The Band was a Canadian-American 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 joined rockabilly 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. 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. 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. (Read more at Wikipedia.)
Links to Peel
Before being hired by Bob Dylan, the group, then known as the Hawks, backed Ronnie Hawkins, a singer whose work Peel, as a collector of rock'n'roll singles, would have been aware of - indeed he played a number of tracks by Hawkins on his shows of the 1970s. After parting company with Hawkins, the group toured and recorded; Levon And The Hawks' 1965 "The Stones I Throw" was a minor US hit, so it is possible that Peel played it on the radio, but there is no evidence that he ever saw or met the band. The venues they played included a night club in Fort Worth, Texas run by Jack Ruby, who shot John F. Kennedy's killer Lee Harvey Oswald - an event which Peel witnessed at close quarters.
However, The Band made their lasting reputation in 1968 with their debut LP, Music From Big Pink, which was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of its era. Peel too was impressed, writing in his International Times column of 23 August 1968:
"Music from Big Pink" by the Band is, as you doubtless know, touched with the magic of Dylan and people will no doubt claim to hear him coughing on one of the tracks. Some of the tracks sound a bit like Procol Harum (where are they now, anyway?)....It is, I'm afraid, another one of those essential records."
Yet although Peel played the Band's records on his shows as they appeared, their LPs - especially Music From Big Pink and its successor, The Band - were also an influence on many artists he admired and featured on his shows. Eric Clapton said that listening to Music From Big Pink had "changed my [musical] values"; Pink Floyd's Roger Waters later remarked, "After Sgt. Pepper, it's the most influential record in the history of rock and roll. It affected Pink Floyd deeply, deeply, deeply...sonically, the way the record's constructed, I think Music from Big Pink is fundamental to everything that happened after it.". Fairport Convention decided to switch from American folk-rock to electric British folk music, in the hope of finding a British equivalent to Big Pink. Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection is inspired by the 1969 LP The Band, in its country-influenced musical style and the subject matter of the songs. The Band's back-to-the-roots approach influenced many artists and bands of the early 1970s, including regular Peel session bands like Brinsley Schwarz.
Peel also played the Band's collaborations with Bob Dylan, especially The Basement Tapes, which were widely bootlegged before being officially released in 1975. (Peel owned a copy of one of the bootleg releases - it was found by Joe Boyd during his search through the DJ's record collection - but, of course, the BBC would never have allowed him to play it on the radio.) However, the Band became less influential - at least in the U.K. - after the mid-1970s. Martin Scorsese's 1976 film of their farewell concert, The Last Waltz, seemed to stand for the end of an era in rock music. Peel paid less attention to the group, and their solo projects, after that, although keyboardist Garth Hudson later worked with fellow Canadian (and Peel favourite) Neko Case.
Band classic 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' remained an enduring favourite of Peel and a special session version was recorded by Broken Dog for his 60th birthday show in 1999.
Festive Fifty Entries
Other Shows Played
This list may well be incomplete, due to a lack of tracklistings from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Please add further details if known.
- 11 October 1969: Look Out Cleveland (LP - The Band) Capitol EST 132
- 29 November 1969: Across The Great Divide (LP – The Band) Capitol EST 132
- 26 September 1970: Stage Fright (LP - Stage Fright) Capitol SW 425
- 07 July 1975: Bob Dylan & The Band: Odds And Ends (LP - Basement Tapes) CBS
- 10 December 1975: Rags And Bones (album - Northern Lights - Southern Cross) Capitol E-ST 11440
- 19 April 1978: four tracks (titles as yet unknown) (LP - The Last Waltz) Warner Bros
- 05 February 1979:The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (LP - Anthology) Capitol
- 31 August 1999: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down
- D011 (with Bob Dylan): Million Dollar Bash (LP - Basement Tapes) CBS
- D011 (with Bob Dylan): Odds And Ends (LP - Basement Tapes) CBS
- D011 (with Bob Dylan): Yazoo Street Scandal (LP - Basement Tapes) CBS
- D030: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (LP - The Band) Capitol
(The list below was compiled only from the Cover Versions page of this site. Please add more information if known.)
Artist | Track | First Known Play
- Broken Dog: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (session) 31 August 1999
- Billy Ray Cyrix (aka V/Vm): The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 15 October 2003