Jimmy Hill

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Drummer Jimmy Hill was one of the mainstay beatkeepers on the New Zealand rock scene of the '60s and '70s. He grew up in the Southland town of Mataura and began his musical career in the Gore Municipal…
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Drummer Jimmy Hill was one of the mainstay beatkeepers on the New Zealand rock scene of the '60s and '70s. He grew up in the Southland town of Mataura and began his musical career in the Gore Municipal Brass band, perhaps an inevitable step in the career process leading to the drum chair in Ray Columbus & the Invaders, a '60s band with several chart hits on the island nation, most notably the sublime "She's a Mod." The drummer's career continued in the '70s with Headband, a band and not something Hill wore to mop up sweat. This somewhat more experimental combo from the subsequent decade should not be confused with the German rock band of the same name. Actually, this is one case where certain listeners would probably be happy with either Headband, as both traded in ideas that were prevalent in the progressive rock of the era, including jazz influences and the utilization of instruments such as violin and saxophone.

Bandleader Tommy Adderley created the New Zealand Headband from the inspiration of British bluesman John Mayall, whose Turning Point group abandoned drums and attempted to put across a rock combo sound with little or no amplification. How would a beat drummer such as Hill fit into such a scenario? Only when Adderley, like Mayall, realized the sound systems of the world weren't up to dealing with acoustic instruments in such a context, and that what was really needed was an amplifier and a good drummer. Not that such a commercial change was needed in order for Headband to get bookings. In the early '70s, Adderley purchased Auckland's Bo-Peep club and refurbished and re-opened it as Grannys, the new permanent venue for Headband.

Billy Kristian, one of Hill's former associates in the Ray Columbus' Invaders, joined up with the group and it began recording for the New Zealand branch of HMV. Four singles were released, three of them cracking the Top 20. A shortage of listeners willing to groove to songs entitled "Time" and "Paranoia" seems like yet another positive for New Zealand. Almost like characters in a low-budget rock exploitation film, Headband actually did most of its live playing at its Auckland club base, apart from a college tour in 1972. Headband wore out about a year later; Adderley kept on concentrating on his nightclub, without having to set up and play til the end of the night. The police finally shut the venue down in 1976, by which time it had developed a sleazy reputation. In 1975, Headband was placed once again on the sweaty brow of the New Zealand rock scene, this time for a national reunion tour and new recordings. The lineup featured Hill, jumpy violinist Dick Hopp, bassist Neil Edwards, and crafty keyboardist Len Whittle.

A new album, a single, and the 2000 reissue The Headband Collection complete the discography of this band. The German Headband, on the other brow, features players such as saxophonist Norbert Stein and released three albums between 1979 and 1982 entitled Straight Ahead, Suntalk, and Fette Bruhe. Hill, who tended to be the man they called when international rock performers such as Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison wanted to put together New Zealand backup units, died from an inoperable cyst behind his heart.