17 Jun The Band goes beyond Pappy Hawkins
Rock-a-billy king Ronnie Hawkins was looking and feeling great as he stomped around his nine-acre Streetsville property a few days ago. The sections of his face not adorned with assorted whiskers, sideburns and mustache were tanned. The Hawk looked every inch a retired teen-age idol in his white T-shirt, blue denim trousers and jacket, black leather boots.
It was the first time Hawkins had been in Toronto in more than a month. He had spent a week in Muscle Shoals, Ala., recording his first album for Atlantic (a single, One More Night and Matchbox, will be released next month) and the ensuing three weeks in Miami fishing, thinking and “just plain resting.” His career hasn’t looked better since the nights of Forty Days and Bo Diddley. He has a good producer in Jerry Wexler, and in anticipation of his disc success, tours are being planned for England, the Continent, and Australasia.
I visited him with a copy of The Band’s second album, which he had agreed to preview; for nobody knows The Band—Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm and Rick Danko—better than he.
It was he, after all, who discovered each of them, put them together, and then stood over them until they were proficient.
He listened to the album intently, an occasional grin spreading over his hairy cheeks. He was surrounded by his sons, a German hunting dog and cat.
“If I get any more kids, cats or dogs, I’m gonna have to get me a daytime gig.
“One thing I should point out,” he laughed. “I don’t think I’m hip enough musically to understand what they’re into now. That’s real hip stuff. Not being a musician, I try to listen to the words and the story. But I had a bit of trouble hearing some of the words.
“Still, being musicians, the boys probably don’t care too much about the lyrics any Way. They’re singing in very strange voices; it’s very hard to tell who’s singing what.
“My favorite track on the album is Cripple Creek. That’s a real fine-funding number. On the first album, the tracks I liked best were The Weight and Long Black Vgil; but I think Cripple Creek stands up to ’em both.
“Boy, they’ve really gone country, real heavy country. I’m really surprised about that. They were much more into blues when they left me. In fact, that’s why they left me I was too much into country, and they wanted more blues.
“Now they’re into the sort of country music that I never thought would interest them. Robbie was always one of the most funky blues guitarists anywhere, and here he’s gone country.
“It’s funny, you know. I heard a new album by Tony Joe White the other day,,and that’s exactly the groove I thought The Band would have gotten into. You never can tell.
“But it’s funky stuff. I’m no music critic but I figure this album is going to sell.”
One thing Ronnie would like to see The Band getting into is more concerts: “Man, I wish they’d do 40 concerts a year at $10,000, instead of 20 at $20,000 each. They’ve got a lot to offer, and it’s a pity they’re not getting out there more and doing it.
“They were always a great band on stage, and I figure they’d have even more fans if they went on the road more frequently. And, if they were working together that closely over fairly long periods, I figure they’d be doing even better things on record. Hell, they might set the world on fire the way the Beatles did!
“Course, they’d want to work different places than we used to. The places we played in the early Sixties were sort of crazy: 10 blocks of ice in front of a fan for air conditioning.”
One of the problems which The Band has had in personal appearances is a lack of critical success when playing big open-air concerts, which pay most. The group’s sound would seem most suited to an intimate atmosphere.
The second, album should do much to widen the group’s, loHoWingy It doesn’t have the innovation or respect obvious in the Beatles’ Abbey Road, nor the immediacy of anything by the Rolling Stones. It lacks the raw, gut appeal of Creedence Clearwater.
Yet in its own way, The Band’s new album has aesthetic quality which will endear it to fans who favour intricate melodic construction.