A 50-Year Musical Journey
www.hillmanweb.com/book  ::  www.hillmanweb.com/book/gigs

Our Hillman M.A.P.L.E. Series
Music ~ Archive ~ Photos ~ Life ~ Events

Intro | Early Years | 50s Decade | 60s Decade | 70s Decade | 80s and 90s | 21st Century |
 Family | Sue-On | |Travel | 1000words | Music | Gigs
Recordings | UK | RootsRoots2 | Roots3 | Guitar Roots| Impact
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories
These hundreds of  photos were collated to illustrate the anecdotes in the
GIG NOTES Chapters of our +50-Year Musical Odyssey book.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories
Every Picture Tells a Story by Bill Hillman

Click for full size

Wedding Day: August 29, 1966 ~ Newspaper Photo at our Maple Grove Home ~ Television Years: CKX-TV & Album One Cover
In Tour Bus: Canada & US Tours ~ Album #3 of 12 ~ An English Garden during Performing & Recording Tours of UK ~ Promo Photo
At home with Entertainers of the Year Trophy ~ One of Countless Arena & Exhibition Gigs ~ Reunion Gig ~ In Sue-On's Garden ~ Our Home Studio


I was an educator for almost 40 years -- as a high school teacher in home town Strathclair Collegiate and as a professor in my alma mater Brandon University. In my geography classes I often designed interpretation assignments of topographic maps, aerial photos and regular colour oblique photos. I'm a firm believer that a study of visual media can create and interest, instill a unique knowledge and leave a lasting impression. It is with this in mind that I peppered our Music Memoirs book with many hundreds of photos and a whole section devoted to photo collage posters of which this page is a part. It is also with this in mind that I've picked one of the photos to illustrate how "Every Picture Tells A Story."

The photo chosen is one that revisits a pose in our music room that we did for CD cover No. 12 -- 20 years before. The original photo was taken by long-time friend and musician buddy, Jim Atkinson. The re-enactment was taken by another musician friend Rob Lovett.

Photographer #1: Jim Atkinson was with a Brandon band - The Challengers - who went on tour as a back-up band to Canadian rock-n-roll legend, Bobby Curtola. Previously, our rock band -- The Dovermen -- backed Bobby on a Western Canada winter tour in 1964/65. When our band members all decided to further education and business careers rather than go on the road, Bobby picked up the Challengers that he re-named the Martells. After many long successful tours Jim returned to Brandon and eventually became a teacher and professional photographer. We have fond memories when he joined one of our Saturday night jam session in the showall of our SOO'S restaurant around the time he took the CD cover photos.

Photographer #2: Musician Rob Lovett is a photographer for Barry Cullen's Keywest Photos. Barry is also a drummer and has converted his garage into a practice studio where I was invited to attend a few of their jam sessions. Barry also played a few times at our weekly jam sessions in Ken Daniels' Cantina Club.

Location: Hillman Music Room in basement of our Lindal Cedar home. When we left our country home near Strathclair to take over SOO'S, Sue-On's family's restaurant, we were pleased to find a cedar home with huge windows facing south overlooking Brandon's Assiniboine Valley -- that possessed so many of the similar features we loved in the home where I was born and where we had spent the first 25 years of our married lives. The basement was large enough to house a music studio with our music gear. Other parts of this lower level contain rooms full of spillover books, records, photos, etc. from our main library.

Hot Tub: After we move in to this residence we considered removing the hot tub since it took up much room and was a bit dangerous since our kids were young and one had allergies. We soon learned that the tub had been placed here before the basement walls had been built. We didn't want to cut a hole in the adjacent garage wall (the house is bermed) to remove it -- so we planned to put a platform on it to serve as a drum riser. Still haven't got around to doing this. . . Mañana.

Cedar Tub Platform: I refinished the wood with Sikkens wood stain finish that we had used on the house exterior. This recalled memories of putting myself through college with summer painting jobs: houses, barns, towering elevators, CFB Shilo PMQs and hangars, etc.

