England's Desperado

See the Hillman / UK Connection

The selections on this album were recorded in Durham during the duo's third tour of England. Bill and Sue-On are backed on this, their ninth album, by DESPERADO, a top English show group which has been thrilling British audiences for years.  This exciting package features the songs performed on stage during the Hillmans' overseas stage shows and includes seven original compositions -- five by Bill and two by DESPERADO.

 In order to embark upon the full-time musical career of which this album marks the recording debut, the members of DESPERADO have had to give up very lucrative occupations including engineer, electrician, teacher, public servant, draftsman and scaffolder.

All the band members have about 15 years experience as semi-professional musicians, having worked with a long line of bands with a wide range of styles. These bands have featured a colourful array of names such as: Inner Vision, Steve Brown Soul Set, Memphis, Tramline, Cycle, Candlelight Four, and numerous Paul Rodgers groups before he moved on to Free and Bad Company fame.

The inspiration for the Hillman performances comes from years of television, stage and radio work, award shows, tours of American county and state fairs, Canadian grandstand shows, three tours of Great Britain, and tours of northern Canada, military bases, prairie dance halls, arenas, clubs and high schools. The act is truly an international one, having been recorded in Newcastle, Durham and London, England as well as Winnipeg, Canada. In fact, over the years, the group has become Canadian ambassadors of sorts, having performed with top-name artists all over Britain, America and Canada.

The band's stage show runs the gamut from ballads, folk and gospel to country, pop and rock. So now . . .  sit back for three-quarters of an hour and sample the unique and truly entertaining sound of Bill and Sue-On Hillman -- recent winners of the M.A.C.A. top ENTERTAINERS OF THE YEAR AWARD.


1. YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE (Joe Brooks)
2. PROMISED LAND (Chuck Berry)
4. NEEDLES AND PINS (Nitzsche/Bono)
5. TAKE IT EASY (Jackson Brown/Glenn Frey
6. I REALLY DON'T WANT TO KNOW (Barnes/Robertson)
    JOHNNY B. GOOD (Chuck Berry)


1. LADY LUCK (Desperado)
2. SAIL ON 747 (Bill Hillman)
3. FREEDOM TRILOGY (Trad.Arr. Bill Hillman)
4. THE JOKER (Desperado)
5. SUMMERTIME  (Gershwin/Heyward)
6. REELIN' IN SOHO (Bill Hillman)
7. HOLD ME DARLING (Bill Hillman)
8. DISCO STOMP (Bill Hillman)


(All Selections Published by Maple Grove Music ~ PRO/SOCAN)
(Words and Music by Bill Hillman)

Warm summer night in a green Bromley garden
Done thirty nights of singin' -- runnin' 'round ole England
Picking out the songs to lay down tomorrow
Songs about lovin' -- leavin' -- and sorrow

Monday morning moving into Bromley Station
Munchin' fish and chips wrapped in the news of the nation
A Charing Cross stop and then we're out to Trafalgar
Humpin' piano and draggin' a guitar

Rockin' and rolling and reeling to Soho
Boogie Woogie Woogie into London Town
Rockin' and rolling and reeling in Soho
Boogie Woogie Woogie till we get back home

Huff and puff and shove to where the lions and pigeons stand
Wave and jump and whistle -- callin' for a cabbie man
Cabbie man don't understand or talk Canadian
Drive around in circles takin' every street he can

Later in the morning we're reeling in Soho
Rocking a studio -- ten feet down below
People on the street are dancing, pushing and shoving
Listening to the band a reelin' and rocking

(Words and Music by Desperado)

Walking down the dusty road
On my mind a heavy load
Lady Luck don't ever shine on me
Golden opportunities
Thoughts and dreams  of what might be
Lady Luck don't ever shine on me

It takes more than a trick
To make yourself rich in this town
And the man at the table says
You're playin' it oh so cool
He said, "Lay your money down
A fortune's comin' 'round
Never let the game beat you."

