The Hillsiders History

The Hillsiders were formed on May 5th, 1964 and their first gig was at Walton Lane Social Club, Liverpool. The Hillsiders career ran until 1999.

The original members were JOE BUTLER, bass guitar and vocals, BRIAN HILTON, lead guitar and vocals, BRIAN (NODDY) REDMAN, drums, KENNY JOHNSON, lead singer and rhythm guitar and FRANKIE WAN, steel guitar.

Frankie Wan left in 1967 and RONNIE BENNETT joined the band until he left in 1979 to concentrate on his business making steel guitars. DAVE ROWLAND then became the steel guitarist. Kenny Johnson decided to form his own band in 1975 and KEVIN McGARRY was invited to join the band as lead singer. Joe Butler left in 1993 and was replaced by MICK KINNEY on bass guitar.


  • They appeared at The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville in August 1967.
  • First British country band to have their own TV show on BBC2 in 1978.
  • Appeared with Chet Atkins at The Royal Albert Hall in London.
  • The Hillie's were also the first country band to make a major outside broadcast for a Radio Station. They have been guests on the Ralph Emery Show, Ernest Tubb’s Radio Show and The Grand Ole Opry Radio Show in USA, as well as several specially recorded shows for BBC and Radio 2.
  • They have won numerous awards for being voted Britain’s No.1 Band, and best band by the C.M.A (Country Music Association) three years running.
  • The band toured Germany with the late Red Sovine.
  • They also flew to the Falkland Isles just after the end of the war to entertain the troops stationed there.
  • Appeared on TV in America, Holland, Sweden and Norway as guests with Billie Jo Spears & Bobby Bare.
  • in 1971 they collaborated on an album with George Hamilton IV. Here is what George had to say about the lads:
"Well, there's a fella by the name of Ian Grant, who was producing records for RCA at the time, and I had met Ian when I first came to Britain in November 1967. I did a radio show called country meets folk, with Wally Whyton, and Ian was the producer.

Ian later became a record producer, and he came up with this idea to pair The Hillsiders, who at the time where Britain's premier country band, with a friend of theirs from Nashville, which wasn't the first time they had done that though as they had previously recorded an album with Bobby Bare in Nashville. But this was to be the first album recorded in Britain by an American with a British band and all British musicians.

So it was a kind of historic venture, and the Hillsiders and I have remained real good friends through the years.

We did a tour of Europe, the Scandinavian country's, Germany, Austria and Holland in 1969, and we did a television series together for BBC2. The first one was the one we did at the Nashville rooms which was also the first ever country music television series. So the Hillsiders and I have had historic moments together and a lot of good memories. Their great lads."


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Billy Crallan said...

They were once all very good friends of mine and I miss them dearly.
Billy Crallan.

Stan Laundon said...

Sad to hear about the death of our good friend, Kenny Johnson.
We have lost one of the UK's greatest country music singers.
RIP Kenny.