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Influences on The Band

Country Connections

[Peter Viney]  by Peter Viney

Copyright © 2001 Peter Viney.

Every previous article has generated comments and corrections which I'm happy to incorporate in a future revision. Please post in the Guestbook, or e-mail me directly at

[John Anderson] ["Blonde on Blonde" recording sessions] [Bluegrass Alliance] [Garth Brooks] [Carlene Carter] [Johnny Cash] [Ray Charles] [Charlie Daniels] [The Delmore Brothers] [Everly Brothers] [Flatt & Scruggs] [Kinky Friedman] [Lefty Frizell] [Bobby Gentry] [Vince Gill] [Emmylou Harris] [(with) Ronnie Hawkins] [Diamond Helm] [Waylon Jennings] [George Jones] [Mickey Jones] [Paul Kennerly] [Doug Kershaw] [Loretta Lynn] [Martina McBride] [Mel McDaniel] [Bill Monroe] [Willie Nelson & Webb Pierce] [Nitty Gritty Dirt Band] [The Oak Ridge Boys] [Buck Owens] [Frieda Parton] [Les Paul] [Carl Perkins] [Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers] [Elvis Presley] [Marty Robbins] [Jimmy Rogers] [Kenny Rogers] [Rosalie Sorrells] [Hank Snow] [Red Sovine /Cowboy Copas] [The Stanley Brothers] [Marty Stuart] [James Taylor] [Conway Twitty] [Various Artists: Red Hot + Country] [Hank Williams] [Jesse Winchester]

Ronnie Hawkins (talking about The Band's second album)
I was so surprised that Robbie wrote all that stuff, because they were a rhythm 'n' blues act. They played rhythm 'n' blues great. And they didn't like country music. We even had a few arguments about that in the old days. I wanted to play that to people and they wouldn't play it. And then when their albums came out, man, I was so shocked, because they were definitely country roots. 1

Rick Danko
There was also a pedal steel in the basement that Bob had been given. Everybody played that once in a while.

Robbie Robertson
Everybody tried to. 2

Country is not my thing. I find the soul, blues and rock influences easier to trace, because I tend to know the originals. I came to country via Sweetheart of The Rodeo, Gilded Palace of Sin, Nashville Skyline and Self-Portrait, so it's not deeply ingained in my consciousness.

My earlier memories of country are either of novelty-country songs like Wolverton Mountain or the excruciating Frank Ifield cover versions of Lovesick Blues and I Remember You. Or worse, Jim Reeves. The stuff that got played on radio in Britain then was early "Americana" rather than true C&W. Columbia Country Classics Vol 3 is subtitled "Americana" and it has the stuff that introduced me to country in Britain - Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dean, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Fess Parker, Claude King. When that stuff (which I enjoy) is your intro to country, you can't ever take it as "serious". The Band's version of "Long Black Veil" is in this area. As Levon says, they all thought it was funny.

Only Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country & Western stands out positively from the early 60s for me.

I think this is an important statement of where The Hawks stood on country versus R&B. Levon is describing recording Ronnie Hawkins Sings Hank Williams in Nashville:

Levon Helm
Meanwhile, downstairs in Studio B, Bobby Blue Bland and his orchestra were recording 'Turn on Your Lovelight.' I could hear the music leaking out of the studio; Blue Bland was a hero to me, and I was itching to go downstairs and listen.3

Levon has appeared with country artists, he knows the genre, and he comes from almost the right region with the right accent, but it's surprising how rarely he's covered country numbers. I guess some numbers on American Son would be at home on new country albums. He performed (brilliantly) in The Coalminer's Daughter. He fitted seamlessly in with Johnny Cash and Charlie Daniels on The Legend of Jesse James, and he did Blue Moon of Kentucky, but his heart, it is clear, is with the blues. The history of American popular music is shown in contrast in Tennessee, with Memphis on the river as the home of the blues, and then up to Nashville for country. Levon's home was in the Arkansas hinterlands of Memphis, and it shows.

Robbie's been the most vocal in mentioning country roots, but Robbie's been the most vocal on the influences in general.

Barney Hoskyns
(On the Six Nations Reservation) his Mohawk relatives would gather round the campfire and sing Hank Williams or Lefty Frizell songs to the accompaniment of guitars and mandolins. 4

Take a look at the number of soundtrack various artists compilations that Robbie has produced in recent years. Hugely eclectic, but while blues, soul, rock, jazz and standards are all represented, he hasn't used country or folk material. And no country songs made it onto Moondog Matinee.

Rick Danko was the true country standard-bearer in The Band. The sleeve painting for Moondog Matinee shows Rick Danko reading the sheet music of "C&W Hits."

Barney Hoskyns
Like Levon Helm's, Rick Danko's country roots were a vital ingredient in the sound of The Band, offsetting and complementing the bluesier leanings of Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel. Mountain harmonies were something Rick Danko learned from his mother and her stepsisters.

Ronnie Hawkins
Those Danko boys got weird ears.

Robbie Robertson
(Levon and Rick) come from hundreds of miles apart but they are both considered the basic country influence in The Band.

Barney Hoskyns
In the depression many of the tobacco farmers from the Carolinas had moved up to (South-West Ontario) because the land was so good for tobacco. Inevitably the music came with it.

Terry Danko
As a kid you worked on their tobacco farms because there was nothing else to do. You went to school with all the Southern kids and picked up their traditions.

Barney Hoskyns
For Terry, this was why the music around Simcoe took on such a pronounced bluegrass and gospel character, as opposed to the Country & Western style exemplified in the songs of Canada's very own country superstar, Hank Snow. 5

While you can list a few country artists with connections, the list of those with no perceivable influence is far greater! Astonishingly, The Band have a track on the British compilation The Best Country Album in the World - Ever!

Categories: Country, Folk and Rock

There are some fine lines being drawn. OK, Joan Baez is folk, and Johnny Cash is country, but there are many questionable ones in between. And there are a lot of country / folk oriented artists in the rock section of your local record store. The Everly Brothers and Joni Mitchell would be in the rock section. Emmylou Harris has been seen in rock, country and folk, but I've included her here. I've based it roughly on how Tower or Virgin would split the two fields. Endlessly arguable, of course.

