The unsubstantiated (& unreleased) sessions by Band members
Notes by Peter Viney
Over the years, I’ve collected notes on the rumours of Band involvement with various artists, and tried to track down any albums mentioned. As a hobby, it’s harmless enough. There are a number of references in books and articles to sit-ins that I have been unable to find and substantiate and also several rumoured sessions which I can confirm are definitely mistaken. These are the “wrong uns”. There are also some ‘confirmed but unreleased’ sessions among them.
Eric Andersen: More Hits From Tin Can AlleyUS LP (Vanguard VSD 79271) (1968)
According to the Rockbase database, this album features three Band / Hawk drummers past and future - Randy Ciarlante, Sandy Konikoff and Bobby Gregg. However, the date seemed suspicious, given Ciarlante’s age. Randy Ciarlante confirmed in 1997 that he did not play on this album, not having met Eric Andersen until 1976 or 1977, whereupon he played on the Midnight Sun album.
Atkinson, Danko & Ford / BearfootTerry Danko cut three albums with Bearfoot. Brother Rick was said at one time to have helped out. Reliable information from John Donabie in Toronto was that Rick did not play or sing on any these albums. Terry Danko confirms that, and that Rick didn't even know they'd been recorded till he heard them at Christmas at the family home.
Bearfoot included ex-Hawks Terry Danko, Jim Atkinson and Dwayne Ford. They also made an album called Atkinson, Danko and Ford. One album in 1973 was called Friends.
Bill Munson adds:
Atkinson, Danko and Ford did one LP, the liner notes to which note that Terry is Rick's brother. (Then snakishly hastens to add that this doesn't mean anything and that it's the music that matters.) That LP was remixed (with new drums/drummer on some cuts) and reissued - sans notes - as the first Bearfoot LP. Bearfoot did two more - the first of those, with "Molly", being first rate - though Atkinson and Danko were gone by the time the last one came out. By the way, the first LP has a song called "Mark Twain" that is rather Bandish in its reference to Mississippi river boats.
Beatles & Dylan jam at the Isle of WightA visit to Dylan and The Band before the Isle of Wight Festival by some of The Beatles is well-known. A jam session is said to have taken place. A tape is pure wishful thinking. No evidence whatsoever, and highly unlikely to have been allowed. File with the Elvis-Beatles unrecorded jam.
‘Breaking New Ground’The last song that Richard Manuel wrote (with Gerry Goffin and Carole King). It was demoed with Carole King singing. The Band attempted to record it once or twice up to the time of Jericho. No known tapes exist.
Garth BrooksRick Danko was said to be working with Brooks in late 1995. He wasn’t on the December 1995 Brooks release or subsequent ones. There are stories that Garth Brooks wanted his hugely successful management team to take on The Band around this time (being a major fan himself) but that the principals arrived for the discussion and failed the interview. Pity.
Marion BrownMarion Brown is a jazz altoist who has played with Coltrane, Coleman, Sun Ra, Archie Shepp. ASCAP lists a composition, Afrisa co-written by Marion Brown and all five members of The Band. A track to trace. A fairly recent version exists on Soul Eyes, but none of The Band are credited on the album, and this would not appear to be the first recording. I haven’t heard it. Otherwise the track is not listed on any Marion Brown album on the web. When asked in 1997, Levon Helm had absolutely no recall of a session, nor even of who Marion Brown was. So, it could be a remix using samples?
Gary BuseyRobertson’s co-star in Carny. They cut at least five tracks together, with Robertson producing, and Busey had also toured with Danko in 1978. The five cuts are in cassette circulation. I can’t find out whether there were more nor even whether an album was released, but it seems it wasn’t. Titles are guesswork.
Dixie Time Again
Johnny CashRumoured Garth Hudson involvement circa 1990. No details. Could be live shows rather than albums. Garth was in Paul London & The Kapers who backed Cash briefly in Detroit in 1960.
Champion Jack DupreeNot unsubstantiated, just unreleased. A session certainly happened and one track Ramble Jungle appeared on High on the Hog. Champion Jack also played piano on Blind Willie McTell on Jericho, one of three posthumous piano performances on that album (with Stan Szeleste and Richard Manuel). Jim Weider has mentioned a completed album (ten tracks?) which was produced by Garth Hudson, so it happened.
The Crowmatics / Levon & The CrowmaticsMore exists than released on Souvenir. A 2 track promo CD from the film Java Heads is said to feature them on Poor Little Ro which is not on the Woodstock Records release.
