The HillBenders’ “Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry” 

Tommy, can you hear me? Playing the Who's music on a mandolin and banjo?

The Springfield, Missouri-based band, the HillBenders, will visit the Buckman Performing & Fine Arts Center on Friday, May 12th to perform "Tommy: A Bluegass Opry" based on the Who's 1969 rock opera, Tommy.

Asked what reaction he gets when he tells people his band performs a bluegrass Tommy, HillBenders guitarist Jim Rea says, "You get a blank stare."

But, he says, "The people who grew up with the record really seem to get it more than the people who grew up on Bill Monroe or any sort of traditional bluegrass."

click to enlarge The HillBenders
  • The HillBenders

The late Louis Meyers, one of the founders of the South by Southwest festival, came up with the idea, Rea says. "He said, 'You are the band. Your band has enough of the rock-and-roll chops and the bluegrass chops to pull it off without making it hokey.'"

Rea took on the arranging position and worked up a few songs, including "Pinball Wizard" and "1921." He sent some "rough scratches" to Meyers, who approved. "His main goal was to be true to the record. And it not be hay bales, overalls, and straw hats."

The HillBenders released the album in the winter of 2014 and into 2015.

Pete Townshend of the Who "caught wind" of the album, Rea says. "He loved it."

Townshend's positive response was "an early big feather in the hat" for the HillBenders.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.




Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Tiger Blue

Tigers 28, SMU 18

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Defeat Kings 112-104

Hungry Memphis

Zopita's on the Square to open Nov. 19

We Saw You

Indie Film Fest, Grilled Cheese Fest, Adapt-A-Door and more!

Hungry Memphis

Little Italy Opening Downtown

News Blog

Seven Vie for Vacant District 1 Council Seat

News Blog

Group of White Women Test Mall’s No Hoodie Policy

Hungry Memphis

The Nine Now Open

Fly On The Wall Blog

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

Hungry Memphis

Gordon Ramsay's in Memphis to Save a Restaurant!


More by Michael Donahue

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation