Chris Hillman Biography


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Birth Name: Christopher Hillman
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California.
Years Active: 1960 - Present
Genres: Folk, Bluegrass, Folk Rock, Rock, Country Rock, Country


Christopher Hillman was born December 4, 1944 in Los Angeles, California and is probably most remembered as one of the original members of The Byrds. Despite his Byrds fame, Hillman has contributed over forty-five years of music to audiences, and was instrumental in the development of country rock; virtually defining the genre through his seminal work in The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and later, the country rock act Desert Rose Band. Hillman spent his childhood growing up on his family's ranch in rural North San Diego County, credits his older sister for igniting his interest in country and folk music. Hillman's mother also played a role in the development of his musical interests by encouraging him and buying his first guitar for him. Hillman's love for country and rock music expanded to bluegrass, when at fifteen years of age, Hillman went to Los Angeles to see legendary bluegrass band the Kentucky Colonels perform. Shortly thereafter, Hillman took to playing the mandolin.

Hillman later moved to San Diego and became well-known in the folk music community and quickly became part of the band, Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. The band lasted barely two years and only recorded one album, “Blue Grass Favorites.” Next Hillman played with the Golden State Boys, featuring future country star Vern Gosdin, who changed their name to “The Hillmen.” At this point Hillman became frustrated with the direction of his music and decided quitting music altogether when he got an offer to join the band, The Byrds. The Byrds' first single, a jangly cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", was a huge international hit and marked the birth of the musical genre "folk rock.” During the mid 1960's, The Byrds ranked as one of the most successful and influential American pop groups around; recording a string of hits including "Turn! Turn! Turn!” "Eight Miles High,” and "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star.”

The departure of Gene Clark in 1966 from the band, and the growing restlessness of David Crosby, allowed Hillman the opportunity to develop as the main singer and songwriter within the group. He came into his own on the Byrds' 1967 album “Younger Than Yesterday,” co-writing and sharing lead vocals on the hit "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star.” Internal conflicts plagued The Byrds, and by 1968 the band was down to two original members, Hillman and McGuinn. With a new line-up, Hillman changed the musical direction of the band, ushering a new era of music known as "country rock." Hillman exited the band soon thereafter and teamed up with Parsons to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. Before the Flying Burrito Brothers disbanded, Hillman joined Stephen Stills' band Manassas, where he remained until 1973, when he briefly rejoined the original line-up of the Byrds for a reunion album on Asylum Records. The 1980's saw Hillman returned to his bluegrass and country roots, recording two acclaimed acoustic albums for Sugar Hill Records with singer/guitarist/banjo player Herb Pedersen.

The venture with Pedersen lead to the formation of the Desert Rose Band, which proved to be Hillman's most commercially successful post-Byrds project. The duo's first album in1987 generated two Top Ten Country hits: "Love Reunited" and "One Step Forward.” From 1987 till the end of 1993 the band recorded seven albums, had 16 country music hits, and garnered a number of Country Music Awards, before calling it quits in 1994. At the peak of the Desert Rose Band's success, Hillman also began appearing infrequently with McGuinn. A duet recorded by the pair for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol. II album, "You Ain't Going Nowhere,” reached the Top Ten in th Country Charts in 1989. The duo joined Crosby and played a handful of club dates as The Byrds. In 1990 all three appeared at a tribute to Roy Orbison, performing "Mr. Tambourine Man" with Bob Dylan. That same year, the Byrds cut four new songs for inclusion in a career-spanning box set, and in 1991 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 1996 Hillman reunited with Desert Rose Band alumnus for the album “Bakersfield Bound,” followed by “Like a Hurricane” in 1998, in addition to three bluegrass-flavored releases on Rounder Records with Pedersen, Larry Rice and Tony Rice. After a short hiatus, Hillman and Pedersen returned with “Way Out West” (2002), a 17-track collection of country, roots rock, and Americana, followed by “The Other Side” (2005). As of early 2010, Hillman has been recovering from extensive spinal surgery, and hopes to be back touring soon, according to his wife, Connie Hillman.