Rick Danko: 2nd solo album from 1979Donald Joseph contacted me with this one:
Your piece omits my own pet unsubstantiated-sessions rumor, that of sessions for a second Rob-Fraboni-produced 70's Danko solo album. Sometime in about 1979, a year or a couple of years after the self-titled Danko solo album, a notice appeared in Rolling Stone's "Random Notes" section saying that Danko was back in the studio working with Fraboni on a second solo LP. As I recall, there was even a photo of the two of them, taken at the sessions. I concede I don't have a copy of this & haven't seen it since it came out -- but my memory is quite clear that this did indeed appear; I'm certain that anyone with access to late-70's "Rolling Stones" & the patience to sift throught their "Random Notes" sections would find this (assuming these aren't on line). I've always thought that if these sessions did indeed occur, there must be some songs from them, but I know of nothing that ever surfaced.It was a memory jogger for me too. I used to avidly scan Rolling Stone for Band news and about ten to twelve years ago, when I started working on a Band discography, I spent a long time going through the cardboard boxes of Rolling Stone in my attic. I pulled out the major Band features / interviews, but the rest weren’t in any kind of order (I’m not as anorak as you may think) and my hands got itchy from paper mite bites. But one of the things I was looking for was news of this second Danko solo album, because I had memories of reading about it, then vaguely looking out for news for a year or so afterwards.
This rumour got firmed up when Other Peoples Music issued the surviving material as Crying Heart Blues.
Terry Danko: RendezvousAlbum by Rick’s brother. See Bearfoot above. Terry Danko also recalls sessions with Richard Manuel, himself and George Harrison. Possibly these were Eric Clapton sessions (see The Hawk by Ian Wallis)
Demos for other artists?Davey's On The Road Again (John Simon / Robbie Robertson) appeared on the 1970 John Simon's Album, without Band-members. It was covered by Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1978 and became a hit. It makes you wonder whether there was ever a Band demo of it. I've never heard even a hint of one. But it would seem possible.
Snow (Jesse Winchester/ Robbie Robertson) Song from the first Jesse Winchester album. I would have thought this would have been written during the sessions, so I think it's highly unlikely that a Band or Robbie demo existed. You could argue that both of these compositions come from such a vital period that it would be fair to license the John Simon & Jesse Winchester versions for yet another box set.
Bob Dylan: Dylan (1973)This does not involve any of The Band, but claims have been made that it does. This album was Columbia’s response to Dylan’s defection to Asylum. It was released against his wishes and bundled together out-takes from around the Self-Portrait period. These were studio warm-ups, and fairly slapdash cover versions done for fun. It was released with scant information on the sleeve and the implied threat that Columbia had much more poor material to flood the market with. There was no track listing or musician credits, but Terry Hounsome’s Rockbase CD-ROM listed a large number of musicians including all of The Band. I’m certain this is an error. Repeated listenings (and this is devotion to duty as the album is largely crap) shows no sign of The Band to my ears. Michael Krogsgaard’s definitive session notes in The Telegraph magazine were based on Columbia’s session files and the actual tape boxes and eventually revealed that this stuff was recorded during the Self-Portrait and early New Morning sessions. All of the tracks are clearly documented with all musicians listed. No Band involvement. The error, I believe, arises because it was always known that the tracks were related to Self-Portrait, and so someone just copied the long list of musicians across from the alphabetical list on Self-Portrait, ignoring the fact that The Band’s involvement there consisted of the four live Isle of Wight tracks only.
Fire Down BelowSteven Seagal movie featuring Levon Helm. Levon plays a country preacher in Kentucky helping Seagal’s investigations into toxic waste dumping. Also features Kris Kristofferson, Marty Stuart, Randy Travis.
Fire In The Hole is the Marty Grebb & Daniel Moore song from the soundtrack. Levon has other connections with both of these musicians. It’s been said that Levon plays on the soundtrack to Fire Down Below. It makes sense, for he co-wrote one of the songs in the movie and briefly toured with some of these musicians after the movie was released. However, his name is not on the soundtrack.
Information from the website is:
FriendsJoel Sonnier and Garth Hudson worked in this twin accordion line-up. No evidence of anything more than a gig or two.
David Geffen,s Birthday Party 1974A well-substantiated session, but it is not known if anyone recorded it. Robbie Robertson and Bob Dylan were trying to make it up with Geffen after a tearful evening at the end of the 1974 tour when Bob had thanked everyone under the sun for the tour, except the guy whose idea it was, David Geffen. They set up a surprise birthday party for him with Cher. The room was set up like a carnival of course. The music segment of the evening consisted of Cher and Dylan duetting on "All I Really Want to Do," backed by The Band. Then Cher and Rick Danko duetted on "Mockingbird" before ending with Dylan on "Mr Tambourine Man." Three songs, but Cher is added to the elite list of artists who have sung with The Band.
Nick Gravenites sessionOn one of the Hungry Chuck guy's websites, someone (probably Jim Colegrove) posted to the effect that he'd played on a Gravenites session produced in Bearsville by Robbie Robertson. Gravenites was a member of The Electric Flag.
Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky (LP)LP (Reprise 2084) (1972)
It was quoted for years that this session involved Band members. Individual track credits don’t exist, but ‘Robbie Robinson’ is credited: “Songs sung and played by Norman Greenbaum, Lillian, Netta and Joe, Patty and Mitzi, Norman Mayall, Douglas Kilmer, Robbie Robinson, Russell Dashiel, Dan Patiris, John Coppola, Chuck Petersen, Bill Sabatini and William Truckaway” On the CD reissue, there are notes which quote Greenbaum ‘Then one day Robbie Robinson said he’d found out a way to build a fuzz box into a guitar, with the result that it became the sort of novelty that you just couldn’t stop experimenting with.”
I had this e-mail reply after posting this on the website:
I was just looking to see if Norman had got his web page up yet and I saw your article about Norman and "Robbie Robinson/Robertson". I was Norman's road manager when he had the hit with Spirit and have remained in touch since then. So, if no one else has disabused you and the world of this ridiculous notion that the Band member was on the session, please allow me. He was certainly not. The line-up you have for the session looks correct from what I remember hearing from Norman back then. Robbie Robinson was a real musician who worked with Norman, though I never met him. Also, Norman told me that the fuss-tone came with the Fender Telecaster from the factory. Coincidently though, I think Norm also told me that Mr. Robinson some how ended up with that guitar.
Grinder’s SwitchRated 1972 LP featuring Stan Szeleste and Sandy Konikoff, by the great little band that backed John Cale on Vintage Violence. Szeleste and Konikoff are both one-time members. But no actual “Band” involvment.
“Guitar Man” by The BandGoldmine once advertised: Mr Guitar Man / Loving Zone by “THE BAND” and also I’ll set you free promo CD single (which is possibly Free Your Mind). It seems that Guitar Man is by a different ‘The Band; who were a garage band, possibly from Florida. Bones confirms that the single existed – he had one.
Corey HartCanadian rock singer. I read that The Band had played sessions. I can’t find any Band references on his albums. There is a connection in that Corey Hart, like Gordon Lightfoot below, appears on the Canadian Live-Aid single Tears Are Not Enough which featured Richard Manuel and Ronnie Hawkins.
‘Jabberwocky’ single by The BandJabberwocky / Love Me Like You Can (US only, Capitol 2041, 1968) This is not a Band single, though it is listed as such in (e.g.) Price Guide for Record Collectors Edition 3. I’d seen a reference somewhere else before, but can’t find where. Anyway, it’s even got a catalogue number under the artist name The Band. Problem - against this in 1968 they weren’t calling themselves The Band. In 1998, Barry Drake solved the problem on the Band website. This single is by The Bards, not The Band, and was released on Piccadilly in 1966, then re-released on Capitol in 1968. The title is really The Jabberwocky and it's based on a dance.
Then turn to page 347 of Bill Wyman’s book Blues Odyssey. It has a quote about backing John Hammond with Band members in November 1964. Next to the quote is a poster for Hammond playing at “The Jabberwock” in Berkeley on December 2, 3, 4. The caption says ‘this advert is from five months later’ – it’s either 5 weeks later or 13 months later in fact. Coincidence?
Levon Helm: Blues, GroovesVideo. Rumoured for sale at $50, so could be a tuition tape (or a version of Drums & Drumming). Or a bootleg.
Levon & The BandThe U.S. collectors’ magazine Goldmine advertised these singles for sale circa 1995:
LEVON & THE BAND
Midnight on Hariba / Phoenicia Street Shuffle (LIBAN 45107)
The advertiser didn’t reply to my enquiry, which would have been late as I got the copy in the UK.
Gordon LightfootCanadian folk singer. Often mentioned vaguely as someone they’d worked with. The Albert Grossman management connection was there.
Rockbase has (unusually) detailed sessionographies for most of his albums, none of which include Band members. I’ve looked at Record Fairs and turned up nothing (except a Ry Cooder sit-in which is irrelevant!) I’m reliably informed that:
Lightfoot basically has used the same back up band his whole career with the exception of some session players. To the best of my knowledge he has never played with any members of The Band.As with Corey Hart, there is a connection in that Gordon Lightfoot appears on the Canadian Live-Aid single Tears Are Not Enough which featured Richard Manuel and Ronnie Hawkins. On one Lightfoot LP, Sunday Concert, a photo shows Lightfoot, Grossman and Ronnie Hawkins walking through the snow.
Los LobosLevon appeared on their 1990 album, but supposedly joint sessions were done at Woodstock as early as 1985. A version of The Battle is Over was cut as well as What Good Is Love? and possibly more. These have Levon Helm on, though probably the rest is all Los Lobos.
John Martyn: Road to Ruin1970 Rumoured Levon involvement before his certain credit on Stormbringer but the album isn’t that rare, and there’s absolutely no mention of Levon on it. Probably confusion with Stormbringer.