The more you delve into it, the more you find a time where both country and blues would have been described as variants of "folk". Bill C Malone's study "Country Music USA" is recommended if you want to explore this area. In modern terms the Coen Brothers' film O Brother Where Art Thou illustrates the meeting place.

The article "The Band and Folk" should be read in conjunction with this one.

I've ignored Bob Dylan as a composer, though much of the stuff that is here is from The Basement Tapes. Dylan originals like You Ain't Going Nowhere form another country link. My conclusion would be that the country link with The Hawks was mild, and the folk link virtually non-existent until they hooked up with Dylan. I'd bet that their collective memories added to the repetoire cut in the basement, but all the old folk stuff was better known to Dylan, who was performing Ain't No More Cane back in 1961.

The Byrds, having covered both You Ain't Goin Nowhere and This Wheel's On Fire in their country phase, are also connected here.

John Anderson

Paradise (1996)
Levon appears on one appropriately titled track with new country star Anderson, The Band Plays On (Gary Scruggs/ J. Fred Knobloch.)

"Blonde on Blonde" recording sessions

[image] Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde US # 9 UK # 3 (1966)
Recorded at CBS Studios, Nashville, Tennessee.

Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde is by no means country of course, but it was recorded with Nashville's best session men, plus Robbie Robertson and Al Kooper. The experience of working with Nashville's finest - Wayne Moss, Charlie McCoy, Kenneth Buttrey, Hargus Robbins, Jerry Kennedy, Joe South, Bill Aikens, Henry Strzelecki - must have influenced Robbie enormously.

Bluegrass Alliance

Covered The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down on
Country Comment.

Garth Brooks

Rick Danko was said to be working with Brooks in 1995. He wasn't on the December 1995 release though or on subsequent ones. It has been reported that Garth Brooks is a great admirer of the Band, and tried to persuade his highly-competent management to sign The Band in the early 90s but according to a Guestbook entry on the Band website, Levon and Rick failed the interview.

Carlene Carter

I Fell in Love (1990)
Levon sings (not very prominently) on two tracks, I Fell in Love (Carlene Carter / Howie Epstein / Benmont Tench / Perry Lamek) and Me and The Wildwood Rose (Carlene Carter).

Johnny Cash

[image] There are a whole slew of Johnny Cash songs on the later emerging basement recordings with Dylan. Unfortunately many copies of the bootleg series The Genuine Basement Tapes have died through disc-rot. I replaced Volume 2, but now I find Volume 1 is unplayable too. Ah, well, shouldn't buy bootlegs. Oregano again.

Rick Danko quotes I Walk The Line as a favourite album at the time. All four covers are on it:

Rick Danko
Our tribute to Johnny Cash that summer.6

Garth Hudson had backed Cash in the Detroit area while he was with Paul London & The Kapers in the early 1960s. Dylan was a confessed Cash fan.

Belshazar (Johnny Cash)
Original: Cash's first composition in 1950 or 51.
Best-known: Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two 1957
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 4

Still in Town (Johnny Cash)
Original: I Walk The Line 1964
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5

Big River (Johnny Cash)
Original: I Walk The Line 1964
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5

Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash)
Original: Initially recorded in 1955, then revived for I Walk The Line 1964
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5

There is rumoured Garth Hudson involvement with Cash, circa 1990. No details. Could be live shows rather than albums.

In The Legend of Jesse James by British country songwriter Paul Kennerly, Levon Helm plays Jesse James and Johnny Cash plays Frank James. They sing together on The Death Of Me

Johnny Cash has covered The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

I'm told that Johnny Cash refers to himself in the third person as "Johnny Cash", as in "Johnny Cash wants a cup of coffee." So does his wife. A powerful image of self.

Ray Charles

[image] See also the Ray Charles article on this site.

You Don't Know Me (Cindy Walker-Eddy Arnold)
Original: Single (US #2, UK #9, July 1962), and Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music album 1962 (US #1, UK #6) (current CD: Greatest Country & Western Hits, Sequel)
Band version: The Band Japan Tour video.
A 1964 version appears on Crossing the Great Divide bootleg, credited to Texas. This was a major part of the Hawks early 60s stage act, with Manuel on vocals again. It's on the Dallas 1965 collectors' tape. It appears on various bootleg tapes of Manuel solo and also of The Band circa 1984-5.
Levon & the Hawks: bootleg, Port Dover 1964 - the only "country" song in the set.
Danko / Manuel bootleg: Live at O'Toole's Tavern, recorded 1985
Van Morrison's 1995 cover reminds me more of Manuel than Charles.

There's a very tenuous 'reverse' connection with Ray Charles' hit version of Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart. Ray didn't cover it until 1962 (single US #29, UK #13 from Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music Vol 2 , album US #2, UK #12). Ronnie Hawkins, backed by Levon Helm and Nashville session men, had covered this previously on Ronnie Hawkins Sings The Songs of Hank Williams (1960). My guess is that while it was a hit for Ray, it would have been back in the act for Ronnie.

Those with access to Dylan collectors' tapes can hear Danko & Helm performing the song (badly) with Dylan (Lone Star Cafe, New York City, 16 February 1983)

Ray Charles has covered Ophelia

Charlie Daniels

The Legend of Jesse James by British country songwriter Paul Kennerly, Levon Helm plays Jesse James and Charlie Daniels plays Cole Younger. Levon Helm and Charlie Daniels duet on The Old Clay County.

The Delmore Brothers

[image] Blues Stay Away From Me (A.Delmore,. R. Delmore, W.Raney, H.Glover)
Original version: King single recorded May 1949 (King 803), US country #1, US #2 Radio & Retail chart. Original produced by Henry Glover, who later produced The Canadian Squires, Levon & The Hawks & Levon Helm. Available on Freight Train Boogie (Ace CDCHD 455) (1995)

Henry Glover had been responsible for arranging Boarding House Blues for Lucky Millinder in 1948. Apparently Paul Williams based The Hucklebuck on Glover's score and got the hit.

