A Radio Interview with Rick Danko
by Paul JamesThis is a partial transcript of an interview CBS radio journalist Paul James did with Rick Danko at CBS in NY on 9/17/98.
Copyright © 1998 Paul James/CBS Radio Network
PJ: Growing up, you didn't have electricity until the age of 10. Most people can't imagine that. Most people also can't imagine Woodstock, Watkins Glen, groupies, parties at the Plaza Hotel, money. You've gone through both extremes, what is that like?
RD: You know that old saying 'our love is all imagination? (laughter) Thank God for the imagination. Without that we'd have to have a "real job."
PJ: All these years later, looking back at your career as a whole, how do you feel about what you've done and where you are today.
RD: I feel very fortunate. I'm just thankful that we don't have to punch that timeclock. I'm thankful that I can travel 70 percent of the world and have a following, whether it's a stadium or a beer joint.
PJ: You have a large following in Japan. They seem to "get it." How do you explain that.
RD: Every time I come back from Japan, I get letters from people 12 to 82. It's amazing, even though they don't speak English.
PJ: A little over a year ago, you had a legal problem. That's been cleared up. Would you have any problem if you wanted to go back now?
RD: I didn't get deported. I was never deported thanks to the system. I had some good lawyers. It was one of those flukey things that never should have happened but it did happen and I'm glad it's behind me...
PJ: But you could go back anytime.
RD: Yes, not that I'm looking to run right back....
PJ: Do you have a computer?
RD: Two or three of them.
PJ: Are you aware of the website?
RD: My kids are. Why is there something?
PJ: No, I was just wondering if you were aware of it, ever read it.
RD: I should be tuning in more than I have been, I must confess.
PJ: Your kids have.
PJ: How about Garth and Levon?
RD: I'm sure everyone is aware of it. I don't know how much they fool with it, because everybody has such a lot to do. The older we get, the slower we are getting into you know...but eventually we all get there.
PJ: This interview is not about Robbie Robertson. You've probably been asked a thousand times, so I'm not going to ask you about the chances of Robbie Robertson every playing with The Band again, because I know your answer. Your answer is "you'd have to ask him." Fair enough, but do you have an opinion on the subject? Would you like to see it happen? Not like to see it happen?
RD: I think I've given him enough publicity.
PJ: Fair enough, fair enough.
PJ: You've kicked around the idea of doing a book.
RD: When I got back from Japan, of course the offers did get into those larger and larger figures. But I don't have anyone I'm ready to sit down and write with but eventually there will be a book, yes.
PJ: When you look at your body of work, is there a particular Band album that you are particularly proud of or that stands out more than the others?
RD: They're all part of our past. Music from Big Pink was our first album, The Band album shipped a lot of copies that kind of changed our lives, Stage Fright, Cahoots, you know. Rock of Ages is one of the better sounding live albums I think.
PJ: Anyone you haven't played with who you'd like to?
RD: No one comes to mind at the moment
PJ: You've been together since I think about 1961 (as the Hawks) as a unit. You work together. Are you friends as well as co-workers.
RD: We're the best of friends...a tight-knit group
PJ: You've been doing a lot of solo shows. What about The Band?
RD: I hope maybe November/December we'll do a few shows.
PJ: Any firm plans yet?
RD: We've got a clean bill of health on Levon's problems that he had, which is the best news of course. A little more healing time needs to go by there. I think by December it's fair enough we'll be doing some stuff together. Live stuff.
PJ: How is Levon doing?
RD: He's got a clean bill of health.
PJ: Meaning? He'll be able to sing in a matter orf....I mean it's not a question of whether he's going to be able to sing again?
RD: We're out of the dark there. We were worried for a few minutes. There's no cancer.
PJ: Throat cancer.
RD: Polyps in the throat. He didn't have to have the operation which most people have to have. Polyps you know.
PJ: And his voice, the doctors think is going to get strong and be okay?
RD: Absolutely. I talked to him just yesterday (9/16/98) and his voice is getting stronger by the moment.