Willie Mitchell: SparkleRecorded for Bearsville in 1979 -no details except that Todd Rundgren helped out and Band involvement is rumoured, though goodness knows where on this dull, sub-Isaac Hayes collection of disco-muzak, by legendary soul producer Mitchell. Re-released by C-Five Records.
Keith Moon/ Peter CookThe tale is recounted in Mojos' Special Edition on The Who (April 2004).
Keith Moon set out to make a second solo album, which has never been released, though five tracks appeared as bonus tracks on the CD release of the first solo LP, Two Sides of The Moon,
Anyway, Moon decided to import comedian Peter Cook to sing a Warner back catalogue song, "Rubber Ring." According to the magazine:
"After several takes, the track, featuring members of The Band and Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band in instrumental support, was beyond redemption, with (Rick) Nelson having to coach Cook's nicotine- and wine-sodden voice into carrying some semblance of a tune. It was never released."
More Moondog Matinee outtakes?Unlike Dylan or Van Morrison who cut a lot of material and whittle it down, The Band seemed to have gone into the studio with polished songs and the remasters series in 2000 indicated that there were far fewer outtakes than people had hoped for. The richest source for outtakes was held to be Moondog Matinee because they were using pre-existing songs. Barney Hoskyns in Across The Great Divide mentions them considering Bony Moronie, Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Lovin You Is Sweeter than Ever, but all three were junked early in the process.
When the remasters appeared, five far more obscure songs appeared as outtakes. Rob Bowman’s sleevenotes mention there were also thirty four takes of Rick Danko on Bring It On Home To Me and takes on Faye Adams’ 1949 hit Shake A Hand. He quotes Robbie on the process of doing one or two run throughs of suggested songs before deciding to turn on the tape recorder. Robbie also says We weren’t going to do Bony Moronie or Short Fat Fannie … they were too comical. He also explains why they didn’t record Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Lovin You Is Sweeter than Ever – we probably thought we’d done that.
So, two confirmed unreleased tracks.
Van MorrisonGarth played on two tracks on Wavelength and for years there was speculation about outtakes. But Clinton Heylin’s biography reveals that both tracks were sent to Garth for over-dubbing. So he wasn’t acually at the sessions.
In an interview, Van mentioned that he’d wanted to do a Ray Charles album with Richard Manuel. But even at the time of the interview his wife, Janet Planet, implies that Richard was only responding politely “That was just you,” she said.
There are live tracks of Van singing with The Band at Nostell Priory 1984, but these are part of the large nebulous live tapes circuit (as are so many things).
Geoff MuldaurUS singer / guitarist with Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Paul Butterfield then solo artist as well as working with his wife, Maria Muldaur. Has been mentioned as having worked with Band members. This would seem plausible given location and other musicians who have played with him (Butterfield, Dr John, Ben Keith). Rockbase has musician details for all his albums, but none of The Band are mentioned. Danko worked on production for the Bobby Charles album on which Muldaur appeared.
As I was writing this in January 2003, there was finally news of the connection. Mojo reports:
A slew of rum soaked Eric Von Schmidt tunes laid down at Woodstock’s Bearsville Studios in 1972, with friends Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band, Paul Butterfield and Maria and Geoff Muldaur. These tracks are from Living on The Trail, a long lost Von Schmidt album recently released – call it 30 years late and right on time. The album’s heartbroken ballad (is) Thunder Heads Keep Rolling.So no longer unsubstantiated.
Maria MuldaurStrong Woodstock connection. Garth Hudson appeared on an unused version of Work Song rejected from Maria Muldaur’s first solo album. Unreleased.
See also Geoff Muldaur above.
The New MaroonsLined up for an alleged charity show following the Ringo Starr tour in 1989. They supposedly comprised Ringo Starr, Don Was, Levon Helm, Billy Preston and others. There are no reports of a recording emerging.
Nilsson: Pussy catsCD, (RCA) (1974) Reissue (Edsel ED CD 337) (1991)
Rather like Ringo Starr’s Rotogravure below. Band members involvement in this album has been long rumoured, but the album has meticulously detailed credits which do not mention them (though John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Sneeky Pete, Keith Moon do appear). The sessions were a notorious piss-up for all concerned, being part of Lennon’s long “Lost weekend”in California, where the Band were living at the time. My guess is that Band members may well have attended the piss-ups and been present without contributing. But there is a reference to the Masked Albert Orchestra in the credits. Maybe Albert refers to Albert Grossman, who might have insisted the particular orchestra was masked?
The PencilsTerry Danko gave information on The Pencils. Some references have mentioned Richard Manuel as a member, but in fact he only sat in on a few live shows before and after their only album was recorded in 1983. The Pencils consisted of Marty Grebb (guitar, piano, sax, vocal), Terry Danko (bass, vocal), Chris Pinnick (guitar) and Michael Dee (drums).