Henry Glover I felt so out in the cold, so I went to Cincinatti and got the Delmores together and came up with 'Blues Stay Away From Me', based on the same melodic structure and the electric guitar doing the same moving at the bottom 7

Band versions: on Jericho and Levon Helm on Drums and Drumming.

Presumably part of Levon & The Hawks stage act - they played it on their first rehearsal with Dylan in September 1965

It also features on collector's tapes of Danko / Helm dating from 1983, and reappears on a Band tape in 1990, so it's an old favourite.

Everly Brothers

There's got to be a connection somewhere, though it beats me. Ah, yes! Levon & the Hawks used to do Little Richard's Lucille which the Everlys had a hit with. But not one of their country or folk ones. Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Paul Simon have all acknowledged their influence, and any group that sings together as well as The Band have to be influenced too.

Really remote link: Albert Lee performed with Levon Helm on The Legend of Jesse James, and throughout the 80s was the Everly Brothers lead guitarist on stage.

Flatt & Scruggs

Rock, Salt and Nails (Bruce Utah Phillips)
Rosalie Sorrells version: Rosalies Songbook 1965 Flatt & Scruggs version: Versatile Flatt & Scruggs 1965- the popular version
Bob Dylan / The Hawks version:
The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1

Earl Scruggs covered I Shall Be Released.

Kinky Friedman

[image] Lasso From El Paso (1976) LP (Epic EPC 81640) (1976) CD (Epic 474609 2) (1994)

Three of The Band guest on this country/ novelty/ comedy album by Kinky Friedman, going solo without his backing group The Texas Jewboys. It was recorded at Shangri-la studios: Levon Helm - guitar, drums, backing vocals. / Richard Manuel - drums, keyboards / Rick Danko - bass, backing vocals.

Ronnie Hawkins wrote one track and also contributes backing vocals.

Sample lyrics:

'Ol' Ben Lucas he had a lot of mucus hanging from the end of his nose.'

'Waitret, please, waitret, won't you sit on my face.

Lefty Frizell

Long Black Veil (Wilkin / Dill)
Original: Single. Country #6 in 1959. Now onColumbia Country Classics 3: Americana (Columbia) or The Best of Lefty Frizell (Rhino).

Band versions:
Music From Big Pink - the only non-original (or non-Dylan song)on their first four albums.
Live on The Band: Japan Tour and The Reunion Concert in 1984.
Live on Woodstock 25th Anniversary Collection 4 CD set. The selection of three Band songs from the Woodstock Festival covers country (The Long Black Veil), soul (Lovin' You Is Sweeter than Ever) and their final meeting point (The Weight).

They started doing it again live in 1996 / 97, following Rick Danko's frequent airings on 90s solo shows.
Rick Danko Live 1997 limited edition fund-raising album.

Covered by Mick Jagger with The Chieftains in 1994 with obvious source as The Band rather than Lefty Frizell.

Robbie Robertson
I just remembered the song somewhere back in my memory and sang it for Rick one day and he remembered it very well. It fit well with the other songs.

It's also the song with the most obviously 'country' melody and lyric, and has a classic Americana sound and storyline. It is not an old country song at all, and maybe that was part of its appeal to The Band. The song - like much of their work - is a contemporary deliberate creation of a mythologically American piece. It was written by Nashville songwriters Danny Dill (composer of The Streets of Laredo) and Marijohn Wilkin (the writer of Jimmy Dean's two hits, the JFK-mythologising P.T. Boat 109 and Big Bad John) in March 1959. The Long Black Veil (its full original title) was inspired by the real life murder of a New Jersey priest combined with newspaper accounts of a woman in a black veil who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino's grave. Dill and Wilkin set out to make it sound like an old Appalachian ballad so as to hang onto the coat tails of the then burgeoning folk music revival. Within days of writing it, they got the then fast-fading country star Lefty Frizell to record the song in March 1959 (with a line-up that included Grady Martin and Harold Bradley on guitars and Marijohn Wilkin on piano). The result was released in May 1959 and the hit record revived Frizell's career. Other artists have recorded the song, including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and The Country Gentlemen, but The Band learned the song from Frizell's original version. The song fits the mood of the album perfectly (it would have fit the next album too).

Co-writer Marijohn Wilkin then recorded an answer disc herself with barely changed lyrics as My Long Black Veil (I stood in the crowd and shed unseen tears - so there). It has a much less country and more elaborate arrangement, all strings and bass. Both versions are available on And The Answer Is? Great Country Answer Discs From The 50s (Bear Family BCD15793). The 60s compilation is even more fun if you're into so-bad-that-it's-good.

Colin Escott
Marijohn tried to double her money by cutting an answer disc. It would have worked better if she'd added a new wrinkle to the plot, but she didn't.8

Levon Helm
We knew it from Lefty Frizell's version and liked the story of the young man who goes to the gallows for a murder he didn't commit because his alibi was that he was "in the arms of his best friend's wife." I guess we thought it was funny.9

The air of send-up (as in Big Bad John) is almost certainly intrinsic and intentional. But:

Robbie Robertson
(It) was a great song lyric-wise, in the tradition that I wanted to begin writing in. 10

By the 1990s Long Black Veil had become a regular solo Danko number, and usually he hammed it up for all he was worth. By Rick Danko in Concert (1997) it had stretched to 6 minutes 42 seconds. The last verse was spoken in the mode of Elvis Presley's It's Now or Never. Then there's another new addition, a semi-spoken bit about a train at the station, and everybody getting the urge to roam (which is a quote from Twilight).

Bobby Gentry

Clothesline Saga (Answer to Ode) (Bob Dylan) was supposedly an answer to Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe, a current hit. I don't see it that clearly myself.

Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 2

Vince Gill

Covered Ophelia in 1994, on the
Maverick soundtrack album.

Emmylou Harris

[image] Well, maybe rock, but she's more likely to appear in the country section than Joni Mitchell is! This entire section is repeated in
The Band and Folk article accompanying this one.

