Maple Grove Records


Back Cover Liner Notes
Bill and Sue-On Hillman Album No. 4Bill and Sue-On Hillman are certainly no strangers to the prairie music scene. They have spent many successful summers as a feature act with Bardine Productions of Portland, Oregon, headlining Grandstand Shows at Canadian Exhibitions and Western USA State and County fairs. For six years previous to this they performed as a back-up band and feature act on the Russ Gurr Federal Grain Train Show -- performing at every major fair and rodeo in Western Canada.

Sue-On is a rarity -- and oriental girl drummer with dynamite stage presence, knockout good looks and a unique sensuous voice equally adept with tender love ballads or driving show stoppers. Sue-On was born in southern China but fled with her family to Hong Kong during the Communist Revolution. Later, she moved to the small prairie town of Newdale, Manitoba. Here she became involved in choir work and completed seven years of classical training on piano. It was also here that she met future husband Bill Hillman of nearby Strathclair who encouraged her to take up guitar and drums and to start singing professionally. This diverse background has produced a style and talent which is unique to this oriental beauty.

Bill, a master of unusual guitar effects, writes, arranges, and produces the duo's recordings. He has turned out five Bill and Sue-On Hillman albums as well as being actively involved in session work and production assignments with other Western Canada recording groups. Born and raised on a farm near Strathclair, Manitoba, he became involved with band and TV work while attending university. During this period he appeared on daily and weekly TV shows for five years, toured with Bobby Curtola, and appeared with such artists as The Everly Brothers, Roger Miller, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, and The Newbeats. He has written a wide variety of material including Cajun, oriental love songs, ballads, rock, C?W, MOR, folk and gospel songs. Bill is very active in all areas of show business and has one of Canada's largest tape and record collections of Old Radio Nostalgia from the '30s, '40s, and '50s (well over 10,000 shows).

The third member of The Western Union team is long-time friend and partner, Barry Forman of Rivers. Besides providing solid backing on electric bass and a variety of other instruments, he has delighted audiences with Cajun, Old Time, and Rock sounds on his famous blue electric fiddle.

The Western Union road show is further strengthened by keyboard whiz Kevin Pahl of Strathclair. Besides his musical contribution, Kevin -- a commercial pilot -- is responsible for flying the group to more distant engagements. 

Bill and Sue-On, who hold University Degrees in Arts, Science and Education, both teach high school music, drama, and geography during the winter months. Between teaching duties they have performed at just about every major function and showplace in Western Canada and the US. They are equally at ease in a concert situation, a teen or old time dance, convention or political rally, armed forces base, rodeo, or a TV or recording studio. Their variety of interests, their unique backgrounds, and their exposure to, and love for, all types of music, have resulted in an exciting style which has combined elements of country, rock, folk, pop, and oriental music. Their special brand of music is performed with an excitement which has never failed to capture the undivided attention of their audiences.

1. Muddy Mississippi Line (B. Goldsboro)
2. Let It Be Me (Curtis-Becaud)
3. Mama Tried (Merle Haggard)
4. The French Song (Pease-Vincent)
5. 24 Hours From Tulsa (B. Bacharach-H. David)
6a. Sweet Dreams (Don Gibson)
6b. Born To Lose (F. Brown)
7. Apache (Jerry Lordan)
8. Somewhere My Love (Maurice Jarre)

1. You Were On My Mind (Ian and Sylvia Tyson)
2. Kentuckian Song
3. '50s Rock Medley:
    Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Williams-David)
    I'm Walkin' (D. Bartholomew - Antoine "Fats" Domino)
    Oh Boy! (Tilghman-West-Petty)
4. Help Me Make It Through the Night (Kris Kristofferson)
5. Down In The Boondocks (Joe South)
6. The Green, Green Grass of Home (C. Putnam)
7. Put Your Hand In The Hand (Gene MacLellan)

All lead and back-up vocals by Bill and Sue-On
All lead and rhythm guitars by Bill Hillman
Percussion by Sue-On Hillman
Bass and Fiddle by Barry Forman
With Guest Artists:
Larry Clark ~ Piano, Organ, and Vibes
Ted Paley ~ Drums

Engineered by John Hildebrand, Harry Hildebrand and Colin Bennett at 
Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Arrangements by Bill Hillman and Larry Clark
Production and Jacket Design by Bill Hillman
Photography by Bill Hillman and Terrence J. Fowler, Brandon, MB

For information concerning personal appearances and other recordings contact:
Bill and Sue-On Hillman
Maple Grove Music
Box 280
Strathclair, Manitoba, Canada
R7A 6M4

Album No. 4 actually came out a short time after No. 5 but since it was mainly a compilation of all the Hillman solos from previous efforts we decided to give the higher number to the 14 Originals album on which all songs were written by Bill. The design of No. 4 set the mold for the look of most of our future albums. We put an airbrushed black border around four studio photos, used the logo of our newly-formed record/production company, and displayed many candid photos in a filmstrip along the side of the back cover liner notes and credits.

Bill and Sue-On Hillman Album No. 4 ~ Back cover film strip

Starting with Album Volume 4, most of our albums featured a filmstrip which served as a sort of time capsule to capture some of our activities and interests at that particular place in time. 

Frame 1: We used the top frame of this debut strip to unveil our new record company logo and name: Maple Grove Records. Maple Grove has been the name of our family farm since my great-grandfather first homesteaded it back in 1878. The logo features a Canadian maple leaf set in a concentrically grooved disc which represents a record. 

