About Chris Hillman

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Country Rock pioneer, Chris Hillman has never stopped making music, but these last few years have seen the music, the milestones, and the special events happening at an exceptional pace. Recently, Chris joined the lineup of SiriusXM’sDwight Yoakam and The BakersfieldBeat(Ch. 349) with his weekly show,Chris Hillman’s Burrito Stand.

Since its launch in 2022, theBurrito Stand’s stellar lineup of guests has included Dwight Yoakam, Bernie Leadon, Herb Pedersen, Roger McGuinn, Al Perkins, J.D. Souther, and (for 2023) Richie Furay, John Jorgenson, Jay Dee Maness, Marty Stuart, and Bernie Taupin, to name a few.

In October of 2022 Hillman and The Desert Rose Band reunited for a final concert (their first in ten years) which was the grand finale to an outstanding event to launch the Country Music Hall of Fame’s acclaimed Western Edge exhibit celebrating “The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock.” The reunion concert featured all surviving original bandmembers: Chris Hillman (acoustic guitar/mandolin/lead vocals), Herb Pedersen (bluegrass banjo/acoustic guitar/vocals), John Jorgenson (guitar/mandolin/vocals), Jay Dee Maness (steel guitar) and Steve Duncan (drums). Nashville bassist Mark Fain replaced the late Bill Bryson.

The Western Edge does justice to every decade of Hillman’s career as part of this multiyear presentation that covers the ‘60s through the ‘80s and the artists that changed the sounds of rock and country music. It traces the impact of artists such as The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers to Buffalo Springfield, The Desert Rose Band, the Eagles, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Linda Ronstadt, along with the later L.A. roots music of the Blasters, Lone Justice, Los Lobos, and Dwight Yoakam, among others. The collective exhibit showcases video interviews, classic stage wear, notable instruments, artifacts, and much more. A highlight includes the Nudie suits created by famed designer Manuel and featured on the cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ 1969 landmark debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, marking the first time the suits (Chris Hillman’s, Gram Parsons’ and Sneaky Pete’s) have been displayed together since their original appearances.

The Byrds became part of yet another prestigious Nashville exhibit when the legendary Ryman Auditorium opened Rock Hall at the Ryman, in November of 2022, showcasing the landmark venue’s impressive mark on the history of rock & roll. Now open to the public, the Rock Hall at the Ryman exhibit showcases instruments, stage costumes, and personal artifacts from more than 100 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees who have performed on the Ryman stage. In addition to The Byrds, the exhibit features James Brown, Eric Clapton, Foo Fighters, Joan Jett, Dolly Parton, and many others, as well as icons such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Hank Williams.

The Fall of 2022 also heralded the release of THE BYRDS: 1964-1967 (BMG Books) the ultimate collectible, tabletop book which Hillman curated with original members, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. There have been accolades for the stunning, multi-edition book that features more than 500 images from a host of renowned photographers, as well as a comprehensive oral history created by Hillman, McGuinn, and Crosby. (The book marks their last collaborative effort before David Crosby’s untimely death in January of 2023.) Among the many rave reviews, Variety praised the book for its inspired approach, proclaiming it “one of the year’s best.”

Hillman also continues to earn recognition for his autobiographical book, Time Between: My Life as a Byrd, Burrito Brother, and Beyond (BMG Books) which was released in paperback and audio in October of 2021. (The hardcover was released in 2020.) The autobiography spans nearly six decades of Hillman’s prolific career and has maintained its status as a celebrated music memoir. The Time Between audiobook, directed by Scott Sherratt, features newly recorded excerpts of 21 songs that have been part of Hillman’s musical legacy. Commenting on the experience, Hillman said, “Recording my narration for the book was far more challenging than I could have ever imagined. For me, it was completely different from going into a studio and recording music, and vocals, which I’ve been doing for decades. We tossed around the idea of adding a bit of music to embellish the title of each chapter. Each chapter was named after a song I had written and recorded. This began to take on a whole new dimension in the presentation.”

In Time Between, Hillman vividly recounts the groundbreaking years when he joined Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke to form The Byrds, creating one of the most influential bands in the history of rock music. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Another pivotal chapter in Time Between is devoted to The Desert Rose Band. Formed by Hillman, Herb Pedersen, and John Jorgenson in 1986 (joined by Jay Dee Maness, Bill Bryson, and Steve Duncan) this eponymous group would become Hillman’s most commercially successful project since the Byrds. Their self-titled debut album produced the number-one singles, “He’s Back and I’m Blue,” and “One Step Forward” as well as the Top Ten country hit, “Love Reunited.” From 1987 to 1993 the band recorded seven albums and had 16 country music hits earning three Academy of Country Music awards, as well as Country Music Association and Grammy nominations. As co-writer (with Steve Hill) of “Love Reunited” and “One Step Forward, (with Bill Wildes) Hillman received BMI’S One Million Broadcasts Award for each of these songs.