Evangeline (R. Robertson)
The Last Waltz film, video and album: The Band and Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris - vocal, guitar / Levon Helm - vocal / Rick Danko - vocal

This track appears on various Emmylou Harris compilations as well, e.g. Duets (Reprise, 1990)

She appears on The Legend of Jesse James as Zerelda James, singing lead on Heaven Ain't Ready For You Yet and Wish We Were Back In Missouri. Levon plays drums and harmonica throughout the album.

Will the Circle be Unbroken (A.P. Carter)
This includes everyone on the Will The Circle Be Unbroken Vol II album (see Nitty Gritty Dirt Band below). Levon Helm shares lead vocal with Emmylou Harris on the fourth verse.

Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town:
Garth Hudson and Rick Danko contribute to this post-Last Waltz album.
Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight (Crowell / Cowart)
Emmylou Harris - vocal, acoustic guitar /Rick Danko - fiddle, supporting vocal/ Garth Hudson - accordion
Burn That Candle (Winfield Scott)
Emmylou Harris - vocal, acoustic guitar /Garth Hudson - baritone sax

In The Honours benefit concert at the Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles Levon Helm leads an all star line up on The Weight featuring Levon Helm, Steve Winwood, Jacob Dylan, Sheryl Crowe, James Taylor, Emmylou Harris. This was broadcast.

Woodie Guthrie's Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gates) performed by Arlo Guthrie and Emmylou Harris appears on Folkways- A Vision Shared which is narrated by Robbie Robertson.

(with) Ronnie Hawkins

[image] See the article "The Band and Folk"" for more on The Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins (May 1960.)

Ronnie Hawkins: Ronnie Hawkins Sings The Songs of Hank Williams
Produced at Bradley's Barn, Nashville, 17 October 1960

Barney Hoskyns
Ronnie abhorred what he called "who-shit-in-my-saddle-bag" country music he heard on stations like Fayetville's appropriately named KHOG. Only Hank Williams fired him up at all. One of Ronnie's earliest appearances, fittingly, was at nearby Fort Smith, low on a bill headlined by Williams. 11

Levon was the only Hawk retained for this stab at country crossover, recorded with the cream of Nashville session musicians.

Levon Helm
The two worst things a musician can say to his producer in Nashville are 'I've been thinking' and 'I'd like my band to play on the record'.

Hawkins wanted his own band. According to Levon 'The Hawk won eventually' - according to the sessionographies, his only victory was in using Levon.

Cold, Cold Heart
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Hey Good Looking
I Can't Help It
Your Cheatin' Heart
You Win Again
Weary Blues From Waiting
Lonesome Whistle
Nobody's Lonesome But Me
Ramblin' Man
There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight
All titles written by Hank Williams

1960 was an almost absurdly productive period for Hawkins. By October he was down in Nashville recording his third album of the year (and this is before albums were that important to an artist), Ronnie Hawkins Sings The Songs of Hank Williams. (Released November 1960). Opinions vary as to the quality of this tribute, which was echoed around the same time by a Roy Orbison tribute album to the same artist. They vary this sharply:

Record Collector, January 1987
The predictable arrangements and mediocre vocals comprise his weakest LP.

Sleeve notes to The Rockin' Rebel LP
Understandably this album is widely regarded as the best Hank Williams tribute ever.

One thing is clear, Ronnie had the best sessionmen obtainable at the time. The line-up included Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, The Jordanaires, Anita Kerr, Harold Bradley and Hank Garland.

Diamond Helm

Levon's father wrote the song Little Birdies which featured live on the first Band tour and was noted so favourably by Ralph Gleason in his
review of The Winterland shows in April 1969. Circulated on poor quality collectors' tapes (San Francisco, 4/18/69).

The Stanley Brothers featured a song called Little Birdie which I haven't heard, and The New Lost City Ramblers did one called Little Bird, so it was a popular title.

Waylon Jennings

Jennings covered The Weight
live in 2000.

George Jones

George Jones rules, Peter! :-) Bartender Blues (James Taylor)
Original: single. On various hits collections (e.g. Anniversary 1991)

James Taylor wrote Bartender Blues for George Jones, and it was a C&W hit. James Taylor sings backing vocals on Jones' version (See James Taylor version below), Trisha Yearwood also covered it on the George Jones tribute album, The Owen Bradley Sessions.

Rick Danko version: standard live number in the 80s and 90s (aka Four Walls)

Robbie Robertson voted for George Jones as one of his top ten singers in a Mojo magazine poll in 1998. I listened to the George Jones version of Bartender Blues and thought it was awful. George Jones seems to be coming into fashion in the late 1990s with several enthusiastic articles appearing. I don't get this at all.

Mickey Jones

As the drummer on the 1966 tour,
Mickey Jones has to count as a significant member of The Hawks. He went on to Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, then cut his own excellent country albums such as 1995's She Loves My Troubles Away, which can be ordered from Mickey Jones' web site.

Paul Kennerly

[image] The Legend of Jesse James: Featuring Levon Helm, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Daniels with Albert Lee.
LP (A&M AMLK 63718) 1980. Japanese CD, early 90s, deleted.
Written and composed by Paul Kennerly.

Highly unusual 'C&W opera' album where everyone plays a role. British C&W writer Kennerly also did a 1978 concept album on the Civil War, White Mansions. Love it or hate it. It beats Tommyfor me!

Glyn Johns
A major problem was that we had restrictions on the tracks featuring more famous artists being released as singles, which led to very little radio promotion.

Levon's role on One More Shot was reproduced with Jonas Fjeld singing on Danko, Fjeld, Andersen. It has also featured on Danko solo shows, 1980s set lists with The Cates and on (at least) one 1995 Band live set list. As Levon not only shares lead vocals, but is part of the excellent all-star backing band throughout this is a major Levon Helm album.