Frame 2: This frame is an oblique aerial photo of Maple Grove. It is actually a photo I took of the framed painted-photo taken in the mid-'50s, which is still displayed in our home. After Sue-On and I moved into the house we worked for 25 years at making it our dream home -- doing most of the work ourselves. We cocooned the original brick structure with modern additions on four sides: a 50-foot solarium with waterfall, a two-storey, cedar-lined front room with cathedral ceiling and spiral staircase, an oak panelled den and library with adjoining bathroom and garage, and a media room with spiral staircase leading to a master bedroom with walk-in closets and a stacks area for storage of our magazine and comics collections. We converted the basement into a games room and practise recording studio.

Frame 3: Bill working at the 16 track mixing board of the new Century 21 studio.

Frame 4: Sue-On playing drums on one of our many CKX-TV shows. She is wearing one of the many imported East Indian velvet, embroidered tops that we often wore on stage in the late '60s through early '70s. 

Frame 5: A shot of Sue-On and the Western Union on an evening grandstand stage during our 1974 tour of NW USA county and state fairs and rodeos: Sue-On drums, Bill guitar, and Barry Forman bass and fiddle. We were the featured act on the Bardine Productions variety grandstand circuit. Other performers included country singers Jeannie C. Riley, Charlie Louvin and Hee-Haw's Archie Campbell as well as many international variety/ vaudeville acts. We revelled in the backstage stories of the Opry, escapades of early country stars, Bob Hope military tours, Ed Sullivan performances, Marx Brothers and experiences in the last days of vaudeville, Vegas, etc.

Frame 6: Sue-On overlooking the Century 21 board during one of our mixing sessions.

Frame 7: Bill and Sue-On in front of the television cameras on a television set.

Frame 8: A Bill and Sue-On photo taken at Maple Grove and first used on Album No. 3

Frame 9: Barry, Sue-On and Bill relaxing behind the cameras during a television taping.

Frame 10: Bill, Barry and Sue-On on the Federal Grain Train outdoor portable stage during a summer tour of Western Canada Exhibitions. Russ Gurr is shown sitting beside Sue-On with Jake Kroeger and Kerry Morris standing on the stage behind.

Frame 11: A symbolic roadsign pose taken outside Sue-On's Canadian hometown, Newdale. The sign reads: Strathclair (Bill's hometown) and Rivers (Barry's hometown). We had originally planned to use this as a cover shot but the colours and focus didn't turn out right.

Bill and Sue-On Hillman Album No. 4The candid photos on the cover give some indication of what a busy year 1974 had been. After many summer tours with Russ Gurr's Federal Grain Train show, followed by a year of exhibition shows for Treflan Chemicals, we were invited by Bardine Productions of the USA to audition for the NW USA Grandstand circuit. We did well, beating out many Nashville acts and the Bardines took over management of our American appearances. Through them we also obtained William Morris Agency representation. We immediately told the Bardines that we planned to increase the size of the band to come up with a bigger show, but they returned with a flurry of personal letters insisting that the act stay as a trio. Among the reasons they cited was the problem of obtaining work visas and clearances with the American Musician Union, as well as the danger of bringing in a different act than that seen by the Fair Boards who had booked us. We had to prove to the Unions that we were offering an act that was totally unique and different from anything American bands could offer. A singing Chinese girl drummer and recording / television performer seemed to fit the bill and we got our visas.

Cindy and Charlie Bardine were show business veterans who had worked the closing days of vaudeville and who had been immersed in all facets of show business throughout the 20th Century. They took us under their wing and offered invaluable show biz advice. Everything from stage entrances/exits and how to milk applause and encores, to costumes, and to surviving on the road as a family unit . . . and how to depend on and look to your mate for support and friendship in the crazy and often stressful and lonely life "on the road."

Album No. 4 was a way of collecting all of our songs - 18 titles - from the previous albums (we included no songs from album no. 1), all tied up in a nice promotional package. 1974/1975 presented us with a major career decision: go on the road full time and put everything into a music career . . . or stick with our secure roots in Maple Grove and continue on with careers as high school teachers and weekend / summertime musicians.

I retired from 30 years of high school teaching -- in the same school -- in 1997, to move on to work as a professor at the Faculty of Education in Brandon University.

February 24, 2012 - CJNU
Surf's up again and good evening.
This is Music from the North Shore on CJNU Nostalgia Radio.
I'm your host Greg Gardner and I've got the usual . . . or maybe the unusual eclectic mixture of oldies.
We're going to start things off with a Manitoba artist
This is Brandon's own Bill Hillman and his version of the classic APACHE.


EXTRO: Bill Hillman -- Thankyou Bill -- that was great . . . excellent version of APACHE and it fits right in with the surf's up concept.

Sue-On and I recorded APACHE -- the number that Greg opened this show with --  in 1971 in the first Century 21 studios on King Edward.
* This was the only session in which we featured a guitar instrumental. I put the solos on the back burner, partly because guitar instrumentals are so exacting, and partly because my dream had been to someday record an entire guitar instrumental album.
* I chose Apache for this, our first guitar solo on a multi-track session, as it was one that I hadn't been able to do well on stage because of our trio instrumentation. But now, in the studio I could overdub all guitar parts: a couple acoustic rhythms (Gibson and a Fender Malibu in Nashville Hi-Bass tuning) and  and two lead parts.
* By this time I had customized my Telecaster by adding a Bigsby, homemade B-Bender and re-wired pickups. I played through a DeArmond volume/tone pedal, into an Echochord tape delay echo unit and through a Fender Twin Reverb amp.
* The arrangement I came up with on this Jerry Lordan instrumental was about three equal parts of Jorgen Ingman and Shadows versions, with my own riffs using the B-bender and volume pedal. The late Barry Forman was on bass and Sue-On and Ted Paley shared the drums/percussion. Uncle Smokey, Larry Clark, added a subtle Hammond fill.

Typical newspaper ad from NW USA tour 1974Brandon Sun, Thursday, June 6, 1974: Report on William Morris contract

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