Also included in Time Between are the details behind Hillman’s 2017 album, Bidin’ My Time, his first solo release in 12 years. Produced by Tom Petty and executive-produced by Herb Pedersen, Bidin’ My Time was praised as “an understated masterpiece,” successfully comprising all of the influences that contributed to Hillman’s music from folk to rock and roll, bluegrass, and country. Bidin’ My Time went on to earn its place in the Top 100 on Americana Radio’s airplay albums of 2017.

Collectively, the album reflects the storytelling and virtuosity that first inspired Hillman and remains at the heart of his music. The songs of Bidin’ My Time were first performed live in the Fall of 2017, with the tour ending in October of 2017 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The event was historical because the Byrds played one of their first concerts there in the 60s.

It was also a poignant evening because Bidin’ My Time was one of the last projects completed by Tom Petty. With his unexpected death, the homecoming show became a heartfelt tribute to him, as well. The bittersweet aspects of the show notwithstanding, the Los Angeles Times praised the magic of the performances on stage that night, saying “Hillman’s sweet tenor voice is as fluid and expressive as ever and it blends hauntingly with the piercing purity of Pedersen’s voice, making it no surprise that they’ve returned to one another’s company so often for more than half a century.”

Rounding out the memoir is Chris’ account of the 2018 tour celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Byrds’ groundbreaking Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. When the album was originally released In 1968, Sweetheart of the Rodeo literally launched the country rock movement and is widely considered to be one of the most influential albums in this genre. In 2003, the album was ranked #120 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums.” The anniversary tour featured Hillman and fellow Byrds alum Roger McGuinn, joined by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives (all huge Byrds fans). It more than lived up to its stature with Hillman and McGuinn delivering a rich narrative for the album by telling the stories that initially brought the project to life. As Hillman writes, “We remembered every little nuance and anecdote in the making of the album. It was so much fun revisiting the music and having a conversation with each other on stage… it was one of if not the best tour I had ever been a part of in my almost six decades of playing music.” Along with Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives, it was the perfect combination of stellar vocals and outstanding instrumentation that recreated the sounds of the Sweetheart album. The troupe (all having connections to Tom Petty) also paid tribute to the late rock star with performances of his “American Girl,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “Wildflowers,” the latter of which was also recorded by Hillman for Bidin’ My Time.

Throughout the book, Hillman opens up about career encounters and accomplishments. With engaging detail, he describes meetings and experiences with characters such as Lenny Bruce, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, Otis Redding, Chuck Berry, and Buck Owens, as well as his musical collaborations with Clarence White, Bernie Leadon, Stephen Stills, Dan Fogelberg, Herb Pedersen, John Jorgensen, Al Perkins, Jay Dee Maness, Tom Brumley and more. And he recounts his numerous band affiliations including a memorable stint recording as a member of Stephen Stills’ Manassas. Other groups included Souther-Hillman-Furay (with JD Souther and Poco’s Richie Furay), McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (with fellow former Byrds Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark) and Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen. He recorded as a solo artist, and as a duo, Chris and Herb Pedersen had success with a number of releases including Bakersfield Bound (1996), Way Out West, (2002) a 17-track collection of country, roots rock, and Americana, The Other Side (2005) and Live At Edwards Barn (2010).

While giving insight into the recording of such Byrds’ classics as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Eight Miles High,” Chris also sheds new light on his complicated relationship with Gram Parsons and the real man behind the Parson’s myth. The historic moment when Chris quit The Byrds is followed by breaking new “outlaw country” ground with The Flying Burrito Brothers, including the release of their landmark album, The Gilded Palace of Sin in 1969.

The rich musical details in Time Between share space with many experiences and impressions from Hillman’s personal journey. He writes in an honest and unadorned style while taking the reader back to earlier, sometimes nostalgic eras. Hillman describes his youth and the quintessentially Southern California experience of the 50s where even within the bucolic atmosphere of Rancho Santa Fe there is a social conflict that made a lasting impression on him. He continues reflecting on his early love of TV cowboys and getting his first horse and goes on to describe another first when he is introduced to folk artists, bluegrass music, and eventually the Beatles. As a teen, he spent hours practicing acoustic guitar and mandolin. By 18, he was playing the mandolin in two bands, The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers and The Golden State Boys which included Vern and Rex Gosdin. Hillman goes on to share the story of borrowing a bass – an instrument he’d never played – to try out for the Byrds, offering up details on why Miles Davis was responsible for their success.

