Meeting Ronnie Hawkins changed everything for the Band’s Rick Danko: ‘Might be a big career’

Share this:

On this sad anniversary, we remember Rick Danko’s journey toward membership in the Band — which began simply enough, early musical collaborator Glen Silverthorn says.

A drummer, Silverthorn worked occasionally with a then-teenaged Danko in a Canadian amalgam called the Starlights beginning in 1959. Later, Silverthorn and Danko — who died on December 10, 1999 – served as a local fill-in group for Ronnie Hawkins, and the rockabilly performer eventually helped bring the future members of the Band together.

“Rick dragged me down there,” Silverthorn once told Ian Bell, referencing their first intersection with Hawkins during a multi-group show in Simcoe that also included Conway Twitty. Even then, Rick Danko could envision the future that lay straight ahead. “He says, ‘I want to front that band, and I think we can do it,'” Silverthorn remembers.

They kept at it, with the Band’s legendary bass player appearing instead on lead guitar, and eventually Danko’s prediction came true: “When Ronnie finally hired him, this was a memorable Sunday night,” Silverthorn tells Bell, curator of the Port Dover Harbour Museum. “Ronnie and Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson came out and watched us play. I thought, ‘When does Ronnie Hawkins come out and stand with the crowd? Something’s happening tonight.’ At one of the breaks, they called Rick out and he said to his brother Junior Danko, who also played in our band: ‘They’ve invited me to go back to Grand Bend with them tonight.'”

Rebel Payne had been serving as bassist in this edition of the Hawkins band, but Silverthorn said Payne’s wife was urging him to return home from the road. “He ended up going back to Buffalo, so Ronnie needed a bass player,” Silverthorn says. “He had always played guitar. He asked me, ‘What do you think I should I do?’ I said, ‘You never know where it could go. It might be a big career for you.’ Well, and you see what happened.”

Rick Danko initially played rhythm guitar for the Hawks, before switching to bass. By the mid-1960s, the Band had begun collaborating with Bob Dylan; their debut album appeared in 1968 — and the rest is history. A memorable reunion with Ronnie Hawkins followed as part of 1976’s The Last Waltz.

Danko and the Band were inducted into Canada’s Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1989, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. When Rick Danko passed in ’99, the Band was no more.

Something Else!

Something Else!

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Something Else!
Share this:
Close