The '80s Decade - Scrapbook II
Country Slickers On Opry North & Big Country Awards Show
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.
SPECIAL OPRY NORTH SHOW FOR COUNTRY
We appeared on the evening show which was televised and edited into
two Specials that were later broadcast numerous times on CBC Network Television.
We performed two originals: One Night Stand and Cajun Stomp and we were
lucky enough to have both songs accepted for the Specials.
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.
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