Hillman speaks honestly about the shocking tragedy that struck his family when he was a teenager, his subsequent struggles with anger, and how his spiritual journey led him to a place of deep faith that allowed him to extend forgiveness and experience wholeness. He writes of overcoming his overwhelming shyness, building a family with his beloved wife Connie, earning a second-degree blackbelt in karate, battling a life-threatening disease, and escaping three house fires.

Reflecting on the process of telling his multi-layered story, Hillman says, “It became almost cathartic as I got deeper in with the story – sometimes opening up old doors I thought I had locked down decades ago. But it wasn’t just the music that propelled me on; it was the gradual growth from who I was to who I became – through heartache and triumph, things we all have to deal with in life.”

Today, Chris Hillman is quick to point out that Time Between is his story “at least so far” with many chapters yet to be written. New chapters are already playing out as his success with Chris Hillman’s Burrito Stand continues, giving him the opportunity to interview guests he has worked with and known for the last sixty years. The Western Edge homage to California country rock places Hillman’s legacy front and center for current and future generations of music fans. Now, in addition to the exhibition, the history of the era is preserved in a Western Edge companion book, (University of Illinois Press and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum) with a foreword by Linda Ronstadt and a main essay written by Randy Lewis, the former Los Angeles Times music reporter. In the impressive Americana-UK review of the book, Lewis is quoted, saying “If there’s a linchpin figure in the story of country rock it’s hard to think of anyone more critical than Chris Hillman.”

In December of 2022, in a video message to fans, Hillman reflected on his gratitude for the wonderful and rewarding events of the last year. He also announced his retirement from touring, “but never from making and playing music.” Says Hillman, “I’ve had a great year – one of the best I’ve ever had.” Here’s to the future; new chapters and more of the best to come.

Without Chris Hillman acting as the connective tissue between West Coast country music traditions and the rock ‘n’ roll generations, from Buck Owens to The Byrds, there would be no modern country music.
—Dwight Yoakam

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Accolades

GRAMMY Nominations:

  • 1965 “Best New Artist” The Byrds
  • 1987 “Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” The Desert Rose Band (album)
  • 1989 “Best Country Vocal Collaboration” Chris Hillman & Roger McGuinn “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” (single)
  • 1989 “Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” The Desert Rose Band “She Don’t Love Nobody” (single)

National Academy of Recording arts and Sciences Hall of Fame:

  • “Mr. Tambourine Man” The Byrds (1965)
  • “Turn, Turn Turn (To Everything There is a Season) (1965)
  • “Eight Miles High” (1966)
  • “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (1968)

Academy of Country Music Association Awards:

  • Band of the Year/Touring – The Desert Rose Band – 1988, 1989, 1990

Country Music Association Nominations:

  • 1989 “Horizon Award ” The Desert Rose Band
  • 1989 “Vocal Group of the Year ” The Desert Rose Band
  • 1989 “Musician & Vocalist-Album of the Year” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol. 2
  • 1990 “Vocal Group of the Year” The Desert Rose Band

San Diego Music Awards

  • 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award – The Scottsville Squirrle Barkers

Colorado Music Hall of Fame Inductee – Manassas

Americana Music Association

  • 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award Chris Hillman

Mojo Roots Award

  • 2005 Chris Hillman

Broadcast Music Inc. – One Million Broadcast Radio Performances

  • “One Step Forward”
  • “Love Reunited”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

  • 1991 Inductee The Byrds

Songs Written by Chris Hillman recorded by other artists

Artists as diverse of the late Cowboy hero Roy Rogers, Tom Petty, Beck, Scottish Hard-Rockers Nazareth and Emmylou Harris have recorded songs written by Chris Hillman or by Chris and his various musical collaborators over the past four decades.

The Artists and a partial list of the songs include:

Beck (with Emmylou Harris) – “Sin City”

Sheryl Crow (with Emmylou Harris) – “Juanita”

J.D. Crowe – “Devil in Disguise” and “Sin City”

Steve Earle – “High Fashion Queen” (with Chris) and “My Uncle”

Teenage Fanclub – “Older Guys”

Dan Fogelberg – “It Doesn’t Matter”

Emmylou Harris – “Sin City”, “Wheels” and “Devil in Disguise”

Jimmy Ibbotson – “Wheels”

Rose Maddox – “Sin City”

Nazareth – “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star”

The Oak Ridge Boys – “Step On Out”

Tom Petty – “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star”

Tony Rice – “Devil in Disguise”

Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Dusty Rogers – “God’s Plan”

Sid Griffin and the Coal Porters – “Time Between”

Patti Smith – “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star”

Marty Stuart – “Wheels”

The Woodys – “He’s Back and I’m Blue”, “Sin City”

Dwight Yoakam (with K.D. Lang) – “Sin City”

Dwight Yoakam (with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) – “Wheels”