The Dillards – Copperfields – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

The Dillards

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

For the first time on the site, Hot Stamper sound for The Dillards! Those of you who enjoy the country-fried style of the Flying Burrito Bros., Gram Parsons or The Byrds will probably get a lot out of this one. We paired up our best sounding side one with our most impressive side two to create this QUIET A+++ / A++ 2-pack. Great sounding pressings for this band are tough to come by, so don’t let this one slip past you if you’re a fan!

We’ve been trying to find great sound for this band for years, but it is one tough task. For one thing, it’s difficult to find clean copies out in the bins and even when we do most of them don’t sound that hot. It took years worth of purchases to get enough of these together for a shootout, and even then very few of them delivered. We couldn’t even come up with a copy with two great sides, so we paired up the two pressings that had the best sound for either side.

The side one here is killer earning our top grade of A+++. The sound is super open and transparent with a very wide soundfield, giving lots of room to each of the musicians. This side one had the best bottom end we heard anywhere. It also had excellent presence, lots of energy and natural texture all around. It couldn’t be beat and I’d be very surprised if you could find a better one.

The side two of this set is nearly as good, smooth and sweet with lots of extension in the extremes. Many copies suffered from a veiled midrange that robbed the instruments of texture, but this one was cleaner, clearer and more transparent. We gave it an A++.

Flip either of the rated sides over to hear what separates a Hot Stamper pressing from the rest!

We Love It

We love the album and are happy to award it a Top Recommendation. This is the band the Jayhawks grew up listening to… along with, I’m guessing, The Byrds (circa Sweetheart of the Rodeo), The Grateful Dead (American Beauty), The Eagles (first LP), Poco, and no doubt plenty of bands that never became famous.

Actually the Dillards themselves never became famous, which is too bad, because based on this album they should have. It’s full of wonderfully melodic songs, with all the boys pitching in for harmony, backed by every stringed instrument that’s fit to pick: guitar, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, fiddle, dobro — you name it, they play it. They even do one by the Beatles. And that’s not nostalgia: the Beatles were together (sort of) when this record was made!

By the way, the guy front and center is Herb Pederson. I never knew who he was until I attended a concert that Chris Hillman and his acoustic trio gave at a coffee house (!) and then again at a home concert (where I was lucky enough to sit three feet from them and got to chat them up during the break).

They performed mostly old bluegrass and country tunes (with Hillman on mandolin, his first and favorite instrument), some originals, and even covered one or two of The Byrds’ hits. The guitarist in the band turned out to be Herb Pederson, and one day I noticed a similarity between the 55+ year old gentleman I saw that night and the guy on the cover of The Dillards. Sure enough, it’s the same guy!

You can also find his name on dozens of country rock records by artists like Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. He was the “go to” guy back in the day, with his top notch harmonies and authentic country guitar playing. Which is what he brings to this album too.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rainmaker 
In Our Time 
Old Man at the Mill 
Touch Her if You Can 
Woman Turn Around 
Yesterday 
Brother John

Side Two

Copperfields 
West Montana Hanna 
Close the Door Lightly 
Pictures 
Ebo Walker 
Sundown

AMG  Review

… it was a similarly eclectic and, for the most part, joyous romp through a fusion of bluegrass, rock, folk, and country, with a bit of pop and orchestration along the ride, and the group’s superb vocal harmonies being the main constant…

Artist Biography by Steve Huey

One of the leading lights of progressive bluegrass in the ’60s, the Dillards played a major part in modernizing and popularizing the sound of bluegrass, and were also an underappreciated influence on country-rock. The group was founded by brothers Doug (banjo) and Rodney Dillard (guitar), who grew up in Salem, Missouri, playing music together. During the late ’50s, they appeared often on local radio and performed with several different area bands, including the Hawthorn Brothers, the Lewis Brothers, and the Dixie Ramblers; they also recorded a couple of singles for the St. Louis-based K-Ark label as the Dillard Brothers in 1958. In 1960, they decided to form their own group, recruiting DJ pal Mitch Jayne on bass, as well as mandolin player Dean Webb. Christening themselves the Dillards, the quartet decided to move to Los Angeles in 1962, and were quickly signed to Elektra after being discovered at a gig with the Greenbriar Boys. Not long after, the group landed a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show, appearing in several episodes over the next few years as a musically inclined hillbilly family called the Darlings. Back Porch Bluegrass Meanwhile, the Dillards released their debut album, Back Porch Bluegrass, in 1963, and also teamed up with Glen Campbell and Tut Taylor for the side project the Folkswingers, who went on to release two albums. the Dillards’ second album, 1964’s concert set Live! Almost!, captured their controversial move into amplified electric instruments, which was considered heresy by many bluegrass purists; they also began to tour with rock groups, most notably the Byrds. In response to purist criticism, the group followed Live! Almost! in 1965 with the more traditional Pickin’ & Fiddlin’, which featured co-billing for fiddler Byron Berline. Dissatisfied with the way Elektra was marketing them, the Dillards switched labels to Capitol, but found a similar lack of kindred spirits in the producers they worked with there, and wound up returning to Elektra without releasing an album. Meanwhile, Doug and Rodney were increasingly at odds over the group’s creative direction, with Rodney pursuing a more radical break with tradition than Doug. Doug moonlighted in the backing band for ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s groundbreaking collaboration with the Gosdin Brothers, and after he and Rodney recorded some material for the Bonnie & Clyde film soundtrack in 1967, he decided to leave the Dillards and strike out on his own. Wheatstraw Suite Doug soon teamed up with Gene Clark as Dillard & Clark and recorded some highly regarded material before starting a solo career that remained productive through the ’70s. Rodney, meanwhile, replaced his brother with banjoist Herb Pedersen, and the Dillards recorded what many critics regard as their masterwork, Wheatstraw Suite. Released in 1968, the album displayed Rodney’s progressive eclecticism in full cry, featuring fuller instrumentation and covers of the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe.” Though it wasn’t a hit, critics and musicians praised its unpredictable mix of bluegrass, country, folk, rock, and pop. Released in 1970, Copperfields took a similarly adventurous approach, and drummer Paul York became an official member of the group. Unfortunately, Elektra was still somewhat mystified by their music, and they parted ways again. Pedersen departed in 1972 to join Byron Berline’s band, Country Gazette, and was replaced by Billy Ray Latham; by this time, the Dillards had signed with the smaller Anthem label, where they landed their only charting pop hit, “It’s About Time,” in 1971. An opening slot on tour with Elton John in 1972 helped Roots & Branches become their biggest-selling album to date, but the group subsequently switched over to the Poppy label for their follow-up, 1973’s country-rock effort Tribute to the American Duck.