennymoor to say goodbye to the Jones family & return borrowed odds & ends
Haverton Hill Billingham gig: a new strange-shaped club
Kath & Anne were there and roadie Jeff & fiance ~ later Mick's friend Harry.
Good show and crowd for this final show
Chats, goodbyes, hugs and kisses during and after show.
Tried many different drinks.

August 20 & 21, 1979

Mick and Margaret saw us off at Darlington Station
We took the train to Scotland to leave from Prestwick.
My mother met us at Winnipeg Airport. Ja-On slept all the way home.
Sue-On and I started planning Album Number 9: On Stage In England for Xmas release

1979 was a good year.
It culminated in our winning the
MACA Manitoba Entertainers of the Year Award.
Volume 9: On Stage In England with DesperadoEntertainers of the Year Award: Hillmans 1980Volume 9: On Stage In England with Desperado
Note: This was written over 20 years after the '79 Tour 
Sadly, Mick Sandbrook and John Whittingham have since passed away

DESPERADO reformed six years later as RAISED ON RUSKS with Alun on vocals, John on guitar, Mike on bass, and Paul's drum successor, Dennis, back on drums. They have added guitarist Merrick from Sunderland who complements the band nicely with his jazz and latin influences. They play mainly pubs throughout the Northeast, and offer a wide repertoire of music ranging from The Gypsy Kings, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springstein, etc., through to Huey Lewis, Joe Cocker to name but a few. 


  • Alun Edwards:- now 46, retired from his day job 9 years ago on health grounds. He is looking for a new house and at present is living in a luxury mobile home in Ripon, Yorkshire. 
  • John Whittingham:- now 52, works at the same school as Principal. Still lives at same address.
  • Mike Sandbrook:- now 49, works as a local government officer for Stockton On Tees Borough Council.
  • Colon Bradley: - Left for India 
  • Paul Duckers: - N/A
  • Alan Clark: - Joined Mark Knopfler's Dire Straits a few months later 
  • Terry Gavaghan: - N/A Guardian Studios closed some years later
  • Margaret Sandbrook:- works in local garden centre.
  • Kelly Sandbrook:- born during the '79 sessions - now 23, recently gained law degree, looking for work at present.

  • Peter Sandbrook:- now 18, works as a careers officer.


. .
Early Years Pages
. .


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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