Differences in the Original "Then" Photo 
20 years have added a few pounds, wrinkles, grey hair, etc. to the first photo taken in the '90s.

Decorative Chinese Stools: We imported the Chinese garden stools from China, but one of the original brown ones was broken and we replaced it with a larger one in the new photo. It's not unusual that a few pieces of Chinese furniture have found their way to the studio. Chinese furniture is in abundance in every room in the house -- much of it picked up during our travels in SE Asia and China.

The Bear: The bear skin rug on the tub in the original was a gift from a former student. They raised bees near Swan River and had "license to kill" bears. This was a special hide that they had kept in their freezer and eventually found its way to us. When the taxidermist said that they used felt cloth trimmed with pinking shears as their normal rug "underlay" we shouted "NO NO NO!". Instead we provided ragged buckskin for the job -- remnants from some of our custom stage wear and signage.

Clavinet: The keyboard in photo 1 is a Hohner Clavinet that we had used on stage with a Fender Rhodes piano (not in view) for a few years -- first by Bill, then by Kevin Pahl, and then by Sue-On. On our first tour of England in 1976 our Canadian sponsor wasn't able to obtain a Fender keyboard for us when we picked up our gear at Wing Music in Bromley, Kent. All they had was a Clavinet. Sue-On was given a good Rogers drum kit and I picked up a Traynor amp (220 power) for my Telecaster Thinline that I had brought from Canada. I had brought over a Hohner Keyboard bass (hidden somewhere under the gear) for our third guy Kevin. But he was stuck with playing the Clavinet as his right-hand keyboard for the whole tour. Shades of Stevie Wonder :)

China Silk: Sue-On wore a long blue silk tunic that we had bought in San Francisco Chinatown. Just one of the many Chinese tops, dresses and decorations she has accumulated over the years. One of the many perks from touring through Asia is the abundance of exotic Asian clothing that we're always on the lookout for. Bill hasn't worn a tradition Western-style suit for many years. . . preferring high collar Chinese tunics.

Black Leather: Bill's leather jacket is part of a leather suit that he often wore on stage. It was fun playing up the East Meets West Costume Theme on our stage shows.

Roland Synth Guitar: The odd-shaped silver guitar that was moved to a different wall is a Roland Synthesizer Guitar -- capable of duplicating hundreds of sounds from other instruments. Bill's main guitar for many years. The instrument can be played as a regular electric guitar or plugged into its compatible floor synth unit with many stomp pedals.

Manitoba Entertainers of the Year sticker: This represents numerous award nominations from MACA culminating in our receiving the top award in 1980 -- this led to our  being featured on the Canadian Country Music Awards Show broadcast on CBC network.

Electric Autoharp: Nannie, my wonderful grandmother bought this instrument for me. She had fond memories of my namesake Bill Campbell playing one in the Campbell-Christie Orchestra back in the '30s. My Mom, Louise was on piano and Uncle Don on guitar. We were great Ian and Sylvia fans and were always intrigued by her autoharp playing on stage and record.

Hawaiian Ukelele: In the upper left is the instrument that my sister Bonnie brought back from one of her trips to Hawaii when she worked for a travel agency. In recent years our daughter China-Li has become intrigued with the instrument and has added it to the long list of instruments (harp, piano, bagpipes, guitar) she has mastered.

Security Camera and Monitored Alarm System: 24-Hour Surveillance devices -- monitored alarms and cameras -- hover above and on every doorway.

Bill's Wardrobe: The black T-shirt with the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol we bought in Disneyworld's Epcot Centre during one of our travels. The jacket is a black Chinese tunic bought in a Chinatown somewhere. The shoes are zippered, cuban heel "Beatle boots" custom-made of water buffalo hide from our Viet Nam adventure. A shoemaker in Hoi-An measured my feet, took my design specs and crafted the boots overnight from water buffalo hide.

