Tom Ross: To everything, there is a season
Pedersen explore a family tree of country rock
By Tom Ross
Steamboat Springs — The No. 1 slow-dance
song in the autumn of 1965, when I was in seventh grade
at Charles R. Van Hise Junior High School, was “Turn, Turn,
Turn,” by the Byrds.
During Friday afternoon mixers in the school cafeteria,
boys and girls with sweaty palms awkwardly embraced each
other and shifted their weight from one foot to the other
in time to the music.
“To everything, turn, turn, turn … there is a season,
turn, turn, turn … and a time to every purpose, under heaven.”
The dancing was nerve-wracking, but the music was magical
and still stands up 44 years later.
A Steamboat audience had the chance Friday night at Strings
Music Pavilion to hear Chris Hillman, a founding member
of the Byrds and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame, with musical partner Herb Pedersen. They performed
an acoustic version of “Turn, Turn, Turn” on mandolin and
Talk about a time warp. If 44 years have passed since
the original Pete Seeger folk tune scored a No. 1 hit for
the Byrds, then it’s inevitable that my musical heroes
now are, ahem, senior citizens.
Hillman is due to turn 65 during the first week in December.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m only eight
years, five months, six hours and 93 seconds (very roughly)
Instead, I’d like to focus on the fact that ’60s country-rock
stars still can give performances that are as meaningful,
and in some ways more meaningful, than the sets they rocked
out as young men and women.
With a list of 70 songs to choose from Friday night, Hillman
and Pedersen paid homage to many of their own heroes, such
as country artists Buck Owens and Vern Gosdin.
Pedersen, who teamed with Hillman in the 1980s-90s country-rock
supergroup Desert Rose Band, was in fine form in Steamboat
this week. If you wanted to find harmonies as blended as
those of Pedersen and Hillman, you’d have to summon another
Byrds founder, David Crosby and ask him to bring along
his pal Graham Nash. They were that tight.
Hillman and Pedersen found their relevance at the Strings
Music Pavilion by producing a blend of early bluegrass,
folk, California country, ’80s rock and ’60s hits. The
music was stripped bare and performed simply on two acoustic
instruments played into open mics. In doing so, they gave
us a graduate seminar in the roots of rock music tinged
with country that came out of Southern California four
decades ago. The music was cross-pollinated by players
who formed bands, broke up and re-mixed to form new bands
that pushed the genre forward.
Hillman can be linked to Crosby, who can be linked to
Stephen Stills and Neil Young, who played together in Buffalo
Springfield, which included Richie Furay, who helped to
establish Poco but went on to play briefly with Hillman
in the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band.
Of course, Hillman helped Stills found Manassas, and it
is Stills to whom Hillman gives a lot of credit for helping
him to find his own song-writing chops.
Oh, yeah, and Poco band member Timothy B. Schmit became
a longtime member of the Eagles. Come to think of it, Bernie
Leadon, who was a founding member and played banjo with
the Eagles in the early days, also was a member of the
Scottsville Squirrel Barkers. That was the Southern California
bluegrass outfit Hillman was invited to join when he was
You get the picture. I could go on at great length tracing
the family tree of country-rock music, but I probably should
stop right now.
One of the best moments of Friday night’s show at Strings
came when a young member of the audience — at least, she
was younger than Chris Hillman or me — called out, “Play
Ten Miles High.”
Of course, she was referring to the 1966 Byrds hit “Eight
Miles High” penned by Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David
Crosby. McGuinn used his electric Rickenbacker 12-string
on that tune to create some space-country guitar licks
like no one else has thrown down since.
Hillman fielded the request from the audience like a pro.
“Ten miles high? I can only go eight miles high!” he quipped.
And without hesitating, he began to replicate McGuinn’s
guitar riff on his mandolin as Pedersen joined in on harmony.
The music may be four decades old, but it came alive last
week. If you weren’t there, look up “Turn, Turn, Turn”
on You Tube. It’s all there waiting for you.
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column
is published Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today.