Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brush with Greatness: Rick Danko


This poster is one of our most treasured possesions, inscribed by Rick Danko to Leanna on September 11, 1993 when he came to Birmingham to play a solo show at "Louie Louie".

He was a terrific gregarious guy, and is often described as having an infectious personality.

He is one of my true heroes and couldn't have been nicer. RIP and God Bless Rick Danko.

Rick Danko was -- and will forever be known as -- one of the three singing members of the Band, as well as

their bassist. Their principal lead singer on the first album, he was second of the members to join the group back in its days backing Ronnie Hawkins, and the second of its members to pass away.

He was born Richard Clare Danko on December 29, 1942, in Greens Corner, Ontario, Canada, near the town of Simcoe. The latter is in a part of Ontario populated by a large number of families descended from expatriate Southerners from the United States, and the echoes of Southern culture ran through the music and language in the area, with a special emphasis on country music. Danko's whole family played or sang, and he was playing banjo for his classmates as early as the first grade. As a boy, he listened to Hank Williams, among other country artists of the late '40s and early '50s, in addition to gospel and R&B, with Sam Cooke and Fats Domino both strong influences during his teen years. He gave up school to go into music full-time when he was in his mid-teens, and made the jump to the big time -- relatively speaking -- by joining Hawkins' backing band, the Hawks, at age 17. Guitarist Robbie Robertson was already a member of a couple of years' standing at that point, and Danko was initially the group's rhythm guitarist, but he soon learned to play bass and switched to the four-string instrument. He not only mastered the electric bass but also the upright acoustic bass, and became an amazingly accomplished player on both instruments at a very young age.

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