Roles are: Levon Helm - Jesse James / Johnny Cash - Frank James / Emmylou Harris - Zerelda James / Charlie Daniels - Cole Younger / Albert Lee - Jim Younger / Rodney Crowell - The officer / Jody Payne - Doc Samuel / Rosanne Cash - Ma Samuel /Paul Kennerly - Sheriff Timberlake / Donivan Cowart - Bob Ford / Martin Cowart - Charley Ford.

Track listing (with lead vocalists noted):
Ride of the Redlegs
Rodney Crowell, Jody Payne, Levon Helm, Rosanne Cash
Quantrill's Gurillas
Levon Helm
Six Gun Shooting
Johnny Cash
Have You Heard The News?
Albert Lee
Heaven Ain't Ready For You Yet
Emmylou Harris
Help Him Jesus
Johnny Cash
The Old Clay County
Charlie Daniels, Levon Helm
Riding with Jesse James
Charlie Daniels
Hunt Them Down
Albert Lee
Wish We Were Back In Missouri (Paul Kennerley / Guy Humphries)
Emmylou Harris
Northfield: The Plan
Levon Helm
Northfield: The Disaster
Charlie Daniels
High Walls
Levon Helm
The Death Of Me
Johnny Cash, Levon Helm
The Plot
Paul Kennerley
One More Shot
Levon Helm

One More Shot in a version by Levon Helm and C.W. Gatlin appears in the PBS TV show Great drives: Highway 61 Revisited (1996)

When I Get My Rewards (Paul Kennerly)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, 1989, Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol 2. This version features Levon on lead vocal, backed by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
This song featured in Danko, Helm and Band concerts in the 80s.

Doug Kershaw

Covered Rag Mama Rag on Flip, Flop & Fly, 1977.

Loretta Lynn

Levon Helm played the role of her father in the biopic
A Coalminer's Daughter.

And she duetted with Conway Twitty. And she married George Jones.

Martina McBride

Wild Angels (1995)
Levon appears on backing vocals on this new country album, which also lists credits for Stylist, Hair and Makeup. It's a very brief appearance too, on Cry On The Shoulder of The Road (Matraca Berg / Tim Krekel)

Mel McDaniel

Stand Up (B. Channel / R. Rector)
Co-written for McDaniel by Bruce Channel, who had a #2 hit in 1962 with Hey, Baby!
Original version: title track of album Stand Up (1985)
Band version:
High on The Hog.

Bill Monroe

[image] Levon Helm
The first show I remember was Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on a summer evening in 1946, when I was six years old. Boy, this really tattooed my brain. I've never forgotten it. Bill had a real good five-piece band. They took that old hillbilly music, sped it up and basically ivented what is known as bluegrass music: the bass in its place, the mandolin above it, the guitar tying the two together, and the violin making the long nots to make it sing. The banjo backed the whole thing up, answering everybody. We heard Bill Monroe regularly on the Grand Ole Opry, but here he was in the flesh.

Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe)
Original version: Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys (Columbia) 1947
Elvis Presley version: 1954
Levon Helm version: soundtrack album to The Coalminer's Daughter

This was also the B-side of Elvis's first single which is an equally important source:

Bill C Malone
Even the king of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, went so far as to speed up the tempo in later versions of Blue Moon of Kentucky after Elvis's rollicking adaptation came out. 13

Monroe (among others) recorded the traditional Cripple Creek which may have inspired the lyrics for Up on Cripple Creek. See the article "Up On Cripple Creek" on this site.

Willie Nelson & Webb Pierce

In the Jailhouse Now
US only LP (Columbia PC 38095) (1982)
Richard Manuel is credited on the album, which is deleted. Richard doesn't sing apparently, so presumably plays piano. There are no individual credits, and Leon Russell also appears, so only some of the piano will be Richard. James Tappenden on the Internet says you can tell which tracks are Richard because he often tracks the bass with his left hand. Credits appear on the 1995 Willie Nelson Box set Revolutions of Time: The Journey 1975-1993 which gives information about the track In The Jailhouse Now (Jimmy Rogers) which might apply.

Back Street Affair
Cryin' Over You
I Ain't Never
I'm Tired
In The Jailhouse Now
It's Been So Long
I Don't Care
There Stands The Glass
Tupelo County Jail
Yes, I Know Why

As a footnote, Levon shot himself in the leg while practising quick-draw techniques for the role of a US Marshall in the Willie Nelson biopic, Red Headed Stranger.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Will the Circle Be Unbroken Volume 2
MCA CD DMCFD 9001 (1989)
The album features The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with a variety of guest artists, including Johnny Cash, Roger McGuinn, John Hiatt and Bruce Hornsby.

Levon appears on three tracks:

When I Get My Rewards (Paul Kennerly)
This features Levon on lead vocal, backed by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Lovin' On The Side (Ibbotson, Waltner, Carlson)
The song features Paulette Carlson as lead vocalist. Levon Helm plays mandolin (as does Jimmy Ibbotson).

Will the Circle be Unbroken (A.P. Carter)
This includes everyone on the album. Levon Helm shares lead vocal with Emmylou Harris on the fourth verse.

The Oak Ridge Boys

Covered Ophelia on
Step On Out.

Buck Owens

Shared the bill in 1969 when The Band played the
Ed Sullivan show.

Frieda Parton

Two Faced (1984)

Dolly Parton's sister is joined by Rick Danko and Blondie Chaplin on backing vocals.

I Can Feel The Squeeze
Hit & Run Love
Oriental Dolls
If Love Don't Come To Me
Fire in the Night
Soldiers of the Night
Heart Tracks
Chosen One

Les Paul

[image] Guitar legend Les Paul introduced Robbie Robertson at the Guitar Legends concert in Seville in 1991, broadcast on BBC TV in 1992. Ironic really, as Robbie has defined the Fender sound (and I've don't remember him playing a Gibson Les Paul).

