Singer, songwriter, guitar player, known for two solo albums in the 1970’s
Billy Hallquist was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on October 19, 1949 and moved to Minnesota at age 12.
At age 15 he got his first guitar, from Montgomery Ward and his cousin taught him to play “Peter Gunn” and “What I’d Say” by Ray Charles. After seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964, Billy decided he wanted to be in a band. Originally he wanted to be in a band that played all instrumentals, like The Ventures. Some of the early recording artists that Billy liked were: Elvis, Roy Orbison, and The Beach Boys.
After he saw The Beatles, Billy became fans of many of the British Invasion bands including: The Rolling Stones; The Yardbirds; The Hollies; The Kinks; and Herman’s Hermits (in addition to The Beatles).
Four of Billy’s friends were going to start a band, however, since The Beatles were a quartet with two guitar players, they thought a band could not (or should not) have three guitar players, so they decided that Billy should not be part of the band.
THE AGRESSORS and THE TRANSGRESSORS
A friend, Al Sterner, approached Billy about starting a new band with him. They had a mutual friend, Rick LiaBraaten, who wanted to learn to play drums and another friend, Bob Christensen, was talked into buying a bass guitar… he played trumpet in school and could also play the piano. Since Billy had been playing his guitar for four weeks and Al for two weeks, Billy was designated as lead guitar player and Al was designated to play rhythm guitar. The band came up with the name, The Agressors, and then switched to The Transgressors before their first band job. The band played at school and church dances, recreation halls, and at a rental hall at a fire station called The Fire Barn. At a Battle of the Bands held at a dance hall, the other band had professional equipment and won the battle. Al and Billy shared a Silvertone Amp and Bob’s Fender Amp blew a fuse. For a PA they had one small Airplane Amp with a cheap microphone.
THE OTHE GUYS
Lee Crawford invited Rick to join his band called The Other Guys. Billy started sitting in or he was asked to join. Also in the band were: Bruce Carlson and Ron Liljedahl. Billy was very impressed with their sound. They were doing four part harmonies. Ron played an Epiphone 12 string guitar. The band played songs by The Beatles, The Animals (including “Boom, Boom”), The Stones, Dylan, Spencer Davis, James Brown, and Top 40 – R & B songs. In addition the band played original songs written by Ron.
Bruce left the band, Gary Disch joined on organ, and Mike Creighton joined as lead singer/front man. The band played for college Frat parties, high school dances and at The Fire Barn. The band had planned on going to Chicago to record some of Ron’s original songs, but it never came about and the band broke up.
THE GOOD IDEA
In the Summer of 1967, Rick Liabraaten answered an ad for a drummer and joined up with Bob Blank and Dave Linder in a Christian rock band called Good Idea. Billy started hanging around as a roadie and by the Summer of 1968 ran their light show, designed and built by John Miessen. In order to play clubs, the band played songs by The Beatles, The Hollies, The Left Banke, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, and The Doors. Bob played sax and sang lead vocals (like Gary Puckett), Dave played lead guitar and sand, Rick played drums and sang, John had a Hohner piano atop a Farfisa organ and played bass notes with his left hand and sang.
In early, 1968, The Good Idea traveled to Chicago to record a 45 at the Checker – Chess studio: “Inside – Outside” backed with “Patterns in Logic” released on their own private label.
In the Fall of 1968, John Miessen was taking a music class in college and as part of the class he wrote an extended suite (rock opera) based on the Biblical Christmas Story he called “12 – 25” (referring to December 25, Christmas Day). The Good Idea went into Universal Audio (formerly Kay Bank Recording) and recorded the extended musical suite called “12- 25” over a period of weeks. John wrote the music. Bob wrote the words. Billy attended the sessions. After Dave left the band to devote full attention to college, Billy took his place on guitar. After playing a few jobs, the band decided to call it quits.
John, Rick and Billy continued on without Bob and worked on a follow-up to “12-25.” “Summertime Children” was meant to be another extended, multi-movement musical piece. John played keyboards, bass parts and sang. Billy played guitar and sang. Rick played drums and sang. The three called themselves Final Assembly. The name came from Billy’s work place, where his area was designated as: Final Assembly.
The three musicians kept in touch with Bob and the topic of him rejoining came up. Bob agreed to re-join the group with one condition… he wanted to add a bass player. Terry Tilley joined on bass guitar when Bob returned to the group. John, Rick, Billy, Terry and Bob took on the name Thundertre (with one “e” on the end of the name).
“Summertime Children” never came together as originally planned. The band began writing songs as a group and came up with: “Head Embers”; “At the Top of the Stairs”; “Dusty Road” and “In the Morning”.
