BILL & SUE-ON HILLMAN
RECORD ALBUM Volume 4
Maple Grove Records
Bill 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.
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.
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.
The 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 obtain 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, 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 teaching -- in the same school -- in 1997.
TO THE HILLMAN MUSICAL ODYSSEY
Copyright 1975/2002 Bill Hillman
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