Chestnut Tree Productions - The Little Tree That Grew

Chesnut Tree

Story:Don Graham


About twenty five years ago on his property in the Laurentian Mountains, just north of Montreal, veteran big band musician Frank Hill planted a tiny chestnut tree, telling his son, Canadian guitar legend Bill Hill, that it probably wouldn’t last very long. All these years later, Frank Hill has gone to his great reward and the little chestnut tree is still flourishing. When Bill Hill and partner/son Andrew Hill were looking for a name for their music production company CHESTNUT TREE PRODUCTIONS was a natural choice, incorporating three generations of musical Hills into the fabric of the venture. 


A bit of history here will bring this unique story into focus. Frank Hill was a saxophone player and bandleader in Montreal, son Bill was a young guitarist, trying hard to learn his instrument. Dad offered son a job playing guitar in his band and so began young Bill’s baptism by fire. Bill then, while still in high school got a gig playing with Dave Nicholls and The Coins in a local nightclub. The only stipulation his parents gave the high school student was that it couldn’t interfere with his education. If he missed ONE day of school because of the band he was finished playing with them. Consequently there were many mornings when a red eyed sleepy young man struggled out of bed and made his way to school, never missing a day. Unfortunately the gig ended anyway when the group had to travel and Bill had to stay at home to study.


A few years and several garage bands later Bill would get a big break that would launch his career and cement his place in Canadian music history. Bill formed a band with singer Alan Nicholls, brother of the aforementioned Dave Nicholls, drummer Doug West, guitarist Andy Kaye and bassist Louie Atkins.  And JB and The Playboys started their journey. In 1965 they recorded an album for RCA, were the first band to do a Coca Cola commercial, toured with the Rolling Stones and opened for The Dave Clark Five. Pretty heady stuff for a bunch of kids from Montreal who quickly became Canada’s “Beatles”. During the whole recording process young Bill played very close attention to the engineer, the producer and the entire studio scene around him. This of course would serve him well in his future career.


Fast-forward to the 1970’s and Bill had continued building his reputation as a musician and with his vast knowledge and connections with the movers and shakers of the booming Montreal music scene. Hill was then employed by MUCH Productions, an idea that Alan Waters of CHUM had, which was headed up by publishing guru Brian Chater.


Bill heard a newly arrived band in Montreal at a local club. He saw something in the lead singer Myles Goodwin that he liked and convinced Chater to give him a budget to record the band. The debut album by Myles Goodwin and April Wine was produced at RCA’s studio in Montreal by Bill Hill for MUCH and leased to Aquarius Records. Bill went on to produce other Aquarius acts including east coast power band SOMA.


ANDREW HILL, BILL HILL, BRIAN CHATER, DON GRAHAMANDREW HILL, BILL HILL, BRIAN CHATER, DON GRAHAMIn 1972 Bill produced my first single for Aquarius/Gamma, (distributed by London Records) ‘Shelter in the Sky’ at Andre Perry’s studio, not long after Andre had done the remote of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous ‘Give Peace A Chance’. This record was a “pick hit” in Cashbox magazine. The next career move for Hill was the opening of his own studio Son Montreal Sound in 1976, a highly successful and productive facility that turned out some of the top disco hits of the era and some fine country, rock and pop records.


Now in the new millennium, the story comes full circle. As dad Frank Hill offered son Bill a chance to pursue his creative outlet, the chance arrived for dad Bill to welcome son Andrew into the musical fold. Blessed with a God given talent and the creative genes (Bill’s wife Sue is an accomplished artist) Andrew has quickly developed into one of Canada’s premier studio guitarists as well as having the great studio ears of his famous dad.


The first project the duo completed was ‘Don Graham.A Willing Heart’ on the Canadian-owned Breakin’ Records label, an eleven song collection that took my guitar and voice demos to a fully orchestrated CD that was released in April 2010. The CD received great reviews, reached as high as #7 on the U.S. Cashbox Country Roots charts and is still going strong. A new project for Don Graham and Chestnut Tree Productions is currently in the preproduction stage with a tentative release date of April 2011. A great example of how they can take a demo and turn it into a finished product is heard on their website or my website


As explained on their website this team is a one stop opportunity for the working musician with a limited budget to get their songs recorded and released to the world as well as for the established artist with a bigger budget that wants to keep continuity with the previous high quality work. 


At CHESTNUT TREE PRODUCTIONS no job is too big or too small. Three generations of Hills make you realize that the chestnut doesn’t fall far from the tree!!!