The Band was a Canadian-American roots rock group including Rick Danko (bass guitar, vocals, fiddle), Garth Hudson (keyboards, accordion, saxophone), Richard Manuel (keyboards, drums, vocals), Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals) and Levon Helm (drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar). The members of the Band first came together as rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins’s Toronto, Ontario-based backing group, The Hawks, which they joined one by one between 1958 and 1963.
In 1964, they separated from Hawkins and subsequently The Hawks….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….and following the 1966 tour, the group moved with help from Bob Dylan and his manager, Albert Grossman, to Saugerties, New York, where they made the informal 1967 recordings that became The Basement Tapes….which was the basis for their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink…..and because they were always “the band” to various front men and the locals in Woodstock….that is when Helm said the name “the Band” worked well when the group came into its own. The group began performing as the Band in 1968 and went on to release ten studio albums…..as 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 performance at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California that featured numerous musical celebrities of the era. This performance was filmed for Martin Scorsese’s 1978 documentary The Last Waltz. Although the members of the group intended to continue working on studio projects….they drifted apart after the release of Islands in March 1977.
The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989….and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked them # 50 on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time….and in 2008 they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, “The Weight” was ranked 41st on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
In 2014, the Band was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.