A steady line of one-bit wins
Ease my mind so I begin to
Lay down dollars like I was layin' whores
Then the big one this was it
Ten thousand dollars on a red card hit
Lady Luck don't ever shine on me


(Words and Music by Bill Hillman)

Ja Ja got a transfer
Not what he asked for
They shipped him down to Louisian'
Bye bye to New York City
Oo ain't that a pity
Ja Ja was a macho man

Ja Ja said, "What? No!"
"Ain't no Disco!"
How'm I gonna get it on
Then Ja Ja met a honey
She said, "Y'all talk funny."
And she took him to the place of action

Now it's Bye Bye -- Bye Bye
Bye to Regine and '54
Bye Bye -- Bye Bye -- Bye Bye Bye
Ain't gonna disco no more

Then a country Cajun band
Jumped up on the stand
Playin' fiddles and squeeze box songs
With a granny on a crowbar
Two cousins on the guitar
Poor Ja Ja said, "I don't belong!"

"I don't see no lights!"
I don't see no tights!"
"Ain't no floor to do my boogie on!"
He sat in a glower
Big-city wallflower
Till they passed the swamp jug around

He took one sip
It hit him on the lip
And it burned down to his heels
He fell down -- hit the ground
Jumped up and spun around
Stomped and shouted, "Aaaaaheeeee!"

(Words and Music by Desperado)

Hanging 'round street corners, 
begging for quarters, that's me
I ain't in no hurry -- 
I ain't got no money you see
I'm just hanging 'round
I'm the joke of the town
I seem everyone's clown you see
I'm the Joker -- I'm the Joker
The Joker is me

Well I'm just standing here 
watching the people go by
They don't seem to care that 
someone like me might live or die
You know that it's true
I know that I'm through
But what can I do  -- You see

Small town talk it got to me
It burned my soul so easily
Then you came into my life
And now I'm walking tall you see
They're the Jokers -- 
They're the Jokers
So blind they couldn't see

Driving down highways, 
no troubles or worries, I'm free
I look at the crowd 
with their heads in the ground and I see
That I'm on my way -- 
and I'll get there someday
And when I do, there I'll stay, you'll see
There's a Joker -- 
There's a Joker
But you know it's not me
You know it's not me -- 
You know it's not me

(Words and Music by Bill Hillman)

Sail on mighty 747 Sail on, sail on
Sail away to Manitoba sunshine (Repeat)
Bobbin' around - city to town England shore to shore
Boogie Woogie Rock - Tutti Frutti Bop
They always shout for more

But there comes a time for home fires
Prairie skies and nights
Wheatfields far horizons
Far off farmhouse lights

Newcastle Brown Ale - North Sea gales
Wee cars and Geordie cowboys
Football - Housie - Telly and sweet tea
Blackpool's grown-up toys

(Words and Music by Bill Hillman)

Please hold me darling
I don't feel like crying tonight
Tears are for lonesome times
So hold me darling
Your arms are my shelter tonight
Lovin's so right with you

Fighting the flame
But now we've lost
Playing the game
And paying the cost
We've tried for so long
To survive these nights
But love can't be wrong
When it feels so right

(Trad. Arrangement by Bill Hillman)

No more Auction Block for me
No more, no more
No more Auction Block for me
Many thousand gone

No more driver's lash for me
No more, no more
No more driver's lash for me
Many thousand gone

He was a friend of mine
He was a friend of mine
He died for love and freedom
He died a million times
He was a friend of mine

He died on Freedom Road
He died on Freedom Road
Spent a long time a travellin'
Travellin' here below
He died on Freedom Road

Words and Music by Desperado ~ Album No. 9 | CD 10
Vocals by Bill & Sue-On

You don't look at me like you used to do Babe
You don't say the things you used to say
We don't seem to talk like we used to do Babe
Does it really matter anyway?

Is this the end of the line
Is there nothing left to be said
Do we forget the past, what's gone between
Just look straight ahead...or should we...

Try... to bring back the good times
Try... to forget all the bad
I ...just wish we could start again
And bring back the good times And all the magic they had

Is there any point in this rescue operation
Is there any meaning to this song
Should we call it quits no obligations
Just turn our backs and say so-long

I just can't believe it's over
Won't you tell me you've changed your mind
O Baby, O Baby,
Don't leave this thing behind...why can't we... (Chorus)

You don't know how much that I'm gonna miss you
Miss the things you do and the things you say
It's gonna be so hard for me just to get through
Do we have to say goodbye this way

This is the end of the line
There is nothing left to say
You've forgot the past and what's gone between
You'll walk out anyway...you just won't...


