About Hickory Hill

 

Celebrating their 35th anniversary in September, 2014, Hickory Hill has proven to be one of Texas' most popular and enduring acoustic groups. Through the years, the band has won considerable recognition, winning third place in the "Best New Band" contest at the Bluegrass Festival of the United States in Louisville, KY in 1981, and being nominated by SPBGMA as "Entertaining Bluegrass Band of the Year" in 1985 and "Bluegrass Band of the Year, Contemporary" in 1986. In 1993, Hickory Hill was named "Band Of The Year" by the Arts and Entertainment Committee of East Texas, and in 1996 was selected for a showcase performance at the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual World of Bluegrass in Owensboro, Kentucky. Hickory Hill has been the host band of the Overton Bluegrass Music Festival since the festival's inception in 1989.

Hickory Hill's first four albums, Coyote Night (1982), Special Historical Edition (1983), It's About Time (1985), and Reminiscin' (1990) received both critical acclaim and widespread acceptance from fans. In reviewing It's About Time, Ted Miller of the Bluegrass Newsletter said "...If all the albums produced sounded like this, bluegrass would be at the top of the record charts." In 1994, Hickory Hill signed with Turquoise Records of Whitesburg, Kentucky, to release a compilation of its first four albums. The resulting CD, entitled "The First Fifteen Years", received significant national and international attention and airplay. A Bluegrass, Canada reviewer described The First Fifteen Years as "...chock full of creative lyrics and instrumental high points." A review of the album in Dirty Linen said "Hickory Hill is a cross between Poco gone grass and a Dirt Band that bathes, with a splash of Bill Monroe..."

Hickory Hill's fifth recording, "Good Times Again", released in March, 1998, features original songs written by Jimmy Godwin, John Early, and Don Eaves. Two of the selections from Good Times Again, "Cadillac" and "Pecos Wind", which were released on Prime Cuts of Bluegrass, have received favorable reviews and frequent airplay by DJ's from coast to coast, as well as in Germany, France, The Netherlands, Australia, Estonia, and other international markets.

In January, 2000 Hickory Hill released it's first all-gospel recording entitled "Thank You Lord". This long awaited and requested project featured more original songs by the late Jimmy Godwin ("Lost and Found", "Red Roses", and "The Rock") and John Early ("Sharecropper's Prayer"). The CD stands as a testament to the faith that strengthens the band and it's will to persevere.

"Freedom" , the band's eighth recording released in the summer of 2002, contains more of the heartfelt original material that has become the band's trademark. Two of the last songs Jimmy Godwin shared with the group are featured along with four contributions penned by John Early.

Hickory Hill’s ninth release came in 2006.  "Old School" was the realization of a long held desire to record a traditional bluegrass CD. As on their previous recordings, they included some original material. For this project, Wes Perry contributes his compositions “Old Red” and “Fly Like A Dove”.

The band's most recent project completed in the summer of 2014. "The Kings of Texas Folk-Grass", named after the moniker coined by long time friend and musician Mike Powell, takes full advantage of the addition of the latest members, virtuosos Michael Morrison and Milo Deering. It features some incredible arrangements of an eclectic collection of cover tunes special to the band members. There are lead vocal contributions from John, Wes and Michael. The project was recorded at Milo's Dallas studio, Acoustic Kitchen.

Hickory Hill includes John Early, guitar; Bob Stegall, bass; Wes Perry, banjo; Michael Morrison, mandolin and guitar; and Milo Deering on fiddle and most other things with strings. John sings most of the lead vocals, with Wes, Michael and Milo adding harmony vocals and occasional leads. Michael agreed to step in to fill a very empty spot left after the devastating passing of their last most recent addition, Jake Jenkins.  Jake was an extraordinary talent who they felt fortunate to have join them on banjo, guitar and vocals toward the end of 2009 when original member and banjoist-vocalist Don Eaves decided to retire from performing.  They lost Jake, who was only forty years of age, to a tragic airplane accident.  So now, missing both of their former banjoists, Wes has moved from mandolin to banjo to fill that vacancy with Michael taking over Wes' former mandolin role. But they continue to appreciate the important contributions of both of their former banjo men. Milo is the most recent addition, beginning a regular role in the summer of 2012.  One of the most sought after musicians in the Dallas area, the rest of the band is thrilled by his interest in being a part of the Hickory Hill family.  A good friend for a number of years, he brings a new level of magic to their music.

The late Jimmy Godwin, an outstanding musician, songwriter, and longtime friend of the band, was a member of Hickory Hill from 1997-2000.  Jimmy composed many of Hickory Hill's most popular songs, including "The James Boys and Me", "Cadillac", "Pecos Wind", "Simple Love Song", "Lost and Found", and many more.  Another original member and very popular front man, Rolan Foster was also lost prematurely when he passed to cancer in 1996. Another original member, Ronny Singley, retired from traveling with the group in the spring of 2002, and long time friend Mike Tucker contributed mandolin on many occasions.

According to the Bluegrass Newsletter, "Selectivity and tasteful arrangement are characteristic of Hickory Hill's repertoire." Variety is an important ingredient in Hickory Hill's performances. The band emphasizes original material, seldom heard "gems", or songs adapted from other styles of music. Original and classic gospel songs are some of the band's favorites. Hickory Hill has always been known for its warm personality and stage presence. Lee Kelly of the Longview Morning Journal wrote "...Together, they forge a sound like a drink of cold spring water, guaranteed to clear your head and wash away the taste of ashes." Bob Claypool of the Houston Chronicle said "...The next time Hickory Hill is in your town, go see them, you'll love them." They hope you will.