Rick Danko was born in Ontario in 1943. Part of a musical family, he grew up listening to country and blues music. At 17 he joined The Hawks, the backing group for Americna rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, who was popular in Canada. He was recruited as a rhythm guitarist, but soon switched to bass, which became his primary instrument throughout his career. In 1964 The Hawks (then consisting of Danko, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson) parted ways with Hawkins and went off on their own, performing R&B music in bars across Canada and the USA.
A milestone in their career was when they were hired to back Bob Dylan for his 1966 world tour. After the tour they were kept on retainer by Dylan, and Danko moved to Woodstock with the rest of the group (minus Helm), where Dylan was also living. There in the basement of the house where Danko, Manuel and Hudson lived, they made with Dylan a vast quantity of informal recordings, what would later see release as The Basement Tapes. These sessions with Dylan drastically influenced the way their music would go, and in 1968 they released their acclaimed debut album Music From Big Pink, then known simply as The Band.
With The Band Danko primarily played bass, and shared vocal duties with Helm and Manuel, all of them being very talented singers. The Band became hugely influential with their unique take on rock and American roots music, and were in no small way responsible for the move towards more roots-based styles that happened in rock music in the late 60s. Their career took them well into the 70s, until they finally parted ways in 1977 after a splendid all-star farewell concert that became the film The Last Waltz. Following the breakup, Danko took the opportunity to have a go at a solo career when he was offered a contract by Arista Records.
Rick Danko came out in 1977, being the first solo album release by any member of The Band. It featured all original songs, co-written with others including Bobby Charles, on whose 1972 solo album Danko had performed. Among the many musicians appearing on Danko's album, all four other members of The Band made appearances, and there were also cameos from Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Doug Sahm and Blondie Chaplin, plus Rick's brother Terry on drums. Danko himself sang and played guitars and bass. It made for a nice roots-rock album, but it did not sell well, and his solo career never really happened. By 1983 he had joined a reformed version of The Band with Manuel, Helm and Hudson.
|> Rick Danko In Concert (1997)