They both appeared in the encore with Roger Waters and Roger McGuinn backed by Robbie's group for Baby What You Want Me To Do (Jimmy Reed), most notable from the Elvis 1968 NBC special, where Elvis played two versions of this song. Also known in versions by Dion, The Everly Brothers, Them, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Reed

Carl Perkins

[image] Levon Helm
Sometimes we opened for Carl Perkins, who was the king of our circuit. 14

Book Faded Brown (Paul Jost)
Carl Perkins version: Friends, Family & Legends, 1992, Magnum Force. The CD also includes Paul Jost's Half The Time
Band version: Jubilation
Rick Danko live version: Times Like These

Peter Viney
In the Band's best tradition, this is an unexpected starter, with a subdued drum roll bringing in the accordion. It conjures up the America of 'A Wonderful Life' or earlier, the family gathered round singing from a songbook or hymnbook that's passed down through the generations. It reminds me of a TV clip of Garth talking about his Anglican hymnals, or anecdotes about the Dankos singing and playing as a family. It sounds purpose made as a thematic opener - many of the songs here, as on The Band (aka the brown album), sound as if they've come from that book that's faded brown. The song was written by Paul Jost, and recorded by Carl Perkins in 1991 . Jost has written at least one other song for Perkins.15

Blue Suede Shoes (Perkins)
Red Hot + Country CD / video (1994).
You can't always see the full backing group, but Levon joins the house band as second drummer on (at least) Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)- Carl Perkins, Billy Ray Cyrus and Company

Robbie Robertson, Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton also played this at the R&R Hall of Fame induction, 15 March 1999. VH1 broadcast.

Honey Don't (Carl Perkins) - Carl Perkins and Ringo Starr
Original version: Carl Perkins
Beatles cover: Beatles For Sale 1964
Ringo Starr & The All Star Band version with Rick Danko and Levon Helm, 1990

Carl Perkins / Various Artists: Go Cat Go! CD (Dinosaur Entertainment) (1996) - Carl Perkins and Ringo Starr with Rick Danko and Levon Helm.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Blue Suede Shoes, Go Cat Go includes covers by Hendrix and by John Lennon, as well as duets by Carl Perkins with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, Bono, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson.

Backing musicians include Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Billy Preston, Joe Walsh, Klaus Voorman, Dr John. The cut Rick and Levon feature on was performed by Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, and is the 1989 All-Starr Band line-up plus Carl Perkins. Date not given, but line-up means it's probably 1989. It is probably a remix of the Ringo Starr & the all Star Band version, adding Carl Perkins voice as an overdub.

Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers

Charlie Poole (seated)
If I Lose (Let Me Lose) (Charlie Poole)- also credited to Ralph Stanley.
It was Charlie Poole's signature tune. Since Charlie Poole (1892-1931) stopped recording in 1930, it seems unlikely that Ralph Stanley (born 1927) actually wrote the song as credited (and cited in reviews). The track listing on the Music From Big Pinkreissue in 2000 correctly attributes it to Poole, though the text calls it a Stanley Brothers song.

Version: The Stanley Brothers
Band version:
Music From Big Pink 2000 remaster, bonus track.
Also on The Band: Crossing The Great Divide bootleg.
On basement recordings (without Dylan) notably After The Crash Volume 2 and as an unlisted track on The Genuine Basement Tapes Vol 4.

Robbie Robertson
That was not a basement thing. We had a little set that we would do in our living room. After playing with Ronnie Hawkins there was almost an allergy to country music in our midst. When we were in Woodstock, something happened. Because we were up in the mountains, mountain music became compatible to us. All of a sudden this bluegrass music, this mountain music became something we would do in the living room - then that actual set up of instrumentation kind of entered into what we were doing on other kinds of things that weren't necessarily even mountain music., 16

Rob Bowman
From Robbie's perspective, If I Lose was just fun and was never intended for the album. 17

Elvis Presley

See separate
Elvis article on this site. C&W songs are listed only here.

Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe)
Elvis version: B-side of That's All Right recorded in July 1954 from Elvis' first Sun session, later on A Date With Elvis album in 1959
Levon Helm version: soundtrack album to The Coalminer's Daughter, single

I Forgot To Remember To Forget (Sam Kesler-Charlie Feathers)
Original: The Sun Sessions 1955
Bob Dylan & The Hawks version: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5

Levon Helm narrated the TV programme & video Elvis 56.

I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan)
Elvis's own version of I Shall Be Released finally appeared on Walk A Mile in My Shoes: The Complete 70s Masters in 1995. Unfortunately it's a fragment.

Marty Robbins

[image] Cool Water (Bob Nolan)
Greil Marcus notes earlier versions by Burl Ives, Walter Brennan and The Sons of the Pioneers, but reckons Marty Robbins is the best. It's the best known too and the likeliest source.
Marty Robbins version: Gunfighter Ballads & Trail songs, 1959
Bob Dylan & The Hawks version:
The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5.

Jimmy Rogers

In the Jailhouse Now is the title track of a
Willie Nelson & Webb Pierce album on which Richard Manuel plays piano.

Kenny Rogers

Blaze of Glory (Larry Keith / Danny Morrison)
Original version: on Lionel Richie produced album Share Your Love in August 1981 (US #3), then single release December 1981 (US #66)
Band versions:
The Japan Tour video, The Reunion Concert video
Danko solo version: Danko/ Fjeld /Andersen.

Goin' Back to Alabama
Original version: on Lionel Richie produced album Share Your Love in August 1981
Danko/ Butterfield: tape from April 1987

1966 Hawks drummer Mickey Jones went on to play drums with Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.

Rosalie Sorrells

Rock, Salt and Nails (Bruce Utah Phillips)
Rosalie Sorrells version: Rosalies Songbook 1965
Flatt & Scruggs version: Versatile Flatt & Scruggs 1965- the popular version
Bob Dylan / The Hawks version:
The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1.

Hank Snow

Hank Snow was from Nova Scotia. He started out as The Yodeling Ranger, and began recording in the 1930s. He became one of Canada's favourite entertainers, and like The Band, he moved to the USA.

Bill C Malone
With his distinctive Canadian accent, nasally resonant voice, faultless articulation and formal stage manner, Snow created one of the most admired and distinctive styles in country music.

