Christopher “Chris” Hillman (born December 4, 1944) is an American musician. He was the original bassist and one of the original members of The Byrds, which in 1965 included Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby and Michael Clarke. With frequent collaborator Gram Parsons, Hillman was a key figure in the development of country rock, defining the genre through his work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and the country-rock group Desert Rose Band.
Hillman was born in Los Angeles, California, the third of four children. He spent his early years at his family’s ranch home in rural northern San Diego County, approximately 110 miles (180 km) from Los Angeles. His mother was Presbyterian and his father was Jewish. He has credited his older sister with exciting his interest in country and folk music when she returned from college during the late 1950s with folk music records by The New Lost City Ramblers and others. Hillman soon began watching many of the country-music shows on local television in southern California at the time such as Town Hall Party, The Spade Cooley Show and Cal’s Corral. Hillman’s mother encouraged his musical interests and bought him his first guitar; shortly thereafter he developed an interest in bluegrass, particularly the mandolin. At age 15 Hillman went to Los Angeles to see the Kentucky Colonels bluegrass band at the Ash Grove, and later convinced his family to allow him to travel by train to Berkeley for lessons from mandolinist Scott Hambly. When he was 16, Hillman’s father committed suicide.