Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Disneyland Legend Ends: Farewell, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies

Monday, January 6, I found myself at Disneyland.  Anyone who knows me will realize that isn't an unusual place to find me. In fact, one of my daughters posted on facebook recently: 

I think my mom should just change her answering machine to; You have reached the mobile # of Kristi , I am currently unavailable, but just leave me a message on Disneyland resort loudspeaker and hopefully I will hear it. LOL!

I usually enjoy various areas of the park during a visit, but this week I went with only one purpose in mind:  to watch Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform on their final day as Disneyland performers.  After 21 years, Disneyland chose to retire Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.  I will definitely miss watching them play there; my typical Disney visit always includes their show. 

The first time I watched them, our youngest kids were in grade school and our oldest were teens.  We had heard that Billy Hill and the Hillbillies appealed to all ages, so we decided to take our lunch break in the Golden Horseshoe saloon.  What a great decision!  Not only could this group play, they were funny!  All of us were laughing so hard.  Of course, with "Puddle Prance" (inspired by "River Dance") as an introduction, how could we not like them?

(Not my video, but found on youtube.)



Thus started a tradition of watching Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.  Even though we became familiar with some of their jokes and routines, the magic never wore down.  Besides, there was always something fresh in each show.  One routine involved bringing an unsuspecting audience member on stage to do a little fiddling.  Usually, the Billies brought out a small-size fiddle for the suspect.  One time, the little girl they brought on stage surprised everyone by actually knowing how to fiddle.  The Billies quickly brought out a full-size instrument for her, and she brought down the house by being able to keep up with them during the Orange Blossom Special.  Another time, we witnessed a marriage proposal.  (She accepted.)  

When I learned the Billy Hill show was being retired, I made some extra trips to Disneyland, and made plans to attend on January 6--their last day.  I arrived at the park shortly before it opened on Monday, and once through the main gates, made my way to the Big Thunder Ranch area.  I joined others who were waiting for the Jamboree gates to open.  Around 9:30, we were allowed inside, and I found a seat on a second-row, center bench.  Another fan had purchased a lot of fake teeth, and passed those out to anyone who wanted them.  Of course I wanted to participate in surprising Billy Hill!  When he put on his "proth-TEETH-is" during the 11:15 show,  he got to see us all smiling back at him with our own! 

Not in good focus, unfortunately, but quintessential Billy.


(It did crack him up--he paused the show to have us stand up and face the rest of the audience, so they could see what he saw.)

Before the 11:15 show, which was the first scheduled performance of the day, the Hillbillies presented another show for us die-hard fans.  They had no script, just gave an informal performance of well-played, good music.  They also explained that during their scheduled performances, they would be sticking to the script only as much as they had to, and would be playing a variety of songs.  They knew that many of us would be there all day, and would appreciate hearing as many different songs as we could.  

The crowds grew with each performance.  More and more people came, but very few people left.  Between shows, we stretched our legs and made runs for food or bathroom breaks, but quickly returned to wait for the next performance.  By 5:15, the Jamboree area was standing-room only.  

I took so many photos during the day, trying to preserve some of the memories and facial expressions I had witnessed over the years:








I think this one might best capture the bittersweet feeling of the day, though:



Unfortunately, with all my photo-snapping, I didn't leave enough room on my memory card to capture all of the final show.  However, I knew that with all the other people in the crowd, someone would have it in its entirety.  For those of you so inclined (I know I have children who will want to see this), here is the final performance, including encore, compliments of a youtube posting by SoCalThemeParks360:

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Have you ever watched Billy Hill and the Hillbillies perform? 
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Thanks for excellent music, good humor, and years of family memories.

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4 comments:

  1. I've never been to Disneyland, but I've heard of this show. Your post and photos are a wonderful tribute to this group.

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  2. Never been to Disneyland and never heard of this show and I'm sorry I haven't seen both.... They look like lots of fun. The video will have to wait till my new provider is working here, so I have speedy internet again.
    How wonderful you got to see their last day performing! Nobody can take that away from you anymore!

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  3. Aw, glad you got to enjoy the last performances of Billy Hill & The Hillbillies. They remind me of some of the entertainment that is available in Branson, Mo, especially at Silver Dollar City, a theme park there. I don't remember seeing that show when I was at Disneyland, but it's been at least 16 years since I was there last.

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  4. It is really shameful that I live 6 miles from Disneyland and haven't been in 9 years - it was Amara's first birthday. It had been at least 10 years before that! I guess after so many visits as a child and teenager I guess all the thrill of it is gone for me.

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!