Saturday, August 22, 2009

Scottsville Squirrel Barkers

Da-hang, did I bite off more than I could chew on this post er what. Talk about storied history, It just didn't stop. But it was worth it. I think he deserves it and I'll bet he's tired, hell, I'm tired and all I did was tap a few keys.
Chris Hillman, a third generation Californian, spent his younger days on his family's ranch in Northern San Diego County. Inspired by the folksy records his older sister brought home from college. Whining gets you things, it got Chris a ten dollar Tijuana guitar and from those fiddelings came a fondness for Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe and mandolins.
Impressing the owners of a blue grass guitar shop, Hillman accepted their invitation to join their band, The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, which happened to include a young Bernie Leadon. After a 2 year stint and a newfound reputation as a guitar/mandolin picker, Chris joined the Vern Gosdin led, Golden State Boys. A premier, Southern California bluegrass band. Eight months later the band folded but band manager and producer Jim Dickson remained in contact with Hillman, inviting him down to World Pacific Studios to hear 3 guitar players in Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby. Chris liked what heard but when Dickson invited him to join, it was to play bass. Not one to shy away from opportunity and the fact that he had a rep as a quick study, it's not difficult to pick up on McCartney's influence in Tambourine Man's call and answer bass slide or the rumbling counterpoint bottom riff that opens Eight Miles High. After all, this was America's answer to the Beatles.
When Gene Clark left after the recording of 5-D, Hillman stepped up his duties as singer/songwriter on their next album Younger Than Yesterday with writing contributions on So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star and lead vocals on Have You Seen Her Face.
Time Between brought Clarence White in the fold, regarded by many as the first Country Rock song. The Byrds were now down to two original members; McGuinn and Hillman. Michael Clarke's void was filled with Hillman's cousin, Kevin Kelley and Crosby's with bratty new kid, Graham Parsons, introducing what is often called the birth of Country Rock. With the release of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and with wild hair firmly planted, Parsons left the Byrds shortly there after with Hillman soon in tow joining Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Chris Ethridge as The Flying Burrito Brothers. After the release of their first LP, The Guilded Palace of Sin, Graham Parsons began his residency with Keith Richards in France during the Stones recording of Exile On Main Street.
Parsons, steeped in rich country music heritage, which Keef welcomed with warm embrace, didn't always rub off on people in a positive fashion. But he must have managed to wrangle enough influence for the Stones to turn out a nod to the Burritos with Wild Horses.
While Parson's unraveled, Hillman brought in Bernie Leadon, Rick Roberts and Al Perkins for a final attempt on the album, Last Of The Red Hot Burritos, garnering credit as the best and the last of The Flying Burrito Brothers.
After the FBB suffered a quiet death, Hillman received a phone call from Stephen Stills requesting his presence as second in command in his newest incarnation, Manassas. Creating another opportunity to stretch his songwriting and vocal abilities, he co-authored, among others, the melodic, latin tinged single, It Doesn't Matter. Stills broke up the band after label pressures to re-unite Crosby, Still, Nash and Young and after a short-lived Byrds reunion, David Geffen contacted Chris with the idea of forming another "supergroup" but with songwriter John David Souther and Poco's Richey Furay. While the first record brought critical acclaim, the second was deemed inconsistant and the band, failing to gel musically and personally, went there seperate ways. Hillman hit the studio this time as a solo performer on Asylum Records, releasing 2 albums
Slipping Away and Clear Sailing. While on tour in the UK with his own band Chris happens to run into Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark and before you know it, accepts Roger's invitation to join
McGuinn, Clark and now Hillman, releasing 3 albums on Capital and 2 Top Ten singles. During the 80's Chris Hillman, got together with childhood bud and comrad in bluegrass, Herb Pedersen to pave the way for seven albums and 16 Top Country Hits as The Desert Rose Band.

Generic spin nicked from Wikipeepee
Photo of the Burritos backstage 1969

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