|Some of you may remember Bill Hullett as the former guitarist of the “Music City Tonight” TV show, but first and foremost he’s one of the most booked session players in Nashville, and without any doubt one of the best guitarists around. He’s made his living with his guitar for the last forty years. He’s played on countless records from such legendary artists as George Jones, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Keith Richards, Alabama and many others. He has also performed live with artists like Chet Atkins, Shania Twain, Vince Gill, Bo Diddley, just to name a few.
On top of all that, Bill Hullett is one of the nicest guys around and a real family man. I had the chance to talk to him about music, guitars, and life in general.
Bill, when, how, and why did you came to Nashville?
I moved to Nashville in August 1978, when I was 28, with my wife, Debbie, my son Clay (who was 1-1/2), and all our possessions in a van and a U-Haul trailer… what was I thinking! I had always wanted to be a session musician ever since I was about sixteen. I don’t remember how I had even heard that there was such a job, but the second that I knew about it, I knew that it was the job I wanted in life!
What was your first gig in Nashville?
Debbie played bass guitar—very well, I might add—and we both played a few little local country bars here in town. But within about a month of living here in Nashville, we met Pete Drake (studio owner and session steel player) and he let us start hanging out at his studio, watching sessions and meeting people. Opportunities like that don’t exist anymore for new people coming to town. It was wonderful because you never knew who was going to stop by at Pete’s. His studio was right on Music Row, and something was always going on there...
What are your most important musical influences?
Well, when I first took up the guitar the coolest bands were the Beach Boys, and other “surf bands,” but once the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, I was hooked big time to all the English guys. At the same time, I was listening to C&W radio stations, too, and I loved Buck Owens records. We lived in San Jose, California, so it was pretty easy to find Buck on the radio. Later, I really became a fan of Eric Clapton when I saw him on the first Cream US tour... and I saw him just a few short months later as a backing guitarist for Delaney and Bonnie. He was a major influence from that point on, at least as far as blues and rock. As far as country, I loved Don Rich (with Buck Owens) and Roy Nichols (with Merle Haggard). I was a big Waylon fan—this was in the mid-sixties. I thought that I was listening to Waylon play guitar, only to find out later that those early records featured Wayne Moss on electric… the early Haggard stuff was James Burton. It added more to the mystique of “session players” in my mind.
A few years later in the early seventies, before moving to town, I became a big Reggie Young fan. I would buy any record regardless of who the artists were, as long as Reggie played guitar on it. When I finally moved to town and got to know him as a friend it was the absolute best! My hero became my friend.