Sue-On's Wardrobe: A Chinese silk top and heirloom jewelry handed down from her mother, Jade Choy. After her death at age 100 we worked with MTS videographer and documentary maker, Graham Street, to create a tribute documentary showcasing her remarkable years in China and later in Canada. We supplied many photos and artifacts and information and our daughter China-Li played her grandmother as a young girl.

Fender Telecaster Guitar: I am holding one of  my favourite guitars. My parents bought this for me in back in the mid-'60s to replace by beloved stolen Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville (later recovered). It has seen a few changes. Originally it was of a unique charcoal green colour, but years on the road resulted in countless chips, scratches and frost cracks on the finish. I stripped it down to bare wood, planning to re-finish it -- but I liked the bare wood grain so much that I left it unfinished. Soon after I got it I designed and built a B-bender bar from the head stock to be worked with my thumb. Coupled with a volume pedal and other FX I developed an imitation steel guitar style. Added to this was a Bigsby tremelo tailpiece kit that I installed soon after getting the guitar.

Personalized Guitar Strap: Draped beside me is a customized leather guitar strap created by Bob Hibbard, our leather-work friend from Texas. Bob and his wife are accomplished stage actors/singers and fellow Edgar Rice Burroughs fans. He even included a John Carter of Mars symbol on it.

Drums: Unfortunately, the only evidence of drums in the photo is a small bongo set -- the rest of Sue-On's drums and percussion instruments are off-camera and will be featured in Part Two. Sue-On is holding her beloved 7A Ludwig drumsticks to represent the many decades that she was featured drummer in our live and TV shows. When our longtime buddy Kerry Morris became one of our "third men" he took over drums for half our sets and Sue-On moved to keys for half the show. Even later, our son Robin took turns backing us on drums and bass -- so the "instrument switchover" continued on.

CD Cover: The CD beside Sue-On features the photo we were trying to duplicate in this 20-year-later photo. It contains 33 songs that we recorded on our Canadian sessions before we recorded a series of albums during our performance tours of England.

Albums: Our nine vinyl LP albums propped up along the ledge behind us are described in detail, along with lyrics and 100 playable tracks, in our Album section:

Harp: Our daughter Dr. China-Li -- a radiology specialist --  is an accomplished musician on keys, guitar, bagpipes. . . and harp. This harp is her third one -- a Japanese import that she bought online at a Vancouver auction. Our niece Ilym carefuly wrapped and packaged it up -- and Tran, one of our Soo's cooks who was visiting family on the coast, brought it with her on a flight back to Brandon as extra baggage. Before she moved for medical training at a Harvard hospital in Boston and became a full-time specialist in numerous Winnipeg hospitals, she often played this harp along with piano and bagpipes at wedding ceremonies. China's performance on these three instruments were a vital part of our sound when we played Folk Festivals.

Fender Thin Line Telecaster Guitar: This guitar is appropriately placed beside Sue-On. It is one of many Christmas guitar gifts that she has surprised me with over the years. It came with a Bigsby but I installed my home-made custom B-bender on it. This is the guitar I took to England on our three music tours and UK recording sessions in the '70s.

Bill and Sue-On Hillman Sign: We used this leather sign to drape over the front of Sue-On's keyboards or as a stage sign or TV prop many times. This was a piece of buckskin leather left over from one of Sue-On's stage costume making projects. We paid a local sign painter to paint our names on it. Our original sign we had made during our '76 UK tour in a little sign shop close to our agents' office in Middlesbrough. It was easily folded/rolled since it was made of canvas. We were really ticked off when it was stolen by a member of a biker gang after a raucous Winter Carnival gig we did in Ontario's Kenora Arena.

