Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen on SCVTV’s ‘House Blend’ with Stephen K. Peeples

hillman pedersen
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen tape a performance for SCVTV/Santa Clarita's "House Blend" with Stephen K. Peeples at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

American music legends Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, Desert Rose Band) and Herb Pedersen (The Dillards, Laurel Canyon Ramblers, Desert Rose Band, Emmylou Harris and tons of sessions) were the featured guests on SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” music and interview television show, hosted by veteran music journalist Stephen K. Peeples, in June 2011.

Taped at the SCVTV Media Center on May 21, the half-hour program included interview segments with Peeples tracing the duo’s half-century of friendship and musical collaborations, plus four songs performed unplugged and bluegrass-style by Hillman playing mandolin and Pedersen on acoustic guitar.

hillman pedersen“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” was made famous by The Byrds in late 1965; “Wait a Minute” comes from Pedersen’s first solo album, “Southwest” (1976); “Wheels” is a Hillman-Gram Parsons tune from the first Flying Burrito Brothers album (1969); and “Desert Rose” comes from “Pages of Life,” the third album by the Desert Rose Band (1990).

All four songs are also featured on Hillman and Pedersen’s “At Edwards Barn” live album, released by Rounder in 2010.

“Chris and Herb’s performance was stellar,” Peeples said. “The songs they chose represented key moments of their individual and collective careers. That worked really well with the chronology of my questions, and they were warm and genuine during our interview. The crew loved their delicious, timeless music and easy-going attitudes.”

hillman pedersen
Mike Mazzetti and Megan Mann-Perez in the control room at SCVTV Media Center, Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Produced by Peeples and SCVTV’s Megan Mann-Perez, with sound engineering by Mike Mazzetti, the Hillman-Pedersen episode of “House Blend” was later nominated for a WAVE Award, on a par with an Emmy in public television in the Western United States.

* * * * *

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen on SCVTV’s
“House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples, Part 1: 

Stephen K. Peeples: Hi, and welcome to “House Blend” on SCVTV. I’m Stephen K. Peeples, your “House Blend” host, and thanks for dropping in.

Now for the next half hour, we’re honored to have with us a couple of regular guys who also happen to be American folk-rock and country-rock pioneers, as members of bands like The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Dillards, Desert Rose, solo performers and most recently as a bluegrass duo.

Their latest album “Live at Edwards Barn” brings all that tasty stuff together.

Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen, thanks for joining us in the studio.

Herb Pedersen: Thank you, Stephen.

Chris Hillman: Hi, Stephen. Thank you. Thanks for having us on.

Peeples: Now, you guys have been partners for almost 50 years, and the story about how you guys first met is pretty funny – at the Ice House in Pasadena.

Hillman: That’s right.

Peeples: (Chris, you were there) from San Diego with your group, which had a great name — I’ll let you drop that, and you (Herb) were down with your group from Berkeley. So you guys met and that started the whole thing. So, tell me the story. Herb, take it away.

Hillman: Herb, go ahead.

hillman pedersen
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen tape a performance for SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Pedersen: Well, Bob Stane, who ran the Icehouse for many, many years — and it was really a folk place, folk music, not just a comedy place — he had a bluegrass festival one weekend. And all the bands that were in town at that time were invited to perform, and even a young Tony Rice with his little brothers. It was great! And Chris was in a group, and I was in my band The Pine Valley Boys. And that’s where we met, at the Icehouse in Pasadena.

Peeples: The name of your group was…

hillman pedersen
The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers’ “Bluegrass Favorites” album, 1961: Chris Hillman, mandolin; Kenny Wertz, banjo; Larry Murray, guitar; Gary Carr, guitar; and
Ed Douglas, bass (Bernie Leadon joined the group after these sessions).

Hillman: Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. OK, and we were both at the same age, 18. And Herb and I just hit it off, being the same age and having grown up at the same time. Very small musical scene then as far as bluegrass, maybe four or five bands, but the overall musical scene, it was all folk music — this was pre-Beatles, 1963… And it was a very small…

Pedersen: Small family.

Hillman: It was! It was very, and it was really interesting times. Very interesting times.

Peeples: Well, now, in terms of popular music and modern American music, it all is kind of rooted in gospel, and I wanted to ask you about that: You had discussed that in your Library of Congress talk and I thought that was really interesting.

