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). Their time backing Bob Dylan was when they first reached prominence (as well as providing The Band their name), but they were originally formed as The Hawks, a backing band for rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. They joined Hawkins 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. Following the 1966 tour, the group moved with help from Dylan and his manager, Albert Grossman, to Saugerties, New York, where they made the informal 1967 recordings that became The Basement Tapes, the basis for their 1968 debut album, Music from Big Pink. Because they were always "the band" to various frontmen and the locals in Woodstock, 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. Dylan continued to collaborate with the Band over the course of their career, including a joint 1974 tour.
Notably, on July 28, 1973, The Band played at the legendary Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, a massive concert which took place at the Grand Prix Raceway outside Watkins Glen, New York. The event, which was attended by over 600,000 music fans, also featured the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band.
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.
Photos © Elliott Landy