Yamaha Grand Piano: This instrument has been moved around. We had originally transported it from a piano store in Brandon to our country home near Strathclair. Our band buddy Barry Forman's first car dealership was in his hometown Rivers. The only large vehicle on the lot  that he could lend us at that time was a huge old farm truck that had just been traded in and hadn't been conditioned yet. There was still straw and manure remnants in the box and the ceiling of the cab was drooping, having been torn apart by rodents. We puttered up -- Beverly Hillbillies-style --  to the piano store-front on Rosser Avenue where the incredulous store owner helped us load our shiny new, black ebony Grand Piano into the semi-derelict vehicle. Reaching our home we conscripted some buddies to help us carry the beast down an outside cement staircase into our studio. Luckily, the cement floor, under which was a huge 10' deep cistern full of rain water, was strong enough bear the weight of the piano. Years later we moved the instrument up to our living room and still later, we hired a moving van to transport it to its present studio location in our city home back in Brandon.

Synthesizer Floor Console for my Roland Guitars and Bass: The corner of this unit is just visible under the piano. It displays a number of pedal switches that are foot controlled to trigger synth sounds on the guitar controller. It also features slots into which computer cartridges can be inserted to add many more instruments to the built-in 64 sounds.

Boss Rocker Volume Pedals: These rare units are stacked on the barely visible Clavinet near the piano. I've been intrigued by the sustain effect for guitars achieved by a foot volume pedal since the early '60s when I first saw one used by Ferlin Husky's guitarist during a show in the old Brandon Arena. The effect has become a vital part of my guitar playing style. I've used a variety of units over the years: DeArmond and Fender volume/tone, but finally settled on the Boss. The unit is full of electronics that provide a clean volume swelling and a unique slight overdrive to the signal. Used with my home-made B-bender, Bigsby tremelo unit and echo delay I take joy in imitating pedal steel guitar effects. I have a real pedal steel guitar but since we've always worked as a trio I found it impossible to front a band and sing while sitting behind the real steel.

Angklung: This is a traditional Indonesian musical instruments made of bamboo. We had imported two of them, one of which we had on display in our Soo's Restaurant reception area where it was very popular with kids. It is played by shaking the bamboo tubes by grasping the sticks near the top. Each set of bamboo tubes is tuned to a different pitch. If we ever have a chance to record again I would love to build a song around this instrument. One of the highlights of our month-long tour of Indonesia was to attend a show and dance put on by a full Angklung orchestra with backing band and dancers.

Nunchucks: Someone had hung this martial arts weapon on the Angklung for some reason. Sue-On and I had been fans of Asian martial arts since the '80s. We had invited Karate Sensei Bruce Dunning to help us form a dojo in Strathclair and we eventually earned our black belts in Wado Kai Karate -- even our kids and grandson Soulin became involved. Sue-On still regularly attends Tai-Chi and Chi-gong classes. It comes in handy here to control any of our jam buddies who insist on playing too loud. I've got bruises :)

Silvertone Guitar: Barely visible to the left of the photo is my first electric guitar that my Nannie had ordered from a Simpson-Sears Catalogue in 1960. This was my constant companion in my early Brandon College years until it was replaced by my Gretsch Nashville guitar. It still plays and sounds great.

Gibson Acoustic L-Series Guitar: Brandon University professor Robert Brockway bought this in a pawnshop in the early '50s. It was in rough shape then and even rougher when it was dropped off at my BU office by his widow Katy. This Gibson model is fairly well known since it is similar to the one played by blues great Robert Johnson. I replaced the frets, keys and bridge, but didn't touch the finish. It looks sorta beat up but sounds and plays great.

Gibson CF-100 Acoustic: I bought this cut-away acoustic from longtime musician Nick Bocker after visiting him in a Seniors' home. He had run the Sony store on 10th street across from our Soo's restaurant for many years. I've learned since that it is a much-in-demand collectors item, but as with all my guitar pals I would never consider selling it. I had wanted a Gibson for many years and this was my first. A fine vintage acoustic.

Fender Malibu Acoustic Guitar: This flat-top guitar with a pick-up in the sound hole was purchased from another musician friend, Keith Dodds, when we were livning in Sue-On's brother's basement suite while attending University. Sue-On and I played in the Brandon pubs every night, but were always up for 8:30 morning classes. I needed an acoustic guitar to help us rehearse and this one fit the bill. Later, I wrote a good many of our original songs on it. We wrote, produced and recorded almost 50 such originals during our recording years.