An album was recorded at One Step Up studio in Van Nuys, California, which consisted of Terry Danko / Marty Grebb songs. They also produced. On the album, Danko and Grebb were joined by Chris Pinnick (guitar), Ricky Fattar (drums), Jimmy Pankow (trombone) and Joe Lala (percussion). Backing vocals were added by Richard Manuel, Mike Finnigan and Steven Stills.
Nine songs were cut, but then Terry Danko had a serious car accident and was out of music for a year. The album suffered from changing fashions in the interim, and never got released. Sadly, no one can turn up the master tapes either.
So the lost Pencils album is a genuine lost Richard Manuel session.
Penderecki “Works”Robertson supposedly spent months in 1972 to 1973 working on an avant-garde piece, Works, based on Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki's work. It was to be for the Band.
Barney Hoskyns says it was 'a kind of symphony about the experience of the American Indians.' Another quote from Hoskyns suggests that about 15 minutes may have been completed. This may be in writing rather than recorded form. Whichever, it's well under wraps.
Peter, Paul & Mary: Album 1700In ‘Rock and Woodstock’ P. Smart says:
It was largely members of Butterfield’s band that backed … Highway 61 Revisited … then later at Newport 65. The Band took over after that. They played background for Peter, Paul and Mary’s attempted breakout albums like ‘Album 1700’.In fact P. Smart means that the Butterfield Band played on this album - there was no Band involvement, just dodgy sentence construction, which started a story that The Band had worked with them. Also playing on I Dig were Denny Gerrard and Skip Prokop, both then of the Grossman-managed Paupers. Prokop would go on to the Live Adventures of Bloomfield & Kooper session, and Gerrard would pop up later in Bearsville for the LP done by the group Jericho. (Garth is thanked on the sleeve for use of equipment.)
The Band had worked with Peter Yarrow in the sense that they backed Tiny Tim on the You Are What You Eat OST in 1968. They are also credited on Yarrow’s 1973 solo That’s Enough For Me on the song Groundhog. This track was written and produced by Paul Simon with a credit of ‘special help from Robbie Robertson. Levon Helm, and Garth Hudson.’ Rob Bowman’s sleeve notes to Moondog Matinee (which must have been Robbie Robertson approved as the earlier Hoskyns notes had been rejected by him) says that Levon and Garth played on this.
Richard Manuel, overdubbed versions of solo live showsThe CD Whispering Pines was released in Japan on Dreamsville in 2002. It was recorded by Andy Robinson, The Getaway, Saugerties, NY 12 October 1985.
The 1990s Band has used other Richard Manuel solo recordings, also recorded by Andy Robinson. The studio Country Boy appeared on Jericho, and a different version of She Knows was on High on The Hog.
Work had been done by The Band on overdubbing other solo live material (including versions of Hard Times, Crazy Mama and Miss Otis Regrets), produced and arranged by Garth Hudson, but this never came to fruition. The Garth Hudson-produced version of She Knows was done for Bearsville Records (owned by Sally Grossman) and came from a Lone Star Café benefit show. Butch Dener reported that Levon had been trying to persuade Sally Grossman to release these tapes for years, to no avail.
Robert PlantAt a Rick Danko concert in the late eighties, a press article announcing the show claimed that Rick had played on a Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) solo record but no trace has been found.
Michael J. PollardRecord Collector in January 1996 had an item in the ‘25 Years Ago This Month’ column (i.e. 1971) which said that ‘Band bassist Rick Danko was producing an album for Michael J. Pollard’’ Actor Pollard was one of the four leads in Bonnie & Clyde and a guest backstage at The Last Waltz.
Professor LonghairI received this note:
I read in ICE Magazine years ago that The Band had worked with Professor Longhair and that an album of this material was due for release,then subsequently pulled without explanation. Have you ever heard of this? I sort of thought that maybe this was why he was thanked on the Rock Of Ages sleeve.The glib answer would be that ICE Magazine confused Professor Longhair with Professor Louie, but the rumour most likely comes from the Albert Grossman connection as he’d financed recordings by Longhair. Bumbles posted a link to a legal case resulting from Grossman’s death in 1985:
The plaintiff's complaint recounts the unusual circumstances under which the tapes went from Grossman's possession to that of his estate: "Upon information and belief, tragically dying en route [from a European music conference], Albert Grossman lay in state [sic] at Heathrow Airport in London. Upon claiming the corpse, Sally Grossman, widow of Albert Grossman, discovered the Baton Rouge recording session tapes clutched to the deceased body."The albums resulting from the Grossman-financed sessions, House Party New Orleans Style (Rounder) & Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge (Rhino) feature a band that included Snooks Eaglin on guitar & (original) Meters rhythm section George Porter & Ziggy Modaliste.
