Bill and Sue-On Hillman Rock Roots Series  ::

Back before The Beatles most of the bands I played in were almost totally instrumental groups: horns or pianos/organs or fiddles or folk instruments . . . or guitars. The gigs were mostly 4-hour dance jobs and I was on a constant search for guitar instrumentals. I admired and even met many of the American guitar bands that appeared in the Roller Rink where we worked as the house band: The Ventures, The Fireballs, The Champs, Southern Blues acts, etc. Chad Allan and the Reflections (later became the Guess Who) often appeared and became a real influence because guitarist Randy Bachman played many Shadows numbers using echo and his big Gretsch. 

Alan Jones, a recent recruit from England in another band I played with had a brother, Keith, in England and before long I had regular shipments of Shadows tunes. Manitoba radio stations who had long played Lonnie Donegan records, started to play Cliff Richard and the Shadows hits -- most of which were not know across the rest of North America. I bought a reel-to-reel recorder and soon built up quite a collection of Shadows instruments which became a vital part of my repertoire - a few years later Sue-On and I even recorded Apache for one of our albums. We have recorded 12 albums but much to my regret, for some reason Apache was the only instrumental we put to tape. . .  after we married in 1966 our vocals were our mainstay. 

Luckily my guitar was a Gretsch Nashville and later a Fender Telecaster -- both with a Bigsby tremelo bar. I added to the effects with a DeArmond volume pedal for sustain and later an Echocord echo delay unit. All of these devices made the imitation of Hank Marvin's instrumentals a little easier. We even worked out dance steps to go along with the songs. The Shadows tunes I remember doing included: Apache, Shadoogie, Shindig, It's Been A Blue Day, Man of Mystery, Peace Pipe, Blue Star, Wonderful Land, Theme for Young Lovers, The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt, and I even applied a few of Hanks licks to Ghost Riders, Sleepwalk and many others.

These instrumentals have served us well through the years. When we opened for The Everly Brothers and Roger Miller in the CKY Fall Festival of Stars back in 1964 our opening number was the latest Shadows instrumental -- The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt -- followed with a Stones number, The Kinks' You Really Got Me and a few more current rockers. We then backed The Newbeats on their hits before bringing on Roger Miller and The Everly Brothers.

We met up with Al Jones again in 1976 when he helped us line up a 30-day tour of one nighters in England's Northeast. We found that many in our audiences had fond memories of the Shadows' glory years so we always threw some of their instrumentals into our shows. During our stay in musicians digs in Middlesbrough we had numerous jam sessions with English musicians. Shadows numbers were always a common language in such jams and formed a sort of a special bond between muscians raised on both sides of the Atlantic.

Excerpt from our 50 Years Gig Notes Series
Out of the Shadows 
Hank Marvin and the Shadows were an major influence in the early '60s . . .  we even took on the name SHADOWS in one of our bands for awhile and did all the synchronized steps on stage. This was before we, or most bands, started doing many vocals and I used to play almost four hours of guitar instrumentals every night for our dance gigs. Bandmate Alan Jones' brother Keith faithfully sent me Shadows LPs and 45s-- a great source for guitar instrumentals that not many bands were doing at the time. In fact a few years later, Sue-On and I recorded "Apache" on our second album. We always included at least one Shadows number in our UK tour shows and they were always very popular. It was a great thrill -- and somewhat of a disappointment -- when we saw Jet Harris, a former Shadow, at the Fiesta Club in Stockton during one of our UK tours. But that's another story :)  

My Favourite Guitars Series: The Fender Stratocaster
Excerpt: Hillman Guitars: Stratocaster
Since its official debut in early 1954 the Fender Stratocaster has proven to be one of  the most successful, most influential and most cloned electric guitars ever manufactured. My blue Strat was another of Sue-Onís surprise Xmas gifts and it made our first Brandon Christmas away from our country home a memorable one. One of my first guitar heroes was Hank Marvin of Englandís Shadows. I have always been intrigued by his red Strat, but since Sue-On knows that blue is my favourite colour, blue is what I got.

Back in the fifties, I was introduced to many forms of American Blues in a very roundabout way. I became obsessed with the skiffle music of Lonnie Donegan and set up many pipelines through which I could import his records. I expanded upon these contacts I had made in England and was soon importing the records of Cliff Richard - Englandís 'Elvis.' This led me into the world of the Shadows, Cliffís backup group, featuring bespeckled Hank Marvin. Since there was a tremendous demand for instrumentals in the groups I worked with, the sounds created by Hank's Strat were soon being imitated by a red-haired, black-hornrimmed, Gretsch-playing Canadian. It was to be thirty years before I could  try out these songs on a Strat.


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Bill and Sue-On Hillman