Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: May 26, 2010 Archive

R.I.P. Bill Hinkley

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 26, 2010 by Dale Connelly (46 Comments)

Radio Heartland has tickets to a concert featuring Bruce Molsky and Ale Möller at the Cedar Cultural Center this Thursday, May 27th at 7:30pm.

Enter the drawing.
Obey the rules.
Good luck.

A true V.I.P. died yesterday. Bill Hinkley wasn't a Governor or CEO of anything and he didn't invent or manipulate credit default swaps, but he was a very important person if you cared at all about acoustic music or wanted to learn to play the fiddle or couldn't remember all the lyrics to that song you once heard that included the line about the bumblebee and the words "root hog or die".

Longtime Hinkley friend and collaborator Adam Granger will stop by in the 8 o'clock hour (repeated at noon) today, and we'll raid the library for some recordings that feature Bill.

There is a lovely salute at the Prairie Home Companion website. Garrison Keillor sang a song for Bill Hinkley on last week's broadcast, identifying him as "The very first guitarist on our show when it started back in 1974. He and his partner Judy Larson played our theme song for the first few seasons. Our very first musician."

Reading the tributes to him and the reminiscences of his friends, one theme that emerges is that the man has a truly remarkable brain. Bill Hinkley could see things and hear them and remember it all exactly.

The Homestead Pickin' Parlor website says this: "The question has often been posed as to whether Bill may know more tunes than anyone alive today. We've not stumped him yet and we've tried. Challenge him if you must, but make sure you look good with humble pie on your face."

Bill once said in an interview, "There's a lot that I do remember. I'm a great storehouse of dubiously applicable information. One of the things that I've learned from teaching - I've learned how to read and write music. A lot of students - they couldn't learn the way I did, through mimicry and eidetic (or photographic) memory of process. The important thing is to get a sound out of the thing. Even just a primitive little sound - a note."

Bill Hinkley used his excellent brain in the best way possible - to play music, to teach others to play, and to bring some pleasure to anyone who would listen.

What is the most amazing feat of memory you have performed or witnessed? Or can't you recall?

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