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Rick Danko Gets His Due

Hometown Concert Memorializes Rock Legend

by Chris Thomas

From the Simcoe Reformer, 08.08.2006. Reprinted with permission of the Simcoe Reformer. The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute.

Rick Danko would have felt right at home.

The Norfolk County native who went on to the heights of international music stardom was memorialized by his hometown Friday at a sold-out concert at Simcoe Composite School.

"This is long overdue," said Aaron Hurowitz, known as Professor Louie, Danko's producer on many of his albums. "I wouldn't have wanted to miss it."

Best known as a member of the legendary rock group The Band, Danko died in 1999. But his spirit and contributions to contemporary music are alive and thriving.

Hurowitz, who received his moniker from Danko, drove six hours with his band The Crowmatix from Cleveland to perform at the concert, only to return to Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday morning.

"Rick was a big influence on us," said Hurowitz, who lives in Woodstock, N.Y., where Danko is buried.

Although he sold millions of records, played the biggest venues and was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Danko never forgot his roots.

J.J. Knott, who now works at Norfolk General Hospital, said he attended a concert by The Band in Toronto with a number of friends several years ago.

"Rick walked on stage and yelled 'Who's here from Simcoe?' and our section went nuts," Knott said.

He also recalled another concert at the Molson Amphitheatre where he took along a picture of Danko's class at Walsh Public School to present to him.

"Rick got the biggest kick out of it," Knott said. "For me, it was one of those magic moments."

And Danko's adulation and influence extends to the current generation.

Twenty-three-year-old Mike Smith of Simcoe is a budding musician.

"If you're a farm boy, you can relate to his music," Smith said. "You can feel the vibes."

Glen Silverthorn, who played in a band with Danko when they were teenagers, presented a slide show of his early years in this area.

Silverthorn recalled Danko's break into the big time when he was recruited at 17 by Ronnie Hawkins.

"Leola (his mother) wasn't very excited, but his father said 'let the kid try it out,'" Silverthorn said.

The rest became history.

Feature performers at Friday's concert were members of the 1970s Columbia Records band Bearfoot,. which included Danko's younger brother Terry and another Simcoe native Jim Atkinson. They were joined by Port Rowan resident Duane Rutter for an acoustic set which wowed the crowd of more than 700. They were later joined by drummer Dean Atkinson and Ray Harrison, formerly with Crowbar.

The younger Danko is an accomplished musician himself and his voice is eerily similar to his older brother's. Their careers were both launched by the irascible Hawkins, the godfather of Canadian rock and roll, who has mined Norfolk County for talent from the 1960s to this day.

Shane Pinchen of Simcoe has been taken under Hawkins' wing and lives at his nest near Peterborough honing his skills. Pinchen returned home and made the trip across the street to play the concert.

The Danko tribute was conceived by Tony Duclos of the Shoeshine Boys who opened the concert. The event was organized by the Simcoe Lions Club which has created a bursary in Danko's name.

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