Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

American As Maple Syrup

While technically not a band of Americans (except Levon, and Levon wasn’t from America so much as he was from the South), The Band was one of the more American bands that ever took a stage. Nothing better for a Presidents’ Day–and a rainy one, at that–than Garth’s band. (Rock Nerd Fight: Garth Hudson was secretly the leader of The Band. Fight!)

Just a few months before The Boys, The Band at the Academy of Music.


  1. Mild-Mannered Enthusiast

    February 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    A rock nerd question that’s always puzzled me: Why did Robbie ban the Dead from “The Last Waltz?” Did he fear The Band would be out-choogled by them again?

    • I don’t know that story, actually. Someone fill us all in or point the way, please.

      • The Archive thread is basically accurate, although the perspective is absurdly Dead-centric.

        All bands that had toured in the 60s and 70s knew each other from multiple bills and rock festivals , but it meant little more than having gone to High School together. Yes, Rick Danko hung out with the Dead on the Train Tour, but no one else in the Band did.

        The Dead were not particularly friends with The Band–not enemies, of course, but just acquaintances–and there was no reason to expect them to play at The Last Waltz. Everyone else there had close personal ties to the Band, either from Canada or making records together.

        Also, the Dead did not share a label or management with The Band, and they did not sell records. The Last Waltz was a commercial enterprise from the jump, and there was no way the Dead fit into that, nor would they have expected to.

        Saying that “Robbie Robertson banned the Dead from the Last Waltz” is an absurdly Jerry-centric way of saying that Robbie didn’t invite them. Nor did he invite the Doobie Brothers, Santana, Jeff Beck, Willie Nelson or many others who might have very much enjoyed participating.

      • Mild-Mannered Enthusiast

        February 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm

        corry342: I have learned tons from reading your blog and have the highest respect for your knowledge. I was really only joking by phrasing it as “Robbie banning the Dead.” But the Dead and the Band had connections beyond the Festival Express tour. There were the huge Watkins Glen and Roosevelt Stadium shows in the summer of ’73. And The (Robbie-less) Band opened for the Dead at shows in the fall of ’84. It seemed that Lesh and Levon Helm had a connection later in life, if not at the time of the Last Waltz. And the show was at Winterland, so I imagine Bill Graham must have been involved. It just always struck me as odd that Eric Clapton, for instance, was more relevant than Garcia. But maybe that’s to your point about the importance of commercial value to the event.

      • MME, I realize you were exaggerating–this is the ToTD Comment Thread–but the Archive link actually takes the notion of Robbie “banning” Jerry seriously. At a place like Watkins Glen or Roosevelt Stadium, there would be hundreds of people back stage, many of them angling to get a word in with Garcia, Robbie, Dickey Betts etc. All the important players would have hid in their trailers, probably getting a good buzz on.I’m sure many of the principals never spoke, and in any case Robbie Robertson isn’t a jammer (nor was anyone in The Band, really).

        Another way to look at this is to say “why didn’t the Grateful Dead invite Rick Danko and Levon Helm to the closing of Winterland in 1978?” Because they invited Bill Walton, Lee Oskar, Greg Errico and John Cipollina, since that’s who they hung out with. Now sure, I wish they had invited Levon and Rick, but that’s not how it went, and in the end it wasn’t my party.

        Rock journalism has encouraged people to overpersonalize the relationships of a lot of musicians. There are plenty of people I work with and get along with whom I wouldn’t invite to my house, for no other reason than that there are other people who are closer to me. No different, in the end, for Jerry or Robbie.

  2. Luther Von Baconson

    February 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm

  3. The Central Shaft

    February 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Garth as secret leader? Not only would he never admit it, I don’t think he’d ever want it. If there’s a spectrum, he’s on it.

  4. If we are going to get technical, it was an all-American Band, just not an All-American band.

    Before debating this point, please consult an atlas.

  5. This album is so much better than the Last Waltz it’s silly. LW sounds like a cover band in comparison

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