Chris Hillman: Bonus Q&A with the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer: 'It's neither hair nor there!'

By George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Chris Hillman is still in flight after all these years.

After growing up in Southern California and embracing bluegrass music, Hillman helped make rock history as a member of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers in the 1960s. He then joined Stephen Stills in Manassas in the early 1970s and launched the chart-topping country-music group the Desert Rose Band in the 1980s.

A veteran solo artist, Hillman is the subject of an in-depth Union-Tribune interview about his new memoir, "Time Between." Published by BMG Books, it devotes nearly all of its first five chapters to his time growing up in the San Diego area.

Here are bonus questions and answers from our interview with Hillman, who will turn 76 on Friday.


Q: The cover photo on "Time Between" shows you in the mid-1960s when you were just starting to take off with The Byrds. What do you think when you look at that photo now?


A: (laughs) I could be smarmy and say: 'It's neither hair nor there!' It's funny what I would have to go through to get hair like that. Having not been blessed with straight hair like the other guys, and being 21 or 22, it was very important for me to fit in. So, I'd put stuff on my hair and blow dry it, and it would be perfect 'Beatles hair.' Then, when we performed in the Midwest or in the South, it would be very hot and humid. Being a San Diego guy who grew up where we didn't have any humidity, my hair would go: 'Boing!'

When The Byrds went to England, I didn't know they had a different electrical system and had to get somebody to grab a hair dryer for me. I'd have to go to great efforts to make my hair straight. Finally, a friend who did hair said to me: 'This is ridiculous. Let's not do this anymore.' I also think that particular moment in time (that the cover photo shows) was wonderful. We'd already made it and had a hit single with 'Mr. Tambourine Man.'

Q: Out of curiosity, have you ever gone back to Tijuana to try and find the place where your mom bought you your first instrument, a $10 gut-string guitar, or to see where you later briefly lived with your flamenco guitar-playing friend, Juan Martin?

A: No, I haven't gone back there and I don't even know if Juan is still alive. He had a nice apartment, sort of across the street from the Jai Alai Palace. I was speaking pretty decent Spanish then, because I had to. As for the guitar, we probably walked into a little store and found it hanging on the wall. And it really cost about $10. It wasn't actually a bad instrument, but it finally collapsed. I learned enough chords and the deal with my mom was that, if I learned and stuck with the guitar, she'd help me buy another one.


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