Nov. 23

Byrd songs

Chris Hillman, who’s played with the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and the Desert Rose Band, has been at the center of not one, but two musical revolutions — the birth of folk rock in the mid-1960s and the birth of country rock at the end of the decade. However, even innovative musicians have their limits.

“I couldn’t do a Hall & Oates song,” he says with a laugh.

Hillman will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St., with fellow Desert Rose member Herb Pedersen, who’s played with Jerry Garcia, the Dillards, Old and in the Way, David Grisman and David Nelson, among many others. Tickets range from $25 to $35. For more information, visit

“Herb is such a great singer, and we enjoy doing harmonies,” Hillman says, adding the duo will perform material from the Byrds through Desert Rose. Rooted in country and bluegrass, Hillman was a known musician in southern California when he was invited to join the Byrds in late 1964.

“I went in there totally assuming they were seasoned rock ‘n’ roll players, but they were folk musicians,” he says of Roger (then Jim) McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clark.

“I didn’t even know really how to play the bass,” he adds. “I approached it like it was a bluegrass rhythm guitar.”

Life then was a dream, he says, recalling the crowds of screaming girls that would greet the band’s performances.

“It was like we were living that movie ‘Hard’s Day’s Night,’ ” he says.

After the Byrds dissolved, Hillman formed proto-country-rockers the Flying Burrito Brothers with fellow Byrd Gram Parsons, who had played a prominent role on “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” the Byrds’ album often credited for helping launch the country rock movement. The songwriting duo had a famously problematic love-hate relationship, and Parsons was out of the band by 1970 after recording two albums with the Brothers, including the critically acclaimed debut “The Gilded Palace of Sin.”

Between losing Parsons to drug abuse in 1973 when he died, and seeing the wreckage drug use caused among his colleagues, Hillman came out of the 1970s decidedly anti-drug.

“It’s a dangerous world, the entertainment business,” he says. “It’s not conducive to what we refer to as a normal life. You have to ask yourself, ‘When do I leave the fantasy at the door?’ ”

Nonetheless, despite his publicly stated criticisms of Parsons over the years, he also warmly credits him as someone from whom he learned a lot, a kudo he also extends to Stephen Stills with whom he’s played in Manassas. But it’s also clear he was almost relieved to play with the Desert Rose Band, which earned numerous Top 10 and No. 1 hits. The band’s success lead to three Country Music Association Awards, and two Grammy nominations.

“It’s the only band I’ve been in that ever re-formed with the original members,” he says, adding with a hearty chuckle: “We liked each other. The band did not break up with any animosity.”

Indeed, the group will regather next year to tour Norway, he says, noting he also can be heard on “Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War,” released this month on ATO Records. The album features 32 artists, including Hillman, performing Civil War-era songs, and Hillman tackles “Hard Times” by Stephen Foster.

Round town

• Glasgow, Scotland’s absolutely fun-in-the-sun sugar-coated pop-punk rockers PAWS take the stage at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Bunk Bar, 1028 S.E. Water Ave. $8. Info: 503-328-2865,

• Polica, the Minneapolis electro-pop soul group, and experimental electronic outfit Marijuana Deathsquads (which includes Ryan Olson of Polica) play the Wonder Ballroom, 128 N.E. Russell St., at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22. All ages. $16 in advance, $18 at the door. Info: 503-284-8686,

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