"The Band's" original group consisted of four Canadians: Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals); Richard Manuel (piano, harmonica, drums, saxophone, organ, vocals); Garth Hudson (organ, piano, clavinet, accordion, synthesizer, saxophone); and Rick Danko (bass guitar, violin, trombone, vocals), and one American, Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, vocals).
The members of "The Band" first formed as they joined rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins' backing group, "The Hawks," one by one between 1958 and 1963. Upon leaving Hawkins in 1964 they were known as "The Levon Helm Sextet" with the sixth member being sax player Jerry Penfound. They then took on the name "Levon and the Hawks" (without Penfound).
In 1965, the group released a single on Ware Records under the name the "Canadian Squires," but again adopted "Levon and the Hawks" for a recording session for Atco later during 1965.
Around that same time, Bob Dylan recruited Helm and Robertson for two performances, then the entire group for his U.S. tour in 1965 and world tour in 1966. They also joined him on the informal recordings that later became "The Basement Tapes." Dubbed "The Band" by their record company, the name was believed to have resulted from what they were most commonly called during their time with Dylan. The group left Saugerties, New York, to begin recording their own material.
They recorded two of the most acclaimed albums of the late 1960's, their 1968 debut Music from Big Pink, which featured the single "The Weight" and 1969's "The Band."
1976 saw the break-up of "The Band," but they reformed in 1983 without founding guitarist Robbie Robertson. Although "The Band" was always more popular with music journalists and fellow musicians than with the public, they have remained an admired and influential group.