The following quotes from Quint Davis, producer/director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and a key figure in Longhair’s career after his re-emergence at the 1971 festival, appear in Jeff Hannusch’s I Hear You Knockin: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues. Hannusch isn’t specific, but the trip to Woodstock would have been in early 1972.Grossman invited us up to Woodstock. We did some sessions that were supposed to come out on Bearsville, but in the end it didn’t work out. I don’t exactly know why—we did some killer sessions—but nothing ever came out. Grossman’s got all the tapes. You see Grossman’s big; he’s just physically big, and that’s the way he functioned. He moved with a lot of force. He created this whole community up there. He had Todd Rundgren, the Band, Paul Butterfield, the Full Tilt Boogie Band and Foghat. He built the first really advanced studio there; he was managing and he had the label.Since Davis was obviously aware of the Band, but doesn’t mention any of them being at either Woodstock session, and since the entire Bearsville episode seems to have taken only a couple of days, it seems unlikely that a trove of Longhair-Band tapes exists.
Raging Bull OSTWell, it definitely happened and it’s on the film soundtrack of this Martin Scorsese film from 1980. This violent biopic stars Robert De Niro as 1949 boxer Jake La Motta. Soundtrack produced by Robbie Robertson. Release as an album is the question. Some believe it surfaced and was deleted, but apparently not.
Raging Bull should have become an album; the (performing) rights became crazy. I really went to a lot of trouble with the music. I love Robbie Robertson’s music at the beginning and the end, over the credits what you hear is just him moaning over the drum machine. It was just a cassette he sent me and now it’s on 70mm. (Q Interview, March 1987).The Main Title sounds like fairly straight classical film music. Music is credited to Pietro Masagani, and three classical pieces are listed: Cavelleria Rusticana Intermezzo, Guglielmo Ratcliff Intermezzo and Silvano Bacarolle, all played by Orchestra of Bologna Municop Theatra. At the beginning of the credits we hear Robbie moaning over a beat, then the Main Title comes back in later replaced by a piano with soundtrack talking behind it. Robbie’s production credits come right at the end:
At Last (Gordon
/ Warren, 1942)
The musicians listed for these tracks are:
Garth Hudson - piano, sax/ Richard Manuel - drums / Larry Klein - bass / Dale Turner - trumpet (Oingo Boingo Band) Produced and Arranged by Robbie Robertson.
Garth Hudson also lists Raging Bull (Cues) among his ASCAP writing credits.
The Red Bird sessionsThere were references to the Hawks ‘doing sessions at Red Bird’ in 1965.
Red Bird specialized in acts like the Shangri-Las and The Dixie Cups. New Orleans singer Alvin Robinson also recorded for Red Bird. The label was associated with Brill Building writers like Barry-Greenwich and Leiber-Stoller, and the legendary Shadow Morton produced the most memorable items. It’s exactly the sort of label that hires in the session guys, pays the money and keeps no records. Musicians don’t get listed on the definitive Red Bird Story 4CD set. But it took years before anyone realized that a young Cher was singing backing on a lot of Spector hits.
The explanation has been that three of The Hawks backed John Hammond on sessions in 1965 which were released on a Red Bird single.
End of story? Probably. But two odd little coincidences follow.
The Shangri-Las recorded a cover of You Cheated (You Lied) in 1965, and on Shangri-Las albums the credits read “L. Helm”. Levon is credited with writing this song on the Ronnie Hawkins Roulette version, but this is certainly a false credit. The song had earlier been a US # 12 hit for The Shields in the Fall of 1958. The Shields were covering an earlier release by a Texas group, The Slades, on Domino which got to #42. It was also covered by The Del-Vikings on Mercury. Composer credits are to ‘Burch’ on these releases. There was also an answer disc, I Cheated, credited to Burch, and sung by Joyce Harris (and backed by The Slades).
The Rolling Stone review of the 1969 re-issue of the Hawkins album says that it was ‘later (sic) a number 1 (sic) hit for The Shields’. The reviewer was Greil Marcus, who was pretty far off the mark with his comment:
Think about this. Levon Helm reached more people with more impact with You Cheated than the Band has with Music From Big Pink.The song was actually written by Don Burch, the lead singer of The Slades, and published by Balconer Music, as was The Shields version. The Roulette versions, credited to Helm, are published by Patricia Music, a company named after Roulette boss Morris Levy’s wife. Roulette was a mob company and they put names, real or non-existent, on composer credits in case there was any money in it. Songs by Larry Williams, Billy Emerson, Chuck Berry and Young Jesse were credited to Hawkins-MacGill, and You Cheated was credited to Helm. Incidentally, Ronnie Hawkins has said he doesn’t know even who MacGill was. (She was Levy’s girlfriend). In another example outright gangster Gaetano Vartela received song credits. The character of the successful Jewish songwriter with mob connections in The Sopranos would appear to be based on Levy.