Bill Hillman ~ Vocals and Guitar
Sue-On Hillman ~ Vocals and Drums
Kevin Pahl ~ Vocals and Keyboards
Alun Edwards ~ Vocals, Congas and Percussion
Mick Sandbrook ~ Vocals and Bass
John Whittingham ~ Vocals and Guitar
Colon Bradley ~ Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards
Paul Druckers ~ Drums



This is a Rock-a-Billy flavoured song. My first exposure to rock 'n' roll was through the Memphis Sun Records artists: Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis - The excitement generated by these early rockers has been a major musical influence.

The idea for the song came during a long wait at London's Heathrow Airport during a work-to-rule strike. Sue-On was pregnant with our first child, Ja-On, and we perhaps were a little nostalgic and homesick after having toured for seven weeks in a foreign land. It had been a very successful tour highlighted by the recording of five sides in a London studio, but we have always been 'homebodies,' - a defence, I guess, from the craziness of the road. 

It was approaching harvest time on the prairies and we were looking forward to experiencing our unique fall rituals and even seeing the stubble fires which light up the night skies on every horizon. We had loved the experience of this, our first tour of England - the Newcastle Brown Ale, the ocean, the history, the Geordies, football, housie, BBC, Blackpool...everything - but it was time for homefires.

The song was recorded three years later at Guardian Studios in northern England. This 24-track studio is set up in two adjacent row houses on High Street, in the tiny village of Pity Me, just outside the beautiful, historic City of Durham. The studio was a labour of love and brain child of owner/engineer Terry Gavaghan who saw it as a means of getting 'off the road' while still staying in the music industry. He invested the money he had saved touring as lead guitarist for the Carpenters - here in this quaint little Yorkshire village. This choice of locale was perhaps not as unusual as it might first appear as England's Northeast is saturated with clubs and musicians.

We later performed Sail On at the Manitoba Association of Country Artists (MACA) Awards ceremonies where we were backed by a large stage band complete with fully-charted arrangements - quite a contrast to the small combo approach we took on the record.

U of M Radio ~ UMFM 101.5 FM
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Welcome back to MY GENERATION - I'm your host, John Einarson.
Happy Manitoba Day! 

Speaking of Manitoba, I'm thrilled to be able to play this song because it certainly name checks Manitoba. It's the idea of coming back to Manitoba after you've been on a 7-week tour of the UK and you want to come back to Manitoba because you miss it so much. 

This song was conceived with that in mind by two artists who are legends in Manitoba and certainly in WestMan. They are huge. . .huge. They should be in the Order of Manitoba, I think, as well.

This is Bill and Sue-On Hillman, and it's a very rock-a-billy sounding song, but it was written after a tour in the UK of 7 weeks. Then, a couple of years later they were back in the UK and they recorded it. . . actually in a village called PITY ME and I love that name. . . just outside of Durham at a recording studio there (Guardian Studios). 

They were backed by a band called DESPERADO, who were an English showband, but the guitar player in that band went on to play in Dire Straits, which is pretty impressive stuff.
(actually our keyboard sideman Alan Clark: synths, strings, clavinet, acoustic and electric pianos - the original guitarist in Desperado was Paul Rodgers who had left the band much earlier to make it in London ~ wh)

This song called SAIL ON 747 was actually played by Bill and Sue-On at the Manitoba Association of Country Artists Awards Show. . . and I think it's just a great, great tune. 

Here we go with Bill and Sue-On Hillman and SAIL ON 747.
. . .
That's Bill and Sue-On Hillman from Brandon, Manitoba and SAIL ON 747. I love the Manitoba sentiment in that song. The only artist I can think to follow that would be Chad Allan.

I know that Bill and Sue-On are big Chad Allan fans and it seems appropriate to follow their great song with another great song. . .  a Guess Who song with Chad Allan on vocals . . . and yes folks, there was a Guess Who before Burton Cummings.

John Einarson
Musician, Educator, Broadcaster, Music Historian and Author



This effort was the culmination of a joint international project. We spent a week in Durham's Guardian Studios with Desperado, a Middlesbrough-based English show band. After pooling our efforts on the backing tracks, we each did our own version of the final vocals and mix. The result was that they had songs to release as singles and we had enough originals and covers for a complete album. I felt that we needed synth arrangements and since our regular keyboard player, Kevin Pahl, couldn't accompany us on this third tour, I hired one of the musicians whom we had met in the local clubs. He did a fantastic job for us and we really weren't too surprised when we learned five months later that he had joined Mark Knopler's Dire Straits as a regular.