Late, 1968: John Miessen made a trip to Roulette Records and met with Morris Levy and got a record deal based on the “12-25” musical suite, although the band had to remove a scripture like portion of “12-25” and finish the album with 5 additional “regular” songs.
BACK TO UNIVERSAL AUDIO
In late, 1969, the band polished up the five songs they had written and were getting ready to go into Universal Audio on a Monday morning with Bob Schultz doing the engineering. The night before the session, Thundertre played a job at a local cub. The band’s manager/agent showed up with a representative from Tetragrammaton Records, based out of Los Angeles, California.
The next morning while at the studio setting up, Bob called and informed the band that he had gone out for coffee with the person from the record company after the band job and had been offered a job as a writer and artist development for Tetragrammaton Records and would not be involved in the Thundertre recording.
John Miessen had been designated as producer for the album. His first reaction was to have Billy become the new lead singer, however Billy said the band should look for a replacement for Bob and that he would only take the job if no one else could be located.
On Monday the band recorded the basic tracks for the songs. That night they put out a call for vocalists. John went to work re-writing Bob’s lyrics and melodies. On Tuesday they had finished recording the basic tracks. That night the band auditioned for a vocalist.
On Wednesday, Billy sang vocals for “Summertime Children.” The band also over-dubbed solos. John kept asking Billy to get ready to sing on the tracks. Wednesday night they auditioned Dervin Wallin and he was asked to join the band. On Thursday, Dervin came over to the studio. John finished the lyrics and the band taught him the songs. Dervin sang lead vocals on the remaining songs. On Friday morning the band drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and opened up a show for The Box Tops, with Dervin on vocals. The next day, Saturday, the band drove back to Minnesota and played a 4 hour club gig with no rehearsal. The next week, the band returned to Universal Audio to mix the album.
THUNDERTREE ALBUM JACKET
Local graphic artist Vernon Morris of Pepper Art designed artwork for the cover of the album, however Roulette wanted the band name spelled as Thundertree with 2 “e’s” on the end and they commissioned Ely Besalel to do the artwork for the album jacket (inspired by the Vernon Morris artwork). Vernon Morris was a partner with Dale Strength from the local band Pepper Fog for the graphic design company, Pepper Art.
In early, 1970, the Thundertree album was released on Roulette. The band had gotten an advance to complete the recording and each member got a small amount of money. With his money, Billy purchased a Vox Super Beatle top and two Sovereign bottoms. No other money (royalties) were ever paid to the group from Roulette.
Thundertree played at local clubs and dance halls and armories throughout Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
BAND LINEUP CHANGES
In March, 1970, Dervin left the band to join The Litter and Jeff Shapiro joined on vocals. John left the band but stayed on as producer for the album until Roulette decided they were not going to pick up the option for a second album. Gerry Magee took over John’s place in the group on keyboards.
On March 22, 1970, Thundertree opened for Johnny Winter at The Labor Temple in Minneapolis. Edgar Winter was also there and played keyboards on some of the songs.
The band opened a show for Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes at the Duluth Armory.
In April, 1970, the band opened for Rotary Connection (with Minnie Riperton) at The Depot (now First Avenue).
The band opened for The Clique at the New City Opera House in Minneapolis on Lake Street. The club was formerly Mr. Lucky’s, a teen club. The prior night Santana had played at the club.
In August, 1970, Billy left the band and Mike Mankey (formerly with Triad) took over on guitar and vocals.
GATHERING AT THE DEPOT ALBUM
In September, 1970, Mike, Jeff, Gerry, Terry and Rick recorded the prior group’s arrangement of “16 Tons” for the Gathering at The Depot album, a promotional album for Alpha Productions that featured local rock bands which came out in late 1970.
SOLO CAREER AFTER THUNDERTREE
Immediately after Thundertree, Billy teamed up with Dervin Wallin (and members of Grizzly) to record another version of “16 Tons” and a new song Billy had written called “Pepper Palace” a song about the band house where the guys from Pepper Fog lived (2541 Grand Avenue South) and was known for having a party or two. The recording was done at Micside. Billy had written “Pepper Palace” with the idea that it might be included on the second Thundertree album.
Billy took the two songs out to New York City and “shopped the tape” but could not find any interest. Roullette would not let him in the door. At Scepter Records he met Stan Greenburg who turned him down but encouraged him to keep writing and recording and sending him demo tapes. Not knowing that Stan Greenburg was an icon in the music business, Billy did not follow through with his advice.