So, when the Shangri-Las came to record this song, they chose to follow the least well-known of four versions and to credit it to Levon Helm. Reading through the Red Bird Story reveals that Levy became heavily involved in the label (after the previous owner reneged on gambling debts), and there was a constant mob connection. That would explain why The Shangri-Las would be exploring the Patricia Music catalogue.
As Robertson recalled in an interview in March 1998 edition of Mix magazine (posted on the Guestbook by David Powell):
"'Wow! I've got songs on an album!' I'm really cherishing the moment. I open the record slowly and I'm savoring the scent of the vinyl and I look on the label and I see the song titles and I see my songs there, and under the songs it says, 'Robbie Robertson and Morris Levy.' And so I say to Ronnie, 'Who the hell is Morris Levy and what is his name doing on these songs I wrote?' And Ronnie says in his southern accent, 'Well, son, there are certain things in this business we just don't question and it's better for all concerned to just accept.' A couple of days later, I was in a record store and out of curiosity I looked at some other recordings on Roulette Records, and I see Morris Levy's name on a lot of songs. And I think, 'Man this guy's a songwriting fool!' [Laughs]"Of course Robertson soon got to meet Morris Levy and realized what the deal was. As Robertson recalled to Mix inteviewer Blair Jackson:
"...Ronnie took me up to Roulette Records to meet my 'songwriting partner,' Morris Levy. We go into his office and Ronnie introduces me as his young guitar player and songwriter who he thinks has great 'potential,' as he calls it. And Morris Levy looks at me and says, 'Yeah, he's a cute kid. I bet you don't know whether to hire him or f---- him.' And I'm thinking, 'Whaaaat? What is with this guy?' And I look around his office and he's got these guys in there with these tight dark suits on; they're packing heat or something. Two things became apparent to me immediately. One was that the Cosa Nostra was not a myth. And number two, that I would forego my comments about the songwriting credit dispute.Second coincidence? Well, the Band decided to name their California studio ‘Shangri-La’.
I do wonder when I listen to those Shadow Morton productions … and I know English session musicians who’ve confided some of their particularlyeneged on gambling debts), and there was a constant mob connection. That would explain why The Shangri-Las would be explo unhip session work in private, but denied them in public. Except that The Shangri-Las are not particularly unhip.
“The Road from Turkey Scratch”File under fiction. The story of this supposed squashed fifth Band album (after Cahoots) by Lennart Pearson was a humorous spoof first published in Sweden and available on the Band website. The title was The Most Secret Record in Rock History. It was supposedly “revealed” to the author by a stoned Dr John after a concert. The device of the rambling stoned narrator, lying on a bed, unwittingly letting out the deep secret is one that was common in 19th century literature – the untraceable authentic source. The tale of a lost “tape of a tape” adds to it. Nicely done fictive devices, applied with skill. Total pastiche. Not a word of truth in it.
David Sanborn: As We SpeakCD (Warner Bros 7399-23650-2) (1982)
Produced by Robert Margouleff Jazz album featuring saxist David Sanborn with Marcus Miller, Omar Hakim, Paulinho da Costa, Don Freeman, Michael Sembello, George Duke. There is a long list of about fifty ‘Special thanks’ which includes Garth Hudson (and Gary Busey). However, Garth is not listed among the detailed musician credits. Garth Hudson's involvement on the album, according to Garth's friend Richard Wall, was probably that David Sanborn borrowed one of Garth Hudson's soprano saxophones for these sessions. David Sanborn is supposed to be a big admirer of Garth Hudson, and obviously they knew each other.
Jules ShearAs well as the 1994 sit ins, there are reputedly at least 12 tracks done with Jules Shear around. These include known demos which have circulated:
The ShutoutsMentioned by Garth in 1983 interview. Probably just gigs.
Carly Simon sessionsThere are several genuine links.
On the single of Mockingbird by Carly Simon and James Taylor (Elektra 45880) (1974) Robbie Robertson guests on this track which is from Hotcakes. The song is a remake of the Charlie and Inez Foxx 1963 hit, and it reached US # 3, UK # 34.
On the 1977 Libby Titus album Paul Simon & Phil Ramone produced two tracks (Fool That I Am, and a superb Kansas City), Phil Ramone managed two more on his own, and another three in conjunction with Carly Simon. Libby co-wrote Can This Be My Love Affair with Carly Simon, and the song is about Levon Helm. Carly Simon produced one on her own (Darkness Till Dawn, where Carly and James Taylor share backing vocals) and Robbie Robertson produced the remaining two.
