Hillman CD Album Volume 10
The Brandon Connection
Part I: Hillman Anecdotes ~ Photos
CHAD ALLAN: 1. Anecdotes 2. Interview 3. Discography 4. Reflections 5. Clipping
PHOTOS/SCRAPS: 6. Photos I 7. Photos II 8. Photos III 9. GW Bios Clips 10. GW Degrees
ORIGINALS: 11. Jim Kale 12. Kale/Peterson . . .

Chad Allan (top), Randy, Jim (mid), Gary, Bob (bottom)Chad Allan and the Expressions / Guess Who? from second albumChad Allan with Garry, Randy, Bob and Jim

Crossed-Paths Anecdotes
by Bill Hillman

In the late '50s, the radio ads for a new Winnipeg rock 'n' roll band drew my attention. I had just bought my first electric guitar, a shiny black, Les Paul-shaped instrument with gold fleck and white binding. It was made by the Harmony guitar company for the Simpson's-Sears Company of Canada and was called a Silvertone. Obviously this guitar left an impression on this new group of young musicians led by Chad Allan (Allan Kowbel) as they had named their new group: Allan and the Silvertones.
Silvertone Guitar and Bill Hillman
Bill Hillman
and his Silvertone Guitar
Allan and the Silvertones Business Card
Allan and the Silvertones 
Business Card
Allan Kowbel, Johnny Glowa and Ralph Lavalley: Early Silvertones
Allan Kowbel, Johnny Glowa and 
Ralph Lavalley: Early Silvertones
In 1961 I packed up my ever-present Silvertone and moved to Brandon where I had enrolled in a Bachelor of Science programme at Brandon College. My first years in college in the early '60s were exciting musical times. I was performing in a country band on a daily TV show, a jazz combo, pick-up bands, old-time groups, and various rock bands where I played guitar instrumentals for four hours a night. The manager of one of these rock bands also owned the Brandon Roller Rink which featured some of the top USA touring bands of the day: Ventures, Fireballs, Conway Twitty (when he was a rocker), Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, black blues bands, Bobby Curtola, etc. Through our connections with the manager we got to see and meet them all. There was, however, a local band that consistently drew as well as the American acts: Chad Allan and the Reflections from Winnipeg.

Garry on sax and Chad on drums

For years I had been importing records and magazines from England through friends, relatives and obscure record catalogues: mainly LPs by Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group, and later, Cliff Richard and the Shadows. Strangely, many of the first folk and blues songs and guitar riffs I learned were by way of Donegan who had adapted London library archival blues and folk recordings from America into a music craze that swept England in the '50s.  In these pre-Beatles days very few bands did many vocals so I was on a constant search for good guitar instrumentals. England's Shadows with Hank B. Marvin's unique Stratocaster interpretations fit the bill nicely and provided material that wasn't available to most other guitar players of the time.

Whenever the Chad Allan band came to town however,  I was thrilled to hear that they were tapping many of the same sources I was using for music ideas. They owed much of their stage presentation, sound and show material to the current British music scene and they obviously had a trans-Atlantic pipeline similar to the one I had found. Later I learned that the source of most of their material was through collector extraordinaire, Wayne Russell, whom I would meet many years later when he moved to Brandon to take over the operation of a specialty record store.

Lead player Randy Bachman played a Gretsch similar to the one I used but thanks to an innovative tape delay setup he was able to get authentic Shadows sounds that would make any lead player drool in envy. Drummer Garry Peterson was one of the best drummers I had seen anywhere and bassist Jim Kale livened every show with his onstage antics. In those years it was very hard to mike pianos to get a good sound but the band's sound system made good advantage of Bob Ashley's piano fills.

Singer/rhythm player Chad Allan had a unique voice, somewhat similar to Cliff Richard's in tonal quality. By the time the Beatles phenomenon hit Canada, many Chad Allan fans actually thought that the fab four were imitating the Reflections as the band had been doing Beatles songs with authentic arrangements and harmonies long before they became popular over here. The first time I saw them they were working toward releasing some of their unique stage material on record: A Tribute to Buddy Holly done with a Shadows sound,  a rockin' piano instrumental actually written by Chad and a driving guitar number by Randy that he pieced together from imported British guitar instrumentals: Made In England.  This was big time!

Bill Hillman with Gretsch Nashville Guitar: Early '60sLonnie Donegan - King of SkiffleHank Marvin and the Shadows
Throughout the '60s the Reflections, later to become the Expressions and still later the Guess Who, played Brandon many times in many different venues: the Brandon Roller Rink, the old Brandon Arena, Brandon University Gym, CFB Shilo and probably a few more I've forgotten. I attended most of these shows and along the way developed a passing acquaintance with the guys.

