Before there was THE BAND, there were the HAWKS, (four Canadians—Rick Danko (bass, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboards), Richard Manuel (piano, vocals), and Robbie Robertson (guitar)—and one American, Levon Helm (drums, vocals) who the Rockabilly Star recruited one by one from 1958 until 1963.
Besides being a dynamic performer, Ronnie Hawkins, originally from Arkansas, had a great eye and ear for talent. But in the beginning he couldn't get arrested on this side of the border, so advised by Conway Twitty, he went to Canada where he became very influential in musical circles until this day.
In 1964 that group of Hawks left him and eventually became The Band; and he became a permanent Canadian resident hiring players for his band that would be instrumental in the bands of many greats of the time, including JANIS JOPLIN's Full Tilt Boogie Band. Ronnie was very popular with other musicians including Bob Dylan who got into an argument with Keith Richards over what was the best band in Rock and Roll saying, "You guys may be the best philosophers man, but the Hawks – they're the best band. Of course Bob had befriended and recorded with Ronnie's old group in Woodstock. In 2005 Hawkins was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and later featured in the Band's film, "The Last Waltz."
Fun Fact: Robbie said that when Hawkins hired him he said: "You won't make much money son, but you'll be swimming in women." But let's go way back to 1959, and an amazingly good Kinescope Video of Ronnie on Bandstand and some of the Hawks who would became The Band, doing his signature song, Mary Lou. Rock On! @therealdonrocks
A version of this post originally appeared on The Don Rocks Facebook page. For more stories like these every day, join us on Facebook and Twitter.