Desperado was comprised of Alun Edwards (vocals, congas, percussion), Mick Sandbrook (vocals, bass), John Whittingham (vocals, guitar), Colon Bradley (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Paul Duckers (drums) - all from the Middlesbrough, County Cleveland area. Paul Rodgers of Bad Company had come out of this group a few years before.

It was while recording the vocal tracks for this song that we were drawn into the realm of the supernatural. The hour was late - around midnight at Guardian Studios, Pity Me - the bed tracks were in the can, and we had just removed the drums from the isolation cubicle which was to double as my vocal booth. Sue-On had gone across the street to make a telephone call while Terry, Alan and Mick sat staring at me through the control room glass, waiting for me to sing along with the backing tracks of Lady Luck. Part way into the song there was a brilliant flash of light around me and someone turned off the 24-track recorder. 

Wondering what the problem was, I looked inquisitively toward the guys at the console. They had strange looks on their faces and I heard Terry's voice over the cans, directing me to come in. My first thought was that something had happened to destroy the master tape. Terry phoned his neighbour friend while I tried to get Mick to tell me what had happened. The neighbour rushed in saying, "She's back!???"

All three in the control room had seen a brilliant light radiating from a negative image of a small person standing close to me. Terry explained that years ago a young girl who lived here in this row house, the one that he had converted into his studio, had run out into the path of a lorry and had been struck down. They carried her into this room and had laid her dying body on a sofa in the same area as the vocal booth. 

The ghostly image of this girl has appeared frequently, usually in conjunction with some calamity - in this case her visit must have been brought about by my singing. Stories about the 'ghost' (Guardian Angel?) abound and her picture is displayed in the pub down the street. I suggested to Terry that he should include the story in his advertising, but he seemed very reluctant - in fact, he was afraid it would drive away business. I saw no ghost but I did see a brilliant light...and the shocked and frightened looks on my cohorts' faces.


We based this song on some old folk music themes. Previous to the recording session we had done the number as an acoustic-backed duet - usually at folk concerts or for small gatherings. Thanks to Alan Clark's synth arrangements and the temptation to do layered vocal overdubs, the finished recording differed considerably from our stage version.


Reelin' in Soho is an account of our first recording session in London, England. As suggested in the first verse, this was the culmination of a tour in which we - The Hillmans From Canada - had played 30 one-nighters in night clubs and discos across Northern England. Many nights found us in the ubiquitous Workingman Clubs where a house band opened at 7:00 pm, followed by opening acts which usually offered variety entertainment. 

We would then come on for a show set, after which there would be a long break for housie (bingo) - a national addiction. After this exciting gambling break we would return for a dance set - but by 11:00 pm the dancers would call it a night since they had to work the next day. Being so used to the long drives, long gigs and late nights back in Canada, it was hard for us to wind down so suddenly and every night found us driving around looking for some place which might still be open - we met some very colourful characters on these midnight rambles. 

The audiences attended these clubs every night of the week and had seen it all, so it was especially rewarding to 'go down a bomb'...to 'bomb' has a different connotation there than it does in North America. It was tremendously exciting to study the dressing room walls which were festooned with pictures, cards and stickers left by previous entertainers - even the Beatles, early in their careers, had toured this circuit. These backstage walls were seldom refurbished since it seemed that the more 'name' acts displayed, the more prestigious the club. Perhaps the most fascinating venues though, were the Country and Western Clubs where nearly everyone showed up in full Western regalia - including boots, hats, gunbelts...and western drawls - Geordie cowboys.

Our strangest and perhaps most memorable night occurred at Scarth - a village in Yorkshire. Throughout the tour, we spent most mornings and afternoons being tourists - traipsing through castles, cathedrals, and pubs and across highlands and moors. Scarth, however, offered a special reward because it is home to Alf Wight, aka James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small fame.

We visited his veterinary office and toured his small museum just down the street. Fittingly, the club we were to play was on the outskirts of town surrounded by a meadow or cow pasture. It was a 1920s pavilion-style hall. 

Our opening act for the night arrived late - surrounded by an entourage of people in formal wear. He was a singer who had been married just a few hours before in Newcastle. This set the mood for the whole evening - the place seemed to explode and although the club should have been emptied by 11:00, the management barred the doors to keep out the local constabulary and the party continued into the wee hours. 

When Sue-On wearied of the drums, a succession of people - our agent, the bartender and even the groom - took control of the sticks. Something right out of the fictional Darrowby.