Hillman: Well, I feel that most all contemporary music or, shall we say, all the good forms of music – and I mean jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll, to some degree folk – it all comes out of the church, be it white church or the black church. That music was as a form of worship, and basically, that’s where it all comes from…I think. We draw upon that all the time in what we do, and certainly in songs we’ve written and things we’ve experienced.

hillman pedersen
Chris Hillman finds the zone during a performance with longtime friend Herb Pedersen for SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Peeples: Well, the first song you’re gonna be performing for us is actually a gospel-folk rock kind of classic.

Hillman: Yeah, it is.

Peeples: So, tell us a little bit about “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Hillman: Well, here was this beautiful scripture that King Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 3, I believe, “To every season.” And he’s writing out this stuff and it’s very black-and-white: “A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap.” And there was no gray area in there, it was very black-and-white.

But the beauty of it was here’s Pete Seeger in the late ‘50s, and he had these lyrics – I’ll say lyrics now, but it was really scripture all from the Old Testament – in his pocket. And I think he was getting pressure to come up with another hit for The Weavers, or maybe he was on his own.

But he put together the music for “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and he wrapped it all around this chorus: “To everything, there is a season, turn, turn, turn.” So everything being life in cyclical ways that you’re born, you die. You plant, you reap, this and that. And it’s such a beautiful thing.

So, Roger McGuinn in The Byrds had recorded Judy Collins doing that song. Pete had already recorded it prior to that in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. Judy Collins recorded it, and Roger produced that album.

And he brought that song to the band, and I remember (Roger) showing it to me on a tour — we were on in ’65, late ’65, and he said, “What do you think?” I said, “I think it’s a great tune,” and he arranged it. He was very, a seasoned guy, and I’ve always said this: He was a little ahead of all of us because he really had more experience.

But what a beautiful song. I’ve sung that song at weddings and at funerals. Roger sang it at my wedding, which was really great. Very special.

Peeples: Must have been a moment.

Hillman: Yeah, I’m coming down, marrying my beautiful wife Connie 32 years ago, but Roger’s sitting there with a guitar singing “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Peeples: Beautiful.

Hillman: So, yeah. It’s such a wonderful song.

Peeples: Well, let’s fast forward to right now, and let’s hear Chris and Herb’s bluegrass version of “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

(Bluegrass “Turn! Turn! Turn!” performance)

Peeples: That’s Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on “House Blend” with an unplugged version of “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

It’s featured on the duo’s “Live at Edwards Barn” CD, and of course, it originally appeared on The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” LP (holds album cover).

Hillman: Wow, look at that.

Pedersen: (chuckles) Wow.

* * * * *

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen on SCVTV’s
“House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples, Part 2: 

Peeples: I’m Stephen K. Peeples, your “House Blend” host on SCVTV, and we’re back with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen.

Now, Herb, you went to Nashville about 1961 from Berkeley and kind of got into the scene there?

Pedersen: No, ’67.

Peeples: Oh, it was later than that.

Pedersen: Yeah, ’66, ’67. I went back there with Vern & Ray. They were a duo that originally were from Arkansas; they moved to California during the Depression – basically, their families moved out here – and they were located up in Stockton, California.

And Ray Park was an amazing fiddle player and singer, and Vern Williams played mandolin, and he was of that Bill Monroe-Stanley Brothers school of real traditional-sounding singer. I mean, he had a wonderful voice.

Peeples: And then you hooked up with Earl Scruggs in there somewhere, right?

Pedersen: Yes. I had worked with Vern & Ray, they’re trying to get jobs going and that sort of thing, and then I landed a job on a TV show: Carl Tipton and the Mid-State Playboys, and I played banjo for them. Every Saturday, it was a one-hour show out in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Earl Scruggs saw me on that show, I guess.

So he got my name through the union and called me up to talk to me, and I thought it was a prank from one of my buddies out here in California, but after I talked to him for a little while, I recognized his voice from what little I have ever heard him speak. So he invited me over to his house, and of course, I went — I was 23, and just in awe of anything he did with Flatt & Scruggs.

So, he was going to go in for a hip operation, and he was in a bad car wreck in 1955 and he had to have some surgery to help him ease the pain, and so he said, “I’m gonna be out of commission for several weeks. Would you like to play banjo for me with the Foggy Mountain Boys?” And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Peeples: “Um, yeah. No problem. I’m available.”