Hofner Beatle Bass: This violin-shaped electric bass became famous worldwide as Paul McCartney's instrument of choice during his Beatles and post-Beatles years. Mine is somewhat different in that it is fretless. During the years when we had Saturday night jam sessions in our Soo's Showhall our son Robin became a bit frustrated. He is a super drummer, in fact he now plays drums and percussion in the 50-piece Winnipeg Orchestra. Every night an over abundance of drummers showed up for the jams so, to get a chance to play more often, he taught himself to play bass on this instrument.

Gretsch Nashville Guitar: This double cutaway, orange guitar is a Chet Atkins model. In the early '60s during my first stint at Brandon College I was playing with a multitude of bands of every genre and even doing a daily TV show on CKX-TV. My grandmother realized that I needed a more professional guitar and she bought this for me. Calamity struck a few years later when it was stolen after one of my free-lancing gigs. I played in the houseband at the Brandon Roller Rink where Chad Allan and the Reflections (The Guess Who) appeared many times. Randy Bachman was familiar with my guitar and happened to see it in a Winnipeg pawn shop. We contacted the RCMP who tracked down the thief, recovered the stolen insturment and eventually returned it to me.

Yamaha Acoustic 12-String: This beauty was another Xmas surprise from Sue-On. My sweetheart has made the giving of such Xmas gifts an annual event. A great asset for our occasional appearances as a folk-type duo.

Mosrite Electric 12-String: The Ventures were a major influence in early days of my guitar playing. They played Fenders when they started out. They all had Fenders when I met them in the early '60s when they played the Brandon Roller Rink where I was in the house band. The band later endorsed Mosrite guitars for a few years which really brought about a surge in the Mosrite brand. I never thought I would own one but a very special one came my way -- a rare 12-string model. I traded some other instruments for this from local musician Doug Strange.

Ovation Legend Electric Acoustic: I received an Ovation wholesale catalogue through my dad's Marshal Wells hardware store. Ovations with their fibre material round backs were very popular in the '70s - endorsed for many years by Glenn Campbell. This was a versatile acoustic guitar with built in electronics.

Roland G-202 Guitar Synthesizer: This stratocaster-shaped synth guitar with its '80s technology lay in limbo in the Ted Good Music storage room for many years. I took it off their hands -- it's found a good home.

Fender Stratocaster Plus In what has become an annual Xmas event, my lovin' mate surprised me with this gem. Super guitar that I immediately fitted with my custom B-bender to I could make full use of it on stage. Sue-On loved the colour -- so she just had to have it for me.

Vox Tempest XII Electric 12-String: I've had a fascination with Vox since the days of the "British Invasion." I was a regular customer at the Brandon Musical store and when they offered this model on sale I had to have it.

Link II Pedal Steel Guitar: I love the sound of pedal steel guitars and have spent years using pedals, B-benders and Bigsbys to imitate their sound. Our friend Wayne Link built some excellent models in his Winnipeg shop -- so we just had to have one. Working as a trio it was very difficult to sit down and try to MC and sing on stage so it has seen limited use.

There are many more guitars -- actually my most-used stage guitars -- on the walls behind the camera man. I move them around occasionally. Re-stringing and tuning is a bit of a full-time job :) Also out of range of the camera are a 5-string banjo, an Australian Didgeridoo (a unique gift from China-Li), Ken Daniels' stand-up dog house bass, Hammond organ, recording devices and decks, upright piano, countless FX pedals, master 2" recording tapes, many keyboard synths, Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, plus countless music books, record albums, and scrapbooks full of photos and clippings . . .


Paixiao - Chinese Pan Pipes: This is the first of a series of Chinese instruments (L-R) that we have collected over the years. It's a very ancient wind instrument that has found renewed popularity in recent times. Some of the types of Chinese instruments on the wall date back thousands of years in Chinese culture.

Bamboo Flute: This wind instrument has been used by Chinese musicians since ancient times. Sue-On's brother Kenny Choy was quite proficient on the instrument during his younger days in Hong Kong. Many of his friends were in music and the arts and some went on to become a well-known actors and directors in Chinese movies.