The band was one of the few prairie bands that was successfully releasing records and most of the local fans and musicians were intrigued by this. We looked forward to each new release by them. I remember requesting the same song, show after show - a song which jokingly became known between us as "the one with the shivering minors." (Actually there were no real minor chords in the song but Randy's distinctive use of his Bigsby tremolo gave it a driving minor feel.) It was obvious to me that this song had to be their next recording project: Shakin' All Over. (Listen)

I attended summer school at the University of Manitoba in the summer of '64. One of my courses was Atomic Physics and coincidentally Chad Allan was also taking the course. He mentioned that he, Randy Bachman and Jim Kale were playing downtown every night in the Gold Coach Lounge at the Town and Country nightclub. Garry Peterson wasn't allowed to play with them in the lounge because he was underage but for some reason he was given permission to play in the house band upstairs in the main dinner theatre.

Chad Allan and the Reflections:
Jimmy Kale - Chad Allan - Randy Bachman
Town and Country Lounge - 1964

From then on, too many of my nights were spent in the T&C lounge - time that obviously would have been better spent studying physics and calculus. The music was great and I remember guitar genius Lenny Breau sitting in one night. The audience in this small intimate room was almost as entertaining as the band: brawling Winnipeg Blue Bomber football players, ladies of the night with their sugar daddies, media personalities and radio DJs, musicians, groupies, young and old, rich and poor.

During band breaks night at the T&C I would often make reconnaissance treks over to the nearby Marlborough Hotel lounge to check out the size of the crowd that rival bands such as the Shondells and the Squires, had drawn. I'd listen to a few songs by these groups - and then rush back with my report to the guys and to catch the rest of the shows. The Squires featured another Gretsch player -- a singer with an unusual voice. The guitar player with the unusual voice was actually Neil Young, who later moved to Toronto and on to California where he did quite well.

Chad AllanRandy BachmanJim KaleGarry PetersonBob Ashley
The Original Guess Who
The RickenbackersDuring this summer I was invited over to Chad's parents' house a number of times -- a few times to study physics together, which didn't work out too well as we spent most of our time discussing music. One  night after the lounge closed, Chad and Randy shared the excitement of showing off their new Rickenbacker guitars that had arrived from the States earlier that day. They were a tad disappointed, however, in the instruments . . . and perhaps a little embarrassed. The guitars were supposed to be the same models as the Beatles used but in the hands of hardy Canucks they appeared to be 3/4 size guitars . . . much smaller than what they had expected. Randy obviously felt more comfortable with his big 6120 Gretsch. In fact, he eventually went on to amass one of the world's largest collections of Gretsch guitars. A collection that now is now on display at the Gretsch headquarters in the US.

Randy had admired my Gretsch Nashville Chet Atkins model guitar and when I mentioned that my dad could order them wholesale through his business he asked if I could order him one (Soon after another acquaintance was able to import one for him from the States and we didn't follow through on the venture). Randy's familiarity with my Gretsch served me well, however. The guitar was stolen from me a year later, and sometime after that I got word from Randy that he had recognized the instrument in a Winnipeg Main Street pawn shop. I contacted the RCMP and eventually my guitar was returned... after a year's absence. This early exposure to Gretsch guitars has had a lasting effect. I eventually collected five of them . . . and Randy went on to amass the largest collection of Gretsch models in the world. His collection now makes up the bulk of the guitars hundreds of guitars at the Gretsch Museum.

At the peak of the explosion of teen bands in Winnipeg in the mid-'60s we often drove in from Brandon to play community clubs, arenas and school gyms in the area. Our most memorable gig, however, was on November 16, 1964, when we opened a show for the Everly Brothers, Roger Miller and the Newbeats at the Winnipeg Auditorium. Following our opening set we backed Larry Henley (years later Henley wrote Wind Beneath My Wings) and the Newbeats as they did all their hits. Adding to the thrill of appearing on this show was the satisfaction of seeing all the members of the Chad Allan and the Reflections group seated in the front row of the audience. A month later we started a winter tour as backup band with Canadian pop star, Bobby Curtola - a job that Chad Allan and the Reflections had done a year earlier.

Bill Hillman with the Dovermen On Stage: Winnipeg Auditorium 1964Bill Hillman ~ Warren Hannay ~ DelKeith Dubbin ~ Bobby Curtola
Dovermen Opening for Everly Bros. & Roger Miller ~ On Tour with Bobby Curtola

Chad Allan and the Expressions on tour with Bobby CurtolaChad Allan, Bobby Curtola, Randy Bachman

Chad Allan and the Reflections with Bobby Curtola
Chad Allan and the Reflections On Tour With Bobby Curtola

Chad Allan and Burton CummingsSometime in '65 or '66 Sue-On and I attended one of the band's shows in Brandon, probably at the Brandon University gym. We were invited to their hotel room for an after-show reception where I proudly introduced my fiance to the band. Soon after, on one of my regular visits into Winnipeg to see Sue-On during our forced separation in the winter of '65/'66 we managed to see the band at Transcona's Pink Panther club - a show where Chad and newcomer Burton Cummings shared the spotlight as lead vocalists. This was one of Chad's last performances with the band.

Around this time we attended another of the band's shows in the Brandon Arena in which they shared the bill with an up-and-coming young singer whose main claim to fame at that time was that he had written a song for the Monkees: Neil Diamond.