Pedersen: (chuckles) I know, it was like that. And he said, “I kind of got you over here under false pretenses and I’m sorry.” And I’ll never forget him saying “false pretenses”; I thought that was amazing. But, wonderful man, and he made it very easy for me to meet the guys. I played the Opry that Friday night with them and then we left on the road trip in the Martha White Bus.

Peeples: God, that’s great. First gig at the Opry. Must have been amazing.

Pedersen: Oh, yeah, it was truly amazing. It was the old Ryman before it went through the transition of being redone.

Peeples: And then you replaced Doug Dillard in The Dillards.

Pedersen: Yeah, after I got off the road with Earl, for Earl, I got a call from Dean Webb, and Douglas had left the group and they were wondering what I was up to and they had heard that I was out with Lester Flatt, and so, “Would you consider coming back and auditioning for the job?”

I said, “Well, I happen to be going out there anyway – Vern and Ray and I are gonna be playing the Ash Grove,” which, as you know, is an old folk club on Melrose. And so, I came out and that week, I went over to Rodney’s house and we played some tunes together and it seemed to fit, so that’s when I joined up.

Peeples: That’s great. Now, in the early ‘70s, you were doing a lot of sessions and…

Pedersen: Pretty much, yeah.

Peeples: Eventually recorded your first solo album, right?

hillman pedersenPedersen: Yeah. Well, ’76 is actually when I did the first solo album.

Peeples: Just happen to have a copy of it right here.

Pedersen: (laughs) Geez. Yeah, there it is.

Peeples: And the song that we’re gonna hear next is a song that was actually on this album. It’s called “Wait a Minute.”

Pedersen: Yep. It’s a little different arrangement, but it’s the same words.

Peeples: Alright, sounds good. Well, let’s hear Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on “House Blend” with Herb’s “Wait A Minute.”

(“Wait A Minute” plays)

Peeples: That’s Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on House Blend with “Wait A Minute.” It’s a song from Herb’s 1976 debut album “Southwest,” and one that you’ll hear on the duo’s “Live at Edwards Barn” CD from 2010.

* * * * *

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen on
“House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples, Part 3: 

Peeples: And we’re back in the studio with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, folk-rock-country-bluegrass legends and alt-rock godfathers.

Hillman and Pedersen: (laughs)

Peeples: Now, Chris, just last night, Rick Roberts posted on Facebook the video from your Library of Congress chat and that was really, really good…

Hillman: Well, thank you, Stephen.

Peeples: I recommend all of our viewers check that out and see if they can find it. But your musical background pre-Byrds is quite colorful, too, and you got started in folk and country before the Byrds, right?

Hillman: I had a real passion, as did Herb, and there was so much I left out of the story, and when the Library of Congress contacted me and I said, “Well, what do you want me to talk about?” and they said “Talk about your musical journey,” and I said, “Oh, my gosh.”

Peeples: “How many hours do you have?”

Pedersen: (chuckles)

Hillman: (to SKP, who wrote the liner notes for the “McGuinn, Clark & Hillman” album on Capitol in 1979) And you and I go back a long ways. You worked with Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark and I a few years back.

But I was the shy guy in The Byrds, and I never would have conceived of ever speaking in front of people like that, and that was 40 years. But anyway, yes, I left a lot out. I couldn’t get it all in. I did prepare for it, but it was a great challenge to do that.

Peeples: Well, it was a lot of fun to watch and I’m kind of interested also in how you moved in the Byrds from kind of a psychedelic-folk rock group and moved kind of more into a country-influenced vein. “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” and…

Hillman: In all honesty, we had already started experimenting with that. And it wasn’t a contrived thing where we’re saying, “Well, let’s do this.” It wasn’t a stretch for us.

The Byrds were five guys that had come out of folk music; we were not a rock band ever until we plugged in.

Peeples: Until you plugged in.

Hillman: We plugged those amplifiers in and then we started to learn how to do it, so it wasn’t a stretch. But we had done on an album called “Younger Than Yesterday” a song called “Time Between,” one of the first songs I’d ever written.

Hillman: And I brought Clarence White in, one of my old bluegrass friends, and Herb had certainly worked with Clarence off and on. And that was, I think, the very first country movement there.

When we did “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” in 1968 and Gram Parsons was hired on as a sideman in the band, it was not a stretch like I said earlier; we went down and it was really just expanding it a bit.