I Don't Hurt Anymore (Don Robertson- Jack Rollins)
Original: #1 C&W, 1954 for 20 weeks.
Bob Dylan & The Hawks version: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1.
Greil Marcus quotes Robbie on this 'pure country weeper':

Robbie Robertson
The only way this could have come up is because I suggested it. My cousin Herb Myke used to sing it - he was the first person whoever showed me anything on guitar. People were always asking him to sing 'I Don't Hurt Anymore', and he hated to sing it - it made him too sad. 'You have to be lonely to play the guitar well,' he said, 'It's sadness. Sadness medicine.' 19

A Fool Such As I
Original: 1953 single
Dylan and The Hawks play this on one on The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 1. Marcus credits it as a 1953 Hank Snow hit (writer Bill Trader) but my Elvis versions say Leiber-Stoller.

Red Sovine /Cowboy Copas

Waltzing with Sin (Hayes-Burns)
Original 1963.
Also with Red Sovine in 1965. Copas died in the Patsy Cline plane crash in 1963.
Bob Dylan and The Hawks:
The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5. This version follows the Cowboy Copas version.

The Stanley Brothers

[image] If I Lose (Let Me Lose) (Poole)
Version: The Stanley Brothers
Band version:
Music From Big Pink reissue 2000.

It was Charlie Poole's signature tune. Since Charlie Poole (1892-1931) stopped recording in 1930, it seems unlikely that Ralph Stanley (born 1927) actually wrote the song as sometimes credited(and cited in reviews). The track listing on the Music From Big Pink reissue in 2000 correctly attributes it to Poole, though the text calls it a Stanley Brothers song. See under Charlie Poole above.

Like Bill Monroe (among others) they recorded the traditional Cripple Creek which may have inspired the lyrics for Up on Cripple Creek. See the article "Up On Cripple Creek" on this site.

The Stanley Brothers were hugely influential on Dylan, who recorded their Man of Constant Sorrow on his first album. It featured (in three versions) on the soundtrack to O Brother Where art Thou in 2000, neatly showing the move from folk to full-blown Country & Western.

Marty Stuart

Covered The Shape I'm In on
Marty Stuart.

Covered The Weight with The Staple Singers on the Rhythm, Country & Blues album. Produced by Don Was, 1994

James Taylor

Bartender Blues (James Taylor)
Original: B-side of Handy Man (US #4 July 1977)& on album J.T. (US #4 July 1977)
Written by Taylor for George Jones, a Danko favourite.
Covered by Rick Danko on solo live shows (available on collectors tapes)

Conway Twitty

image] Like Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley, Twitty is in a muddy area between R&R and C&W. There are a lot of connections.

Helena, where Conway Twitty's father was a riverboat pilot, was next to Levon's home on the Mississippi river. Hawkin's first version of The Hawks consisted of Jimmy Ray 'Luke' Paulman, Conway Twitty's former guitarist, on lead, Will 'Pop' Jones on piano and the fifteen year old Levon Helm on drums.

Conway Twitty (whose real name was Harold Jenkins) had been playing the same clubs as The Hawks. He had been booked by Harold Kudlets, an agent who combined circuits in Ontario with gigs in the Memphis region, to play in Canada. Twitty told Hawkins that there was no competition in Canada. You could rapidly become a big fish in a small pond. Even better, engagements at one bar could last as long as a month.

Ronnie Hawkins
We were starvin' to death on the Memphis circuit. Conway Twitty, a good friend of mine, said that there were places to play in Canada where you could stay for the whole week. In and around Memphis, we could only get two or three nights a week. 20

Within weeks the Hawks, now including bass player Jimmy Evans, were working at the Golden Rail in Hamilton.

Ronnie Hawkins (1987)
When Conway Twitty was in New York, he met an agent who invited him to Hamilton, Ontario. He built up a nice little following and as he had a guitar of mine and some other equipment, he invited us up. It was a good circuit, but when It's Only Make Believe came out, he got bigtime and had to leave.21

Twitty had dashed off the song in seven minutes during the break between sets at the Flamingo Lounge in Hamilton, Ontario. It fast became a million seller.

Ronnie Hawkins (1969)
Harold Jenkins, a country-rock sort of singer, was also in town and we stayed at the same hotel, The Fisher. I remember one night Harold wrote a song and he brought it in to try on us. Asked us what we thought and I said I didn't see it goin' anywhere. When he went back to the States he recorded it - turned out to be It's Only Make Believe - one of the biggest hits of the year.22

Various Artists: Red Hot + Country

Video release (1995)

This live show at the Ryman Auditorium features many of the same artists and songs as the earlierRed Hot + Country CD (1994). Though the CD and video have same cover design and share some tracks, Levon Helm is present only on the video release. Levon is the main artist on the following tracks:

Caldonia (Fleecie Moore)- Levon Helm
Two versions are cut together - it starts with a back stage jam which cuts into the TV performance

The Weight (J.R. Robertson)- Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Radney Foster & Mark Collie

You can't always see the full backing group, but Levon joins the house band as second drummer on (at least):
Not Fade Away (Hardin-Petty)- John Hiatt, Radney Foster & Mark Collie
Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins)- Carl Perkins, Billy Ray Cyrus and Company

Hank Williams



Robbie Robertson (on his first guitar lesson)
I had Hank Williams in mind and the music to 'Hawaiian War Chant' in front of me.

Robbie Robertson
The people on the reservation used to sit round and play country songs - just because it was Indian country didn't mean it was a timewarp. It wasn't like the movies with all these guys singing traditional songs. They were folk who lived in the country so they would listen to country music. They thought Hank Williams was good at what he did. 24

Hank Williams
(Country Music) can be explained in just one word, sincerity. When a hillbilly sings a crazy song, he feels crazy. When he sings 'I Laid My Mother Away' he sees her a-laying there right in the coffin. He sings more sincere than most entertainers because the hillbilly was raised rougher than most entertainers. You got to know a lot about hard work. You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly. The people who has been raised something like the hillbilly has knows what he is singing about and appreciates it. 25

I don't much care for Hank William's work, and much less for that of his awful descendants, Hank Williams Jnr and Hank Williams III. I think my revulsion for Frank Ifield's Lovesick Blues has permanently created the antipathy. Hank's vocal pyrotechnics may be clever, they may be innovative, but the switching between tones irritates me. He'll be doing the slushing cowboy vocal (the mouth full of spit, Aw shhlluckshl one), or the yodel, or the deeply serious Jim Reeves voice. All cleverly done, but none of them appeal to me. A roster of great songs, but generally improved on by later singers. Except Lovesick Blues which was murdered. In my mind his biography beats the music for interest. Like James Dean, his influence and icon are bigger than his achievements. Anyway, while writing this article I've left the Best of Hank Williams playing in the background, and I have to admit that it's beginning to seep in fast.

