Mystery & Manners' Honorary Southern Artist(s) PART FIVE: The Band
“Hail is beatin’ on the roof
The bourbon is a hundred proof
It’s you and me and the telephone
Our destiny is quite well known.”
“Rag Mama Rag”
Four Canadians (Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel) and one Arkansas native (Levon Helm) comprised The Band, whose musical mode of operandi evoked an earthy, homespun, low-key sound in their memorable storytelling songs. Between these five musicians they could play 16 instruments. Those four aforementioned Canadians (Levon's in anyway) prove honorary southerners considering they flirted with southern folklore and songwriting throughout their prestigious career.
The Band once served as Ronnie Hawkins’ back up band. Plans were made for the group to back up blues great Sonny Boy Williamson until his unexpected death. For 16 years The Band played bars, dives, dance halls, theatres and stadiums. Bob Dylan later recruited The Band to tour and play on his album Blonde On Blonde. In 1974, The Band played on Dylan’s darkhorse album Planet Waves. By 1975, The Basement Tapes--recorded in 1967--were released. Now a classic double album, The Basement Tapes contained timeless songs Dylan and The Band worked up when Dylan retained the group to record with him near his home in Woodstock, New York. The Basement Tapes outlined an Americana blueprint for The Band’s first album, named after the pink house they lived in, titled Music From Big Pink.
Music From Big Pink made a deep impression during the psychedelic era of 1968. This debut album contained “The Weight”, “Chest Fever”, “In A Station” and several Dylan tunes. This group’s underplayed style and tone paved a way for more of a grassroots approach among many musicians during the late 60s. The Band’s self-titled second album cemented their place in the grand halls of rock and roll history. Songs from this album—“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, “Rag Mama Rag”, “King Harvest and “Up On Cripple Creek” all proved indelible songs written in homage of southern soil.
Stage Fright, Cahoots and Northern Lights-Southern Cross represent The Band’s later studio albums. The Band’s final concert was performed in San Francisco at the Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving Day 1976. Martin Scorsese filmed this legendary final performance in The Last Waltz where Neil Young, The Staple Singers, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and others performed. The Band’s songs retain a certain rustic beauty no matter the year…
Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson remain the surviving members of The Band. A review of Levon Helm’s newest record Dirt Farmer is next…