PERSEPHONE ALBUM on Orion Records: 1972
Billy recorded an album in 1971 at Sound 80 with Scott Rivard as engineer. The title song “Persephone” is about ghosts, demons and devils in a nightmare. Billy commissioned William Stille to do the artwork and lettering. The artwork appears to show various demonic looking creatures. The album was pressed on Billy’s Orion label in 1972 and 2,000 copies were pressed. The music is Psychedelic/Folk.
Musicians on Persephone:
Billy Hallquist – Guitar and Vocals
Tom Hatcher – Acoustic and Electric Guitar
Neil Iverson – Guitar and Vocals
Jerry Johnson – Guitar and Vocals
Rick LiaBraaten – Drums and Vocals
Rich Miller – Bass Guitar
Karl Ausland, Beckey Borchardt, Debbie Barton – Vocals
Steve Crawford, Kim Hines, Dan Melford, Lee Sterner – Vocals
Kathy Weingarden, John Holmquist, Tom Byrd – Vocals
TRAVELIN’ on MILL CITY RECORDS: 1976
While Billy was promoting the Persephone album he met Al Heigl of Mill City Records. He signed Billy to his label and produced his second solo album called Travelin’. Travelin’ started out as a joint project with fellow Mill City artist Kevin Odegaard, however, that got sidetracked when Kevin was given the opportunity to play with other local musicians on Dylan’s “Blood on the Track’s album recorded at Sound 80. One of Kevin’s songs is included on the Travelin’ album. Travelin’ was recorded at Audio Tek Recording Studio with David Rivkin as engineer and was mixed in Quad Sound by Paul Martinson at Sound 80. The music is in the Country/Folk style.
BACK TO BANDS
Billy went ton to play with the following bands:
MaCavity: 1975 to 1976.
The KO Band: 1976 to 1977.
(Billy Hallquist, Jeff Dayton, Kevin Odegaard, Gary Lopac, Bobby Rivkin).
Cimmaron: 1977 to 1978.
The Taste Buds: 1987 to 1991.
Perfectly Loud: 1996 to 2002.
Three Amigo’s : 2010.
Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club: 2011.
Blood on the Tracks Dylan Tribute: 2009 -2012.
Bob Dylan Tribute: 2013 to 2014.
The KO Band Reunions: 2001, 2009, 2012.
Minnesota Music Legends Concerts: 2013, 2014, 2015 (produced by Billy Hallquist).
The first Minnesota Legends Concert was held on August 17, 2013 in St. Louis Park. This concert featured the first Thundertree Reunion with original members: Bill Hallquist; Jeff Shapiro; Dervin Wallin; and Rick Liabraaten. The original members were joined by: Dennis Libby (keyboards); Jonathon Thomas (bass guitar); and Mark Lamonie (guitar). Terry Tilley was at the show but could not play due to a hand injury.
In 2009, the Bella Terra – Riverman label (out of South Korea) re-released the Persephone album on a CD, featuring the original artwork.
In 2013, the Bella Terra – Riverman label (out of South Korea) re-released the Thundertree album on a CD, featuring the original artwork. The CD includes the original songs from the 1970 Roulette album and two bonus tracks: “Sixteen Tons” and “Pepper Palace.”
In 2013, Guerssen Records (out of Spain) re-released the Thundertree album in vinyl format. The album includes the original songs from the 1970 Roulette album and two bonus tracks: “Sixteen Tons” and “Pepper Palace.”
A school paper written Billy Hallquist called “My Fondest Dream.”
“My great desire at this moment is to become a great guitarist with a rock’n’roll band and along with that would come a record which, of course, would be a worldwide hit.
I wouldn’t enjoy being as successful as The Beatles because I enjoy playing for a live dancing audience more than performing for a seated audience in a concert. Of course making a couple million dollars a year could possibly change my mind.
The band I am in now is doing very well in a limited manner. We have a reputation in the Roosevelt area but it is not unusual to run into people who have heard of us in other parts of town. We are now planning to hold some dances to raise a thousand dollars. With this money we plan to go to Chicago over Christmas vacation to cut a record. If things work out the way we hope, maybe this will amount to more than just a dream.”
This paper was graded by his teacher as follows: “Nicely done. B.”
Written by Tom Campbell
Version 1: January 10, 2012
Version 2: October 24, 2015
Version 3: October 25, 2015
Copyright by Thomas R. Campbell, 2015
You and I – From Persephone
Help You Now – From Persephone
Persephone – From Persephone
Billy Hallquist Guitar and vocals
The Other Guys
The K.O. Band
Blood on the Tracks Live
LA Rod and Reel Club
Billy passed away at age 65 on October 12, 2015.