But another point of view, which tallies much more closely with that of most Band fans:

Stephen Walsh
Hank's themes are the great country themes - heartbreak, the road, the bottle, work, money, death - and the great country themes are the great themes of life - They are songs which are perfect in their plainess; they're rarely more than a couple of verses long; they're rough, ready, and in their regular rhythmic beat, Homerically memorable. They're clever in their hook lines, straightforward in their execution. They're songs of the south, but also songs of the universe. 26

(Be Careful of the) Stones That You Throw (Bonnie Dodd)
Original: as 'Luke The Drifter' 1952 (covering Little Jimmie Dickens 1949 version)
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 3.

You Win Again (Hank Williams)
Original: 1952
Bob Dylan & The Hawks: The Genuine Basement Tapes Volume 5.

Greil Marcus
Based not on William's 1952 original, but on Jerry Lee Lewis's B-side - In its way 'You Win Again' is a blues, and whatever else he has been, Lewis was never a blues singer. Williams was, among other things, and Dylan is, among other things.27

Watching Van Morrison (twice) with Linda Gail Lewis on his 2000 country tour, I got the impression that Van's Hank Williams' covers, You Win Again, Jambalaya, Why Don't you Love Me , of a Jerry Lee Lewis filter in operation with him also.

Jambalaya (Hank Williams)
Everyone's done it, though the first version I remember is Gerry & The Pacemakers from 1963.
The Band performed this in a 3rd January 1987 show at Tipitinas in New Orleans with Joel Le Sonnier on lead vocal and accordion and to me their version remains the best. This was the two guitars/one keyboard Band with Jim Weider and Fred Carter Jnr. Danko's bass bounces along pulling twin accordions with it, avoiding the plonk plonk two note bass of the original. A neat guitar solo; a great accordion solo. The same show goes on to two Randy Newman numbers, Louisiana 1927 and Kingfish.
Alone and Forsaken (Hank Williams)
Originally recorded 1949, released posthumously. Not covered by Dylan & the Hawks, but:

Greil Marcus
(It's) all over Dylan's performance (of the traditional Hills of Mexico), which in its bitter way matches anything on the basement sessions..

Ronnie Hawkins: Ronnie Hawkins Sings The Songs of Hank Williams
See under Ronnie Hawkins above.
Cold, Cold Heart
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
Hey Good Looking
I Can't Help It
Your Cheatin' Heart
You Win Again
Weary Blues From Waiting
Lonesome Whistle
Nobody's Lonesome But Me
Ramblin' Man
There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight
All titles written by Hank Williams

Both Robertson and Helm had listened extensively to Hank Williams as kids (as had Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers and any musician from the southern states). Ronnie was probably trying for a hit on the C&W charts, but in adding Hank Williams country material to their act, he may have been setting the mood for the story song style of The Band.

Jesse Winchester

Really a folk / rock singer, his
1970 debut was produced by Robbie Robertson and featured both Robbie and Levon. Of interest is Brand New Tennessee Waltz (Winchester) which owes a debt to The Tennessee Waltz (Pee Wee King / Redd Stewart). This song, which sold 4,800,000 copies for Patti Page in 1950, is credited for the commercial surge of country music. It was originally recorded by Pee Wee King and The Cowboy Copas.


1 Ronnie Hawkins, interviewed by Michael Gray, 1985, in 'Across The Telegraph', Michael Gray and John Bauldie.

2 Greil Marcus, 'Invisible Republic.'

3 Levon Helm & Stephen Davies, 'This Wheel's On Fire.'

4 Barney Hoskyns, 'Across The Great Divide'

5 All from Barney Hoskyns, 'Across The Great Divide'

6 Quoted in Greil Marcus, 'Invisible Republic'

7 Tony Russell, sleeve notes to 'Freight Train Boogie' (1993)

8 Sleeve notes to: And the Answer Is - Great Country Answer Discs From The 50s

9 Levon Helm & Stephen Davies, 'This Wheel's On Fire'

10 Quoted in sleeve notes to the 2000 reissue of Music From Big Pink

11 Barney Hoskyns, 'Across the Great Divide.'

12 Levon Helm & Stephen Davies, 'This Wheel's On Fire.'

13 Bill C Malone 'Country Music USA' (U of Texas, 1985)

14 Levon Helm & Stephen Davies, 'This Wheel's On Fire.'

15 Review of Jubilation on this site.

16 Sleeve notes to 2000 reissue of Music From Big Pink

17 Sleeve notes to 2000 reissue of Music From Big Pink

18 Bill C Malone, 'Country Music USA' (U. of Texas, 1985)

19 Greil Marcus, 'Invisible Republic.'

20 Quoted in Ritchie Yorke, 'Axes, Chops & Hot Licks: The Canadian Rock Music Scene', 1971

21 Record Collector, Ronnie Hawkins interview, Jan 1987

22 Rolling Stone, Ronnie Hawkins interview, 9 August 1969

23 Barney Hoskyns, 'Across The Great Divide'

24 Quoted in Peter Doggett 'Are You Ready for the Country?' (2000)

25 Rufus Jarman, 'Country Music Goes to Town' (1953) quoted in 'Country Music USA' by Bill C. Malone (U. of Texas, 1985)

26 Stephen Walsh, 'Heartache Spoken Here' (Penguin 1997)

27 Greil Marcus, 'Invisible Republic.'

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