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The Band Biography

Home > Music > B > Band, The > Biography

Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Years Active: -1976, 1983-1999
Genres: Rock, Country, Roots Rock, Americana, Blues-rock

The Band was an acclaimed, influential, chart-topping rock music group. The original group consisted of Canadians Rick Danko (bass guitar, double bass, fiddle, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboard instruments, saxophone), Richard Manuel (piano, drums, vocals), Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals), and American Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, 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. Upon leaving Hawkins in 1964, they were known as The Levon Helm Sextet (the sixth member being sax player Jerry Penfound), then Levon and the Hawks (without Penfound).

In 1965, they released a single on Ware Records under the name Canadian Squires, but returned as Levon and the Hawks for a recording session for Atco later in 1965. At about the same time, Bob Dylan recruited Helm and Robertson for two concerts, then the entire group for his U.S. tour in 1965 and world tour in 1966. They also joined him on the informal recordings that later became ''The Basement Tapes.''

Because they were always "the band" to various frontmen, Helm said the name "The Band" worked well when the group came into its own and left Saugerties, New York, to begin recording their own material.

They recorded two of the most acclaimed albums of the late 1960s: their 1968 debut ''Music from Big Pink'' (featuring the single "The Weight") and 1969's ''The Band.'' They broke up in 1976, performing a final, massive Thanksgiving Day concert on November 25, 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California. The concert featured a horn section with arrangements by Allen Toussaint and a stellar list of guests, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Paul Butterfield, and Neil Diamond. The concert was directed and filmed by Martin Scorsese and the resulting concert film-documentary “The Last Waltz” was released in 1978, as was a triple-LP soundtrack.

The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2008, they received the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.