This ballad is just an old-fashioned country love song I wrote to show off Sue-On's gutsy emotional delivery. It came out of the Durham/Pity Me sessions with Desperado. Their drummer had some trouble with the country 3/4 rhythm so Sue-On moved into the drum booth to do the drums - nothing new for her as she has done drums on about half our records. 

The curious thing about the studio drums is that they had been purchased in England from the estate of the late Keith Moon of The Who. The studio owner had been a buddy of Moon's and shared many stories of their antics around London. The studio piano also had some claim to fame, being the French upright used on Elton John's Honky Chateau album... Oh, the stories they could tell.

Hold Me Darlin' first appeared on Album 9 - On Stage in England. In answer to DJ response we later released it as a single. 


I wrote this one just near the tail end of the Disco phenomenon - in fact, the original title was Disco Stomp, but I have adopted the subtitle since the Disco fad mercifully has fallen from favour (even though live DJs with their dead music have survived and have greatly reduced the number of venues for live bands).

Since Sue-On and I had just backed Barry Forman on two fiddle albums and we had just finished an album of our own Cajun songs, it seemed natural to combine all these influences. The song has a "what if...?" premise - what if a John Travolta-type denizen of Regine's and Club 54 were transferred from the New York disco scene to a backwoods, bayou town in Louisiana?

While writing this I repeated the hook "Bye Bye" so often that it found its way into our toddler-son Ja-On's vocabulary. For months, the last words we heard as we left to play nightly gigs were "Bye Bye Da Da". His constant input on this one was such that I just had to use his name in christening the song's main character.

Curiously, despite the Cajun theme and all the Cajun-style music we have done, this song features no fiddle. We recorded it in Durham with the English show band, Desperado and there was a shortage of fiddlers in the area. However, later in this session we did attempt a 5-string banjo imitation on a synth for the Eagles song Take It Easy - but that's another story. 

(Album No. 9 Out Take ~ Released later as a single)

This song has a complicated genealogy. We recorded the bed tracks with Alan Clark (later of Dire Straits) and the writers, Desperado, during our third tour of England, but we did not have time to complete the vocals before we flew home. 

Due to luggage restrictions, we left the two-inch masters in England so they had to be brought over a year later when bassist Mick Sandbrook and his wife Margaret visited us in Canada. We added vocal tracks in Winnipeg's Century 21 A-Studio, mixed it at the B-Studio, and sent it to Edmonton for a Dolby fix. 

At this point we realized that the song was too long for single release, so we went into the editing studio with John Hildebrand to razor blade cut a verse and chorus out of the 1/4-inch master tape. John was a master at this, having done many similar edits on the K-Tel TV records. 

The shortened version was mastered and pressed at Columbia Records in Toronto. The single received good airplay and the since the song has never appeared on our albums, we felt it would make a suitable finale for our first all-original CD and digital tape release.


Lead and Back-up Vocals: Bill and Sue-On Hillman
Back-up Harmonies: Desperado
Lead and Rhythm Guitars: Bill Hillman ~ John Whittingham ~ Colon Bradley
Bass: Mick Sandbrook
Drums: Paul Duckers and Sue-On Hillman
Keyboards and String Arrangements: Alan Clark (Dire Straits)
Engineering: Terry Gavaghan
Studio: Guardian Studios, Durham (Pity Me), County Durham, England


Associate Producer: Mick Sandbrook
Photography: Bill & Sue-On Hillman ~ Terrence Fowler ~ Keith Jones ~ Margaret Sandbrook
Album Concept and Cover Design: Bill Hillman

Borrow-Hunter Enterprises
33 Borough Road
Middlesbrough, County Cleveland, England

Bardine Productions
Drawer T
Amboy, Washington  98601 USA

Maple Grove Productions
Box 280
Strathclair, Manitoba, Canada
R0J 2C0

This album is dedicated to Michael and Margaret Sandbrook who made the whole project possible

Desperado Promo PhotoSecond Single from the Album: Hold Me Darling
Pre-Recording Rehearsal with DesperadoPre-Recording Rehearsal with Desperado
Bill, Sue-On, Ja-On, Engineer Terry at Guardian BoardBill at Guardian Studios in Pity MeSue-On, Ja-On in Pity MeBill in Pity Me Telephone Kiosk
Bill on stage with England's DesperadoBill and Sue-On with Desperado at English Barn Dance/Barbeque
Desperado on Stage

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