Did you not grow up listening to The Band?

KHC’s artistic director, Bill Usher writes:

There’s many in our Live Kicks audience – of a certain age – who experienced The Band’s music first hand in concert or on the radio during our youth. For many, The Band epitomized the rural, back-to-the-land  ethos of the time – especially on those nights you came into town to the local pub craving a burger and a beer instead of the usual brown rice and tofu, just needing to get a little crazy.

UnknownFor me, I barely remember a very starry night in January 1973 at Maple Leaf Gardens jumping out of my seat and my head watching Bob Dylan up there on the stage backed by The Band.

A few years later in 1976 – the year of The Last Waltz performance – I was hired by Ronnie Hawkins to play in his band for a 6 week stint at the Embassy Tavern in Toronto. With Ronnie on stage you never knew who was going to show up at the gig and hang out for the night … over the years hundreds of musicians have gone through his bands. Singing back-up in this version of Ronnie’s band was Beverley D’Angelo, soon to get her big break in the movies with Chevy Chase’s Family Vacation series.

We’d play five 30 minute sets each night and Ronnie only came out on stage for the last 15 minutes or so of each set. But one night, Rick Danko walked in, and we could tell this was special for Ronnie. Rick sat in with us on bass and sang a couple of tunes and Ronnie was up there for the whole set, like a proud papa. This was a guy just a few years older than me, but I admit to being overwhelmed with awe when he stepped up and began to sing.  

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I also know that there are many of you in our audience who came to The Band, sprawled out on the living room floor digging through your parent’s vinyl and their music has had the same effect on you as it did on my generation. There is something about The Band’s songs and musical choices that gives nourishment – i.e. it’s not junk food – for those, no matter what their age, who take the time to listen to the assemblage of quirky character-rich stories told over the top of those funky grooves.

Poster - Cripple Creek-600webGet free tickets! Tell us a story! So… I’m throwing out a request here: Tell us your stories of The Band and their music. Did you see them play? How did you come to their music? Tell us about the time you became a fan. what’s your favourite song? Send them into us at info(at)kickinghorseculture.ca or post them on our pages on FacebookFor the stories we like the best, we’re going to give away some pairs of free tickets  for “Up On Cripple Creek: The Songbook of The Band” coming up on Oct 10 at the Civic Centre. 

To look back at those early days of Ronnie Hawkins and The Band in Toronto click this great page with video and music: The Hawk Nests in Toronto

For more history, here’s the Wicki post on The Band:
The Band was a CanadianAmerican roots rock group that originally consisted of Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, trombone, vocals), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Garth Hudson(keyboard instruments, saxophones, trumpet), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, baritone saxophone, vocals) and Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals). The members of the Band first came together as they joinedrockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins‘ backing group, The Hawks, one by one between 1958 and 1963.

In 1964, they separated from Hawkins, after which they toured and released a few singles as Levon and the Hawks and the Canadian Squires. The next year, Bob Dylan hired them for his U.S. tour in 1965 and world tour in 1966.[1] Following the 1966 tour, the group moved with Dylan to Saugerties, New York, where they made the informal 1967 recordings that became The Basement Tapes, which forged the basis for their 1968 debut album Music from Big Pink. Because they were always “the band” to various frontmen, Helm said the name “The Band” worked well when the group came into its own.[2][N 1] The group began performing officially as The Band in 1968, and went on to release ten studio albums. Dylan continued to collaborate with The Band over the course of their career, including a joint 1974 tour.

The original configuration of The Band ended its touring career in 1976 with an elaborate live ballroom performance featuring numerous musical celebrities. This performance was immortalized in Martin Scorsese‘s 1978 documentary The Last Waltz. The Band recommenced touring in 1983 without guitaristRobbie Robertson, who had found success with a solo career and as a Hollywood music producer. Following a 1986 show, Richard Manuel was found dead of suicide, but the remaining three members continued to tour and record albums with a revolving door of musicians filling Manuel’s and Robertson’s respective roles, before finally settling on Richard BellRandy Ciarlante, and Jim Weider. Rick Danko died of heart failure in 1999, after which the group broke up for good. Levon Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, and after a series of treatments was able to regain use of his voice. He continued to perform and released several successful albums until he succumbed to the disease in 2012.

The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989[4] and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.[5] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked them No. 50 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time,[6] and in 2008, they received the Grammy‘s Lifetime Achievement Award.[7] In 2004, “The Weight” was ranked the 41st best song of all time in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.[8]