In his best-selling autobiography, no less than the great Eric Clapton confesses to have had one musical mission after Cream broke up: joining The Band! And apparently it was no idle passing fancy, because Clapton journeyed from London to upstate New York’s sleepy village of Woodstock to offer his services. At some point he realized that they already had a guitar player in Robbie Robertson, and Eric returned to his Hurtwood manor to jam with Steve Winwood and form Blind Faith instead.(L-R) Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko
Watching Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz , The Band’s Thanksgiving 1976 swan song , shows how that kind of utopian lure could happen. But the earliest work of this quintet with the generic name is no less impressive : when Rolling Stone magazine writers compiled their Top 500 Albums of All Time, The Band’s 1968 debut Music from Big Pink ranked at #34 . That’s almost twenty places higher than The Beatles’ debut ! Additionally, The Band‘ s second album that year landed at #45 on the same list, while the sublime Stage Fright went Top 5 and sold over a million copies.
Widely viewed along with Bob Dylan, The Byrds, and Gram Parsons as fathers of the Americana musical movement, The Band also may have been one of rock’s first alternative groups. In part one of this classic rock interview, main songwriter Robbie Robertson (“The Weight”,”The Night They Drove Ol’Dixie Down”,”Up on Cripple Creek”,”The Shape I’m In”) helps me make that case for this band which included Garth Hudson and three now-deceased multi-threat talents, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel, members all of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. – Redbeard