Peeples: It was a very organic…step-by-step…

Hillman: Yeah. And I think at the time, funny enough, to quote Roger McGuinn who said, “We were sort of spinning our wheels.” And right then, Gram comes along and he gave us a big boost of energy, and fortunately, on my end, here’s a guy who comes into the band who loved the same music I did.

hillman pedersenWhen I joined the Byrds, they didn’t want to know from bluegrass. I had to convince David Crosby that the steel guitar was a good instrument. Two years later, he’s using Jerry Garcia on “Teach Your Children.”

Pedersen: (laughs)

Peeples: There you go, yeah.

Hillman: So there it was, yeah, and I think the thing “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” did was it opened up the floodgates, and it wasn’t the best-selling Byrds album, but it opened up a whole new area for people.

Peeples: It was extremely influential and it remains extremely influential.

Hillman: Not my favorite record, mind you.

Peeples: And then, after that, Flying Burrito Brothers.

Hillman: So it was another easy step and I’m going, “OK, Gram and I take off; we start the Flying Burrito Brothers.”

In hindsight — we’re all geniuses of course in hindsight — and I go, “The Byrds had become a really good band. Here’s a band that went from barely being able to plug in and play to playing a song like “Eight Miles High.”

And then when the Burritos came along, the only thing I regret was we were a bit lazy in our execution of the songs.

But Gram and I had a great bond going on that first year of 1969, where we were writing songs on a daily basis, and some great ones that I still play, perform with Herb. And some of the best times of my life…

Peeples: Well, let’s hear one of those right now!

Hillman: Absolutely!

Peeples: Here’s Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, with “Wheels,” co-written by Chris and Gram Parsons.

(“Wheels” plays)

Peeples: Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on “House Blend” with “Wheels,” a Hillman-Gram Parsons song from the Flying Burrito Brothers’ 1969 debut album “Gilded Palace of Sin.” It’s also on Chris and Herb’s latest live album, “At Edwards Barn.”

* * * * *

Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen on SCVTV’s
“House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples, Part 4: 

Peeples: I’m Stephen K. Peeples, your House Blend host, and we’re back on SCVTV with Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen. Thanks for rejoining us.

Now, you reconnected as The Desert Rose Band in the mid-‘80s…

Pedersen: Prior to that, though, Chris and I had to kind of reconnect…He called me to work on some of his solo projects. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time. We were running parallel paths, but in different genres, and it was great to hear from him and his producer at the time, Jim Dixon, who was doing Chris’s solo projects. (motions to Chris) Take it from there.

Hillman: Yep, absolutely right. We reconnected and actually prior to that, you worked on two albums I did for Asylum in the ‘70s…

Pedersen: Yes.

Hillman: Which was great. Then, occasionally, we would do sessions together.

Pedersen: Yes.

Hillman: Once in a while, we’d do a session together if somebody would call us.

Pedersen: Yes.

Hillman: Dan Fogelberg was doing a bluegrass album, “High Country Snows” (in 1985). And Herb and a bunch of guys were down in Nashville doing that record: David Grisman and Jerry Douglas, just a really good bunch, the top-notch players. And then Dan brought the project out to L.A. and I sang on it.

Centerspread of Dan Fogelberg’s “High Country Snows” album, 1985. Herb Pedersen and Chris Hillman are pictured in the bottom row, with Doc Watson between them.

But out of that came a tour, and Dan said to (me), “Put a band together; I want you guys to open the show acoustically and then back me on ‘High Country Snows’ material ‘cause we were gonna promote this album.” And I thought of Herb and, uh…

Pedersen: Bill.

Hillman: Bill Bryson, and then we met through Bill this incredible musician John Jorgenson. I didn’t know him, he was about 21 years old. He was phenomenal. And Bill Bryson, he says, “You gotta meet this guy.” So we meet John and John went with us on the tour.

And I kept saying to Dan, “I think you should let John play the mandolin,” I mean, he was phenomenal to this day, and Dan said, “No, I want you to play the mandolin; there’s something you do that blah-blah.” But point being, we go out, we work with Dan for about four weeks, right?

Pedersen: Mm-hmm.

Hillman: Three, four weeks.

Pedersen: Yep.

Hillman: And we come back, and John was really the motivational force of getting Desert Rose going. And I had no idea of putting a band back together.