The “unsubstantiated one” is:
Carly Simon was adopted as a protege by Albert Grossman who planned a debut album which would launch her as a ‘female Dylan’. Four tracks were produced by Bob Johnson in New York, including Baby let me follow you down with new lyrics by Carly Simon and Bob Dylan. Artists on the sessions were Robbie Robertson (later featured on her Mockingbird), Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. She argued with Grossman and the album was scrapped. A 1981 Carly Simon interview in Rolling Stone mentioned discussing the tracks with Dylan ‘a week before the crash’ (which was on 29 July 1966). Sources such as The Rolling Stone Encylopedia of Rock ‘n’ Roll and the 1973 NME Book of Rock give the session date as September 1966. The Guinness Book of Rock Stars gave the date as September 1967 in its first edition. The emergence of a September 1967 demo by The Band (Orange Juice Blues) on Across The Great Divide make the later date seem possible.
The Sony Album – The BandSony signed The Band to do an album circa 1991, it was widely reported, then dropped. Much of it surfaced on Jericho. There are some well-known “Jericho outtakes” which appear to be demos for Jericho, but could well be from this Sony album. They include two Bruce Hornsby songs (on which he may be present) Night on the Town and The Tide Will Rise. There’s also a song called Keep the Home Fires Burning, and a standout Ray Charles tribute called Nobody Sings ‘Em Like Ray. My favourite is Circle of Time – no information but it harks back to the Hawks in the bass-led style of He Don’t Love You. The tape that circulated also had Never Again or Forever by Jules Shear, the Los Lobos session with The Battle is Over and most of Jericho in different versions. Stuff You Gotta Watch is superior to the released version.
So there are at least five unreleased early 90s Band tracks which are worthy of release.
Ringo Starr: RotogravureUS LP (Atco 18193) (1976)
According to the Rockbase database and to the Internet site, Levon Helm plays mandolin on this album. As the album has painstaking documentation and acknowledgements, including photos of most participants, and does not include Levon, it seems most likely that the databases are wrong - unless Levon was anonymous for contractual reasons which seems unlikely given his other appearances as a sideman in the same year. (But the album does include John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, Dr John, Pete Frampton, Jesse Ed Davis, Melissa Manchester …) See Pussy Cats above - similar line-up, similar rumours.
Gabor SzaboAt The Forum concert with Mercury Rev in 1999, Garth mentioned cutting two albums in Budapest with this American-based Hungarian jazz guitarist. Efforts to trace this via Gabor Szabo experts turned up nothing concrete. So there are two albums, but no idea what they are.
Libby Titus: Libby TitusEarlier album on Amherst, predates the 1977 one with the same title and includes covers of Fool On A Hill and Here There & Everywhere. As she was with Levon at the time, Band involvement is highly likely, but no one can find copies of it!
Libby Titus: Makes The World Go RoundHot Biscuit Records, 1974
May or may not be the same album as the one above. I’m told there is no Band involvement listed (I’ve never seen it).
Gary Trooper & Joe FloodFeatures Every Night, supposedly co-written with The Band. This might be Jimmy McCracklin’s Every Night & Every Day, though I haven’t heard it.
Jennifer Warnes: Shot Through The Heart(Arista AB4217) (1979)
This has been listed as an album with Band members sitting in, but it isn’t. It has clear and full sleeve credits. The confusion arises because this album was produced by Rob Fraboni, recorded at Shangri La Studios, and features Blondie Chaplin on guitar. It even has a Jesse Winchester cover (You Remember Me) and a Dylan cover (Sign On The Window). BUT none of the Band feature on it. Well, Chaplin was an ex-officio member seven years later in 1986. I was thrilled when I found a copy at a Record fair. Disappointed when I read the sleeve notes. Thrilled again when I discovered it was well-worth having anyway.
Sonny Boy WilliamsonRumours followed the informal jam with Levon & The Hawks which is discussed in The Last Waltz in which there is talk of future work together. However I’m sure Robbie has stated unequivocally that this never happened and they never played with or saw him again. In those days tape recorders were not ubiquitous.
Whether such a venture would have been truly satisfying is dubious – even the very best of these collaborations (The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album and The London Howling Wolf Sessions ) are ‘good’ rather than ground-breaking, and Sonny Boy Williamson Meets the Yardbirds was poor, but then again as Sonny Boy said, no doubt with the Yardbirds session in mind, ‘they want to play the blues so bad, and they do’. I think I’d stick with Down and Out Blues – great sleeve too.
Various artists: Bearsville TheaterCD 1993. That’s all she wrote.
Neil YoungBecause Rick and Levon both played on two songs on On the Beach, and because Neil has the reputation of letting hours of tape run, there is always the possibility of outtakes. Years ago, I’d heard that there were unknown Neil Young sessions and perused the fanzine Broken Arrow for a while looking for news. None appeared. But there are all those box sets Neil Young’sd been planning for the last 15 years that never actually get released …