In the '67/'68 TV season I managed to tape most of the CBC Winnipeg Let's Go shows on my audio reel-to-reel recorder. This collection of shows is a unique time capsule of the mood and hits of the late '60s and it is also an interesting curiosity piece for any Chad Allan and Guess Who fans. By this time Chad had departed from the group but was hired by CBC to host this weekly TV show which showcased the Guess Who as the feature band.

CBC Let's Go Show: Chad Allan and the Guess Who
Let's Go on CBC: Guess Who with Chad Allan as host
In 1968, while we were performing at the Junior Ranks Club at CFB Shilo, the Guess Who came into the club after a CBC-TV taping on the base and jammed with us into the wee hours. Burton played Sue-On's Hohner electric pianet keyboard while Randy played through my Fender Twin Reverb amp. The night got more than a little wild as the guys were in a celebratory mood. In fact, Randy got so carried away with feedback that he blew a speaker in my amp. The band had cause to celebrate as they were preparing to leave in a few days for their first major RCA/Nimbus 9 recording session in New York. Although very excited about this break, the band expressed frustration with producer Jack Richardson's choice of material for the first session. The song drawing most of their ire was a sappy ballad called These Eyes - hardly a fitting debut for a band that wanted to rock the world. They just didn't think that this song would get any airplay, nor was it representative of their style. Richardson won out however, and alas, the single only sold a million copies . . . and launched the band on a wave of success unequalled by any other Canadian group. The band would not return to the Brandon area for another three decades.
Randy Bachman and Chad Allan On StageSilver Record for Shakin'~ Bob Burns - Doc Steen ~ Chad Allan and the Band
We crossed paths with Chad Allan again in the early '70s. Sue-On and I were recording our second album at the original Century 21 Studios on Winnipeg's King Edward Street. Chad had dropped around to check out the studio's new facilities and coincidentally we were recording the old Buddy Holly hit, O Boy, in a rock medley. At just about the time he walked through the door we were recruiting everyone within shouting distance to add a handclap track to the song. This definitely was not one of the most prestigious recording assignments he had ever done, but it was fun. During a break in our session we learned that neither of us had done too well with the Atomic Physics course we had both studied so many years before. But both of us had gone on eventually to earn a number of university degrees -- Chad in psychology and myself in geography, computers and education. Another Guess Who/Bachman sideman, Marc LaFrance - veteran of hundreds of rock albums - played drums on our sixth album.

Hillman Recording Session at Century 21 StudiosBill and Sue-On Hillman: Montana Tour in Early '70sBill and Sue-On Hillman Western Canada Exhibition Tour - Early '70s
Hillmans in the Studio and On the Road in the Early '70s

Younger fans of the Guess Who and even Canadian music historians are often not aware of the tremendous talent possessed by the band's founder, Chad Allan. He was the group's original lead singer and front man, as well as rhythm guitarist, songwriter and sometime pianist. It was Chad who brought in Bob Ashley and Jim Kale from the Jaywalkers, followed by Randy Bachman and then Garry Peterson from the Jurymen. He went on to mold this group of young musicians into Winnipeg's top group.

He displayed a wide range of vocal stylings, handling everything from throaty soft ballads to rave-up, screaming rockers such as the groups first International hit, Shakin' All Over. Unfortunately, Chad didn't stick it out with the group long enough to share the acclaim and riches the group earned in later years. Ironically, he was also a key element in the formation and later success of the band, Brave Belt that also went on to tremendous popularity under the new name, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive. Chad's contributions to these two groups that went on to incredible worldwide popularity can not be over emphasized.

William Frank Kowbel of Winnipeg, MB, passed away on November 18, 2005 in his 90th year. He and his loving wife Anne were together for 58 years. She was also from Winnipeg and predeceased William on February 11, 2000. He is loving remembered by his son Chad Allan and daughter-in-law Christine; sister-in-law Pat Kuzina; brother-in-law Ted Slaneff; and other family members and friends. William and Anne had a clothing store in Winnipeg and also a restaurant in Minaki, ON. Later, William operated a heating and air conditioning firm. William and Anne had retired in Vancouver. Memorial service was held at First Memorial Funeral Services in Vancouver. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Canadian Cancer Society.

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press on November 25, 2005

1987 Winnipeg Rock Band Reunion
Inspired by John Einarson's book: Shakin' All Over

A few of the autographs from the event in the Shakin' All Over book
including those of two original Guess Who members, Chad and Randy:
Chad's dedication is in reference to the Atomic Physics course we both took in 1965 at U of M.
Ron Siwicki Ticket

Reunion Video


CHAD ALLAN: 1. Anecdotes 2. Interview 3. Discography 4. Reflections 5. Clipping
PHOTOS/SCRAPS: 6. Photos I 7. Photos II 8. Photos III 9. GW Bios Clips 10. GW Degrees
ORIGINALS: 11. Jim Kale 12. Kale/Peterson . . .


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