Friday, September 16, 2005

The musicians musician...THE BAND

The Band

The musicians musicians. While all of the pop audiences were listening to whatever the commercial radio stations fed them in the 60's & 70s (just like today!), the musicians were digging THESE cats. The Beatles, Eric Clapton, The Grateful Dead, and countless others were listening to these hip cats. Bob Dylan liked these guys enough that when he decided to go electric in 1966, he recruited The Band as his backup band. He was also one of the people who helped name them The Band

These four Canadians and a southern boy helped shape the world of music. They were influenced by blues, classical, gospel, jazz ragtime and swing, folk, country as well as R&B and it showed in their musical compositions. Each of them were multi instrumentalists. Their sound is truly unique. Their vocal harmonies wonderfully dynamic. At first it can be difficult to figure out who's singing which verse on the songs that trade off verses.
For more info, sounds and history on The Band, visit their website at

Bass player, Rick Danko was one of the originators
of funk bass as can be heard in
'Dont Do It" and 'King Harvest. He also played the violin and his singing was as pure as the driven snow.....
December 10, 1999, his heart finally gave out, and he died in his sleep. His death hit me harder than any musicians death (except Mr. Jerry Garcia)

And speaking of singing as pure as the
driven snow, Richard Manuel , singer and pianist
(and sometimes drums, harmonica and even Jews harp)
for The Band brought a humbleness, creativity and originality that .
his voice poured out so much soul that it often sent shivers up and down my spine. He is one of the only people I know that Bob Dylan would let sing his songs while Dylan was on stage. Richards emotions and addictions finally got the best of him and he decided to hang himself after a show
on March 4, 1986.

Garth Hudson, the music teacher and organist
(and sometimes pianist, saxophonist and accordianist)
gave to the band a truly unique sound that were sometimes
likened to carnival music.
With roots heavily
in jazz, his melodic solos helped shape the sound of
the band

Levon Helm, the drummer, mandolin, and scratchy
lead vocalist gave The Band a touch of the
Mississippi Delta. A down home, southern
country boy, his voice
was the lead vocals in such numbers as
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and The Weight.

Robbie Robertson, guitarist, song writer and often band leader helped lead The Band in their travels. In 1976 after 16 years of touring in one form or another, he decided to call it quits with one last concert on thanksgiving day, with a little help from their friends. The album/movie (which was directedby Martin Scorsese) called
The Last Waltz

To me, this is one, if not the greatest and pivotal musical documentaries ever recorded. With guest musician the likes of Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Neil Diamond, Ronnie Hawkins, The Staples Singers, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Ron Wood, Ringo Starr and beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure.....and a 38 piece must have been one hell of a party!! The concert which was put on by none other than Bill Graham at his infamous Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco CA

From the book Bill Graham Presents:
(a fantastic book, this guy did more for the world of music than one could possibly fathom!!)
"First, I concerned myself with serving all these people food. A buffet for fifty four hundred people. We had two hundred-twenty turkeys weighing almost six thousand pounds. Five hundred extra turkey legs that weighed six hundred pounds. Stuffing made from seventy bunches of parsley, five hundred pounds of onions, and five hundred pounds of celery sauteed in a hundred pounds of butter mixed with three hundred and fifty pounds of croutons, five quarts of garlic, ten quarts of sage, and one quart of thyme. Ninety gallons of sauce made from drippings. Forty crates of lettuce for the salad. Twenty gallons of salad dressing. Eighteen cases of cranberries. Two thousand pounds of peeled yams. Three hundred pounds of Nova Scotia salmon donated by Louis Kemp and Bob Dylan. Six thousand bread rolls. A hundred pounds of butter patties. For dessert, four hundred pounds of pumpkin pie as well as four hundred pounds of mincemeat. Rock and Roll's last supper."

The Band, along with the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers played a concert on
July 28 1973 Live at Watkins Glen NY (not far from their home in Woodstock NY) for a record 600,000 people! Again another fantastic show put on by Bill Graham. Unfortunately like their performance at Woodstock in 1969, the skys tried to rain on everybodys parade....everybody in the Band except Garth ran for cover. Garth continued to entertain the audience with his carnival like organ solo untill the rain died down a little. To much dismay, the reel to reel recordings of this concert were mostly damaged and ruined leaving not much SBD audio history of this event (though there are a few audience recordings out there.). A few of the tunes did make it to a compilation called The Band Live at Watkins Glen (kind of misleading) which is excellent.

Each of the musicians in The Band have greatly influenced my musical endeavors in countless ways. I first saw reconstruction or The Band (minus Robbie) at the Philadelphia Folk Festival back in 1995...........
In 2000, while working at The Stonecoast Brewery, Levon Helm and the Barn burners
showed up to play a gig in our upstairs intimate atmosphere and I had the pleasure to meet a then recovering from throat cancer, Levon Helm. A cruel act of irony as Levon is the last remaining singer of The Band. Garth still plays as a session musician and In 1994, Robbie
Robertson returned to his roots, teaming with the Native American group the Red Road Ensemble for Music for The Native Americans, a collection of songs composed for a television documentary series. Contact From the Underworld of Redboy followed in 1998.

"Saw a man with the jinx in the third degree
From trying to deal with people--people you can't see
Take away, take away, this house of mirrors
Give away, give away, all the souvenirs
We're all in the same boat ready to float off the edge of the world..The flat old world
The street is a sideshow from the peddler to the corner girl Life is a carnival--it's in the book
Life is a carnival--take another look"


Anonymous said...

"now the good times all have gone, and i must be movin on-i'll look for you if i pass this way again."neil young
as everyone departs williamstown for other states, coasts or cellestial bodies, the memories and people will never be forgotten. i'l check back on another day.
good luck with your site kenny.
rich zych

SIRMick said...

Hi Ken,

It's looking good but I don't see any mention of Lowell:-)

Anonymous said...

hey ken. awsome site you have here. you seem to be getting alot of knowledge out of ur computer course. looks good.

your bro,

gonzo said...

dont worry sirmick, little feat and lowell george are on the way...i only started this last week....
i was thinking about putting little feat and steely dan on the musicians musician part, but ill do it in sections

Anonymous said...

Well my friend, this is coming along nicely!
Thank you for sharing some of the more obscure information of these great musicians.

Your buddy, Kev.

Ken said...

Great post, alot of fun to read. I love this band so much.

Needless to say:
You probably know this site.

thetravellingminstrel said...

yea, i know all about wolfgangs vault.....alot of their stuff is from Bill Grahams archives...
if you know who bill grahm is, you should check out his auto-biography

great read, tons of musicians recollections throughout..santana,The Dead,robbie robertson