Hand Drum: This percussion instrument is one of two African instruments scattered among our Chinese collection. It is made of clay and is covered with leather.

Kora - African Harp-Lute: Hanging high in the middle. This heavily decorated instrument is covered in cobra skin and was used in Voodoo Hoodoo witchcraft rituals. My friend since grade one days, Eugene Pirie, taught for years in Africa and explored the whole continent during his teaching breaks. He brought some wonderful African rarities back for us -- including this amazing instrument.

Pipa Lute: This pear-shaped fretted lute is much used all across China. While on a boat cruise on China's West Lake a very talented theatrical singer entertained with songs, while she played the Pipa. During her break we had a long chat with her and I showed her our CD that displays the instrument on our music wall. She was impressed to see that it had found its way to Canada and invited me to play her instrument. I politely declined as it was a stringed instrument I had never mastered.

Ruan Lutes: We have a pair of these stringed instruments hanging on either side ot the African Kora.

Chinese Violins - Erhus: We have three styles of this two-stringed instrument with their accompanying bows. Its history can be dated back to Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago.

Suona - Chinese oboe: This double-reeded brass instrument is sometimes call a Chinese trumpet. Its use in weddings, parades, ceremonies, orchestras, and the military dates back to at least the Ming Dynasty.

Chinese Gong: Just off camera beside the drums is this large gong-shaped cymbal.

Mixed in with the Chinese instruments is an assortment of percussion instruments from other countries.

Photo of the SE Wall of Our Music Studio

Notes ready for expansion into a second 1,000 Words Project

CD 12
Fender Telecaster Thinline Guitar:
Chinese Garden Stool
Epiphone Les Paul Model Guitar
Fender Rhodes Electric Piano
Hammond Organ: Dr. Brockway of BU
Roland Keyboard Synthesizers
Mexican Straw Hat
Digeridoo from Australia: A gift from daughter China-Li
Bohran Drum
Conga Drums
Percussion Strick
Mirror: Roland Synthesizer Bass
Mirror: Guitar
Sue-On's drumsticks of choice: Ludwig 7A
Ludwig Drum Kit from the '60s when Sue-On began.
Standup Snare, Hi-hat, and Ziljian cymbal
Chinese Gong: Drum catalogue ordered a huge Chinese gong for show behind Sue-On. Ordered too late so settled for this much smaller one.
Bass, High Toms and Floor Tom: Caught fire and burned off the vinyl - replace with buckskin
Bass Drumhead: SUE-ON in Chinese style print, promo album sticker, Flags of countries we've toured: Canada, England and USA., Bill and Sue-On Hillman in font style used on one of our albums
Chinese tops ~ Sue-On Jewelry ~ Bill Yin-Yang symbol T-shirt ~ Viet Nam boots (see photo one)
Gretsch '60s Country Club Guitar
Yamaha flat-top acoustic
Fender J-5 Telecaster guitar
4-Channel reel-to-reel tape recorder
1/4" Master Stereo tapes of our albums
2" Master 16 and 24-track tapes for our albums
Stand-up double bass on loan from the Ken Daniels collection
Heinzman Upright Piano handed down from my maternal grandmother

A magazine article from a while back in BRANDON NOW

Bill and Sue-On Hillman surrounded by musical instruments in their home studio.

"Still Making Music After All These Years:
Bill and Sue-On Hillman"
Reprinted in our online music bio

Our Hillman M.A.P.L.E. Series
Music ~ Archive ~ Photos ~ Life ~ Events

Intro | Early Years | 50s Decade | 60s Decade | 70s Decade | 80s and 90s | 21st Century |
 Family | Sue-On | |Travel | 1000words | Music | Gigs
Recordings | UK | RootsRoots2 | Roots3 | Guitar Roots| Impact
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

Photo Gallery for CD10

 Photo Gallery for CD 11

Photo Gallery for CD 12


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