PJ: So whether or not The Band tours, is not now a question of Levon's health.
RD: No. We're not going to go out there and do a grind tour anyway because we've been together too long and we're too old to act that way you know. We're not going to go and run it into the ground. We'll do some stuff, we'll film it, document it and get on with our next project. This last record, do you like Jubilation?
PJ: Sure did. How did you come up with the title on that?
RD: We were listening to maybe "Spirit of the Dance." Levon was the one who said on the bridge it talks about celebration, jubilation, I think it was me who said" Jubilation," if I'm not mistaken. I can't really say that it was my idea.
PJ: How do you decide if it's going to be an acoustic album or a rock album, how does that happen?
RD: We didn't plan it, it just kind of happened. The way the set, "Book Faded Brown," "Don't Wait," we just wrote down lists, it was so obvious.
PJ: So it's informal. I know this just came out, but do you have any plans for future albums, rock albums?
RD: Take off our shirts, paint up our chests and (laughter) and do a rip rocker huh? This album is the first time I've played standup base on 80 percent of the songs.
PJ: Is that difficult to do, to play the standup bass and sing?
RD: Not really, the most difficult thing was learning how to control myself because I could wear myself out in 30 seconds, put blisters on my fingers....
PJ: How did Clapton come to be apart of this album?
RD: He's been a friend for many many years. The No Reason to Cry album, he did that album at our studio in Malibu. I wrote a couple of songs, one with Richard and one with him. He was very busy at this time. Called him up and asked him. We ended up sending a tape to England, he put the guitar part on, and sent it back. I like it.
PJ: As I told you on the way up to the studio, I don't think you've ever sounded as good, or better, in terms of your singing.
RD: Thank you very much. I don't think I've ever felt better, or healthier in my life. If I can just lose a little weight now.
PJ: Well, as long as you brought it up, the old album covers sure look a little different... if you go back to Rock of Ages or whatever (laughter)
RD: Yes, but we're very comfortable now. We're not as nervous now as we were then.
PJ: John Hiatt's involvement...
RD: He sent a bunch of songs for us to listen to. People are always sending me songs. I get 20 or 30 a week. I didn't listen to all of them. That was maybe the 4th one I listened to.....
PJ: "Book Faded Brown" is a good first song, and Garth's song is a good last song, if that's the way to put it
RD: My wife is from France (laughter) We made this record for ourselves, it was made for the art of the music. It had nothing to do with taking the money and running. I hope to be releasing some more albums with these folks (Platinum) they seem like a good bunch of people.
PJ: "White Cadillac." Your brother Terry has, or still plays with...
RD: Ronnie Hawkins. Levon got Ronnie (in 1962) to co-sign for a brand new White Cadillac. Within about 8 months, with all of us driving it, it still looked good but we ruined it. The person we had gotten it from, we waited until he was out of town and went back and traded it in with his son. His son still complains 30 years later about that old White Cadillac deal.
PJ: There are some firsts on Jubilation. Garth Hudson's wife sings.
RD: Maud, she's a great singer. She's a brilliant singer.
PJ: Levon's daughter...
RD: Amy, she's on this record. Aaron's (Hurwitz) wife Maria sings on it...
PJ: In terms of future allbums, you just got this done, I assume you'll take a breather...
RD: No, I told you about the Woodstock Record Company. That's gonna take care of stuff in our archives ...some Paul Butterfield...Richard Manuel.... There's going to be another Band album, I also want to make a Rick Danko studio album, I've only made one so far...
PJ: Garth Hudson. Has he ever talked about doing an album on his own?
RD: With this Woodstock Record Company, I'm sure that's going to happen
PJ: Who is Woodstock Records, is that you?
RD: Myself, and Levon and Aaron Hurwitz.....
Disclaimer: The text above is a partial transcript of an interview CBS radio journalist Paul Jones did with Rick Danko at CBS in NY on 9/17/98. Copyright © 1998 Paul James/CBS Radio Network. Anybody who wants to use quotes from this interview should give credit to Paul James/CBS Radio Network.