Pedersen: Or desire.

Hillman: Desire, that was the word I wanted. So, John gets us going. We get JayDee Maness, who I had worked with on “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” we get a drummer, Steve Duncan. All of a sudden, there’s this band, and we’re playing the Palomino, and we get a record deal.

Now, here’s the great part of it: When you least expect it, it falls in your lap, right? When you’re obsessing over something, it’s gonna be whenever God wills it to you.

Pedersen: It was the night after the Grammys…

Hillman: Yeah.

Pedersen: And everybody was still in town with nothing to do, so a lot of these guys came out to the Palomino, ’cause that was still up and running.

Hillman: We had no name. But we got a record deal, and we also got hooked in with The Oak Ridge Boys, who were wonderful; they gave us our first break: We played Las Vegas with The Oak Ridge Boys. We didn’t even have a name yet! But that’s how that happened. Desert Rose had the longest run of any band I was in. Had about an eight-year run.

Peeples: Eight years, what, a half a dozen albums?

Pedersen: Mm-hmm.

Hillman: And the consistency level on stage was 90%. It was such good players, and it was something, I wasn’t used to people being professional. There was always some mischief going on in bands that I had been in prior to that. Desert Rose was (something else). I mean, here we are, Stephen, we still go out and we play 20 years later; once in a while, we do a couple shows, the original guys.

Pedersen: Yeah.

Hillman: There’s no pressure. We’re not making a career change, but for the joy of the music, as it should always be. We go out, we have one show this summer. The last couple years, we have three or four shows. And we stop.

hillman pedersen
Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen tape a performance for SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: Stephen K. Peeples.

Peeples: Well, our last song today is a Desert Rose song. Actually titled “Desert Rose,” right?

Hillman: That’s right.

Peeples: Ok, well, let’s hear it. It’s House Blend, and Chris and Herb with “Desert Rose.”

(“Desert Rose” plays)

Peeples: Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen on House Blend with “Desert Rose.” That’s a tune from the Desert Rose Band’s fourth album, 1990’s “Pages of Life,” and it’s also on Chris and Herb’s “Live at Edwards Barn” album.

And that’s a wrap for this edition of “House Blend” on SCVTV; many thanks to Chris and Herb for being our special guests, and special thanks to Mike Mazzetti, our sound guru, for helping to make it happen.

I’m Stephen K. Peeples, your “House Blend” host, and until next time, happy trails. Or trappy hails, as the case may be.

hillman pedersen
Chris Hillman (left) and Herb Pedersen (right) tape a performance for SCVTV/Santa Clarita’s “House Blend” with Stephen K. Peeples (center) at the SCVTV Media Center in Newhall, California, May 21, 2011. Photo: John Nussbaum.

In memory of Gene Clark, born 76 years ago on the day of this post, 11-17-20 – also the day Chris Hillman’s autobiography, “Time Between,” was published. 

Special thanks to Rory Aronsky for the transcript. 

Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples was raised by career newspaper journalists and music-lovers in Miami and Los Angeles. He earned a Grammy nomination as co-producer of the “Monterey International Pop Festival” box set with Lou Adler and Geoff Gans (Rhino/MIPF, 1992). • Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and writer/producer of hundreds of WW1 programs in the preceding five years. • His first music industry gig was as an Associate Editor at Cash Box magazine in Hollywood in 1975. He went on to be a Media Relations-PR executive for Capitol Records (1977-1980), Elektra/Asylum Records (1980-1983) and Rhino Entertainment (1992-1998). • Moving online, he was Rhino’s first web editor (1996-1998), then elevated to content editor of Warner Music Group websites (1998-2001). • Based in the Santa Clarita Valley just north of L.A., Peeples was the award-winning Online Editor for The Signal newspaper’s website from 2007-2011, and wrote-hosted-co-produced SCVTV’s WAVE-nominated “House Blend” local music TV show from 2010-2015 (archived online and still airing in reruns). • The Santa Clarita journalist most recently was a News Editor at SCVTV’s and SVP/New Media for Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. He retired from his 46-year media career in 2021. • For more info and original stories, visit exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Peeples’ YouTube channel.

Article: Chris Hillman, Herb Pedersen on SCVTV’s ‘House Blend’ with Stephen K. Peeples
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: News and Reviews
Article Source: