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Garth Hudson
Hudson performing with the Band, Hamburg, Germany, May 1971
Hudson performing with the Band, Hamburg, Germany, May 1971
Background information
Birth nameEric Hudson
Born (1937-08-02) August 2, 1937 (age 86)
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
  • Keyboards
  • saxophone
  • accordion
Years active1949–present
Formerly of

Eric "Garth" Hudson CM (born August 2, 1937) [1] is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist best known as the keyboardist and occasional saxophonist for rock group the Band, for which he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He was a principal architect of the group's sound, described as "the most brilliant organist in the rock world" [2] [3] by Keyboard magazine. With the deaths of Richard Manuel in 1986, Rick Danko in 1999, Levon Helm in 2012, and Robbie Robertson in 2023, Hudson is the last living original member of the Band. [4]

A master of the Lowrey organ, Hudson's other primary instruments are piano, accordion, electronic keyboards, and saxophones ( alto, tenor, soprano, baritone, bass). [5] He has been a much-in-demand and respected session musician, performing with dozens of artists, including Elton John, who has cited him as an early influence. [6]


Early life

Hudson was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. His parents, Fred James Hudson and Olive Louella Pentland, were musicians. His mother played piano and accordion and sang. His father, a farm inspector who had fought as a fighter pilot in World War I, played drums, C melody saxophone, clarinet, flute and piano. Hudson moved with his family to London, Ontario, around 1940. Starting piano lessons at an early age, Hudson also played organ at his church and his uncle's funeral parlour, and performed country songs on the accordion [7] Classically trained in piano, music theory, harmony and counterpoint, Hudson wrote his first song at the age of eleven and first played professionally with dance bands in 1949, at the age of twelve. He attended Broughdale Public School and Medway High School before studying music (primarily Bach's chorales and The Well-Tempered Clavier) at the University of Western Ontario. During this period, he grew increasingly frustrated with the rigidity of the classical repertoire, leading him to drop out after a year.

In 1956, he joined London band the Silhouettes. The group relocated to the Windsor/ Detroit area where work was more plentiful. It was there, in 1958, that the Silhouettes joined with fellow Londoner Paul "London" Hutchins and became Paul London and the Capers. Hudson primarily played saxophone in the group, and some piano in a style inspired by Johnnie Johnson, but saw his first Lowrey Organ at a show in Detroit and determined that he would get one. The group found moderate success and plenty of work, recording a few songs in Toronto in 1960, changing their name to "...Kapers" with a 'K', recording a few more songs at Chess Studios in Chicago. [8]

Hudson was first approached by Ronnie Hawkins and Levon Helm in the summer of 1961, after a Kapers show in London, and asked to join the Hawks, an offer he declined. The Hawks persisted, and in December 1961, Hudson agreed to join the band on two conditions: that Hawkins buy him a Lowrey organ, and that he be paid an extra $10 a week by each of the other band members to give music lessons to the other Hawks. This second condition was in part to justify the move to his parents, who he feared would think he was squandering his years of music education by playing in a rock and roll band. [9] Discussing the thinking behind his early fears in The Last Waltz, Hudson told interviewer-director Martin Scorsese: "There is a view that jazz is 'evil' because it comes from evil people, but actually the greatest priests on 52nd Street and on the streets of New York City were the musicians. They were doing the greatest healing work. They knew how to punch through music that would cure and make people feel good." [10]

When the 24-year-old Hudson joined the Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, the band already consisted of 21-year-old Levon Helm on drums, 18-year-old Robbie Robertson on guitar, 18-year-old Rick Danko on bass and 18-year-old Richard Manuel on piano. The lineup that would become the Band was now complete.

Lowrey organ

Hudson was one of the few organ players in rock and roll and rhythm and blues to eschew a Hammond organ. Upon joining the Hawks, Hudson took the opportunity to negotiate the procurement of a new Lowrey organ as part of his compensation. The Lowrey organ offered a different mix of features, and Hudson stayed with Lowrey right through Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, Bob Dylan and the Band, playing three different models: originally a Festival (FL) console, which was replaced by a Lincolnwood TSO-25 during 1969, and later still a horseshoe console H25 model, as depicted in The Last Waltz. [11]

The Band: 1965–1976

Under the strict supervision of Hawkins, the Hawks became an accomplished band. They split from Hawkins in 1963, recorded two singles and toured almost continually, playing in bars and clubs, usually billed as Levon and the Hawks. Hudson started work as a session musician in 1965, playing on John Hammond, Jr.'s So Many Roads along with Robertson (guitar) and Helm (drums).

Hudson performing with the Band, Hamburg, Germany, May 1971.

In August 1965, they were introduced to Bob Dylan by manager Albert Grossman's assistant, Mary Martin. In October, Dylan and the Hawks recorded the single " Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?", [12] and in January 1966 they recorded material with Dylan for what would turn into the Blonde on Blonde album. [13] Dylan recruited the band to accompany him on his controversial 1966 "electric" tour of the United States, Australia and Europe. (An album of Dylan's 1966 performance with his band, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, was finally released in 1998.) Subsequent to Bob Dylan's motorcycle accident in July 1966, the group settled in a pink house in West Saugerties, New York, near Woodstock. [14] Dylan was a frequent visitor, and Hudson's recordings of their collaborations resulted in The Basement Tapes.

By 1968, the group recorded its debut album, Music from Big Pink. The album was recorded in Los Angeles (at Capitol) and New York (at A&R Studio). Capitol originally announced that the group would be called the Crackers, but when Music From Big Pink was released they were officially named the Band. The album includes Hudson's organ showcase, "Chest Fever", a song that in the Band's live shows would be vastly expanded by a solo organ introduction, entitled "The Genetic Method", an improvisational work that would be played differently at each performance. An example can be heard on the live album Rock of Ages. Hudson is also adept at the accordion, which he played on some of the group's recordings, such as "Rockin Chair", from The Band; the traditional " Ain't No More Cane", from The Basement Tapes; Dylan's " When I Paint My Masterpiece"; and Bobby Charles's "Down South in New Orleans" during The Last Waltz. His saxophone solo work can be heard on such songs as "Tears of Rage" (from Big Pink) and "Unfaithful Servant" (from The Band). Hudson is credited with playing all of the brass and woodwinds on the studio version of "Ophelia" from the 1975 album Northern Lights - Southern Cross. [15] This album, the first to be recorded in the Band's Shangri-La recording studio in Malibu, California, also saw Hudson adding synthesizers to his arsenal of instruments.

Hudson is playing organ to the left, at the Last Waltz concert in 1976

Hudson provided innovative accompaniment. For example, the song " Up on Cripple Creek" features Hudson playing a clavinet through a wah-wah pedal to create a swampy sound reminiscent of a Jew's harp or the croak of a frog. This clavinet–wah wah pedal configuration was later adopted by many funk musicians.

The initial iteration of the Band made its final bow as a touring band with a lavish final concert on Thanksgiving Day 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, an all-star tribute concert documented in The Last Waltz. [16]

The Band reformed: 1980s–1990s

The Band released one more album after the Last Waltz, Islands, and then dissolved. By then, Hudson had married his singer/actress wife, Maud. He had his own property, Big Oak Basin Dude Ranch, in Malibu, which was destroyed by wildfires in 1978, after extensive renovations that included an impressive studio.

He was active during this period as a session musician, performing on movie soundtracks and albums by many other artists, including Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison ( Wavelength) and Leonard Cohen ( Recent Songs). He composed music for Our Lady Queen of the Angels, a multimedia show created for the Los Angeles bicentennial in 1980. In the early 1980s he accompanied the Call on one of their albums and appeared with them in a music video which was played on MTV. He can be seen playing two separate keyboards in the Call's video of "the walls came down"

The Band reformed in 1983, with all the original members except Robbie Robertson. [17] Richard Manuel, who had lived at Hudson's ranch in 1978, died by suicide in 1986. Supplemented by a rotating roster of additional musicians, the Band continued to tour, releasing three albums in the 1990s.

In 1988, Hudson recorded "Feed the Birds" on Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, produced by Hal Willner. [18]

In 1990 Hudson, playing accordion and soprano saxophone, along with bandmates Levon Helm and Rick Danko, who harmonized with the vocalists, took part in Roger Waters's massive performance of The Wall at the Berlin Wall. [19]

As a member of the Band, Hudson was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. [20]

He has played on various solo efforts of his bandmates Rick Danko, Levon Helm, and Robbie Robertson.

Solo artist: 2001–present

Hudson released his first solo album, The Sea to the North, on September 11, 2001. [21] In 2002, with his home in foreclosure and Robertson having bought out his stake in the Band, [22] Hudson was forced to declare bankruptcy for the third time. [23] He continued to record and perform. On July 13, 2002, he was honoured with the Canada South Blues Society's Lifetime Achievement Award. [24]

In 2002, he joined with former Flying Burrito Brothers' pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow to form Burrito Deluxe, with Carlton Moody of the Moody Brothers on lead vocals and guitars, bassist Jeff "Stick" Davis of the Amazing Rhythm Aces and drummer Rick Lonow. The group recorded two albums, Georgia Peach and The Whole Enchilada, before Kleinow departed in 2004 because of health problems.

In 2005, Hudson formed his own 12-piece band, the Best!, with his wife, Maud (who died on February 28, 2022), on vocals. That same year, Garth and Maud Hudson released Live at the Wolf, a piano and vocal album recorded live at the Wolf Performance Hall in London, Ontario.

On November 20, 2005, Hudson received the Hamilton Music Award for Best Instrumentalist. [25]

He continues as a much-in-demand session player, performing with such artists as Neko Case ( Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and Middle Cyclone), Chris Castle (Last Bird Home), Teddy Thompson ( Separate Ways), the Secret Machines ( Ten Silver Drops), the Sadies (Live 2006), the Lemonheads, Jonah Smith (2006 self-titled debut), Yesterday's News (The Northside Hotel), Billy the Kid (The Lost Cause) and others. He contributed an original electronic score to an off-Broadway production of Dragon Slayers, written by Stanley Keyes and directed by Brad Mays in 1986 at the Union Square Theatre in New York. The production was restaged with a new cast in Los Angeles in 1990.

A few of the artists Hudson performed with in 2006 are Ronnie Hawkins, the Sadies, Neko Case, Heavy Trash, John Hiatt, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and Chris Zaloom, some of which were recorded. Hudson and his talent on piano are prominently featured in the 2007 Daniel Lanois DVD documentary Here Is What Is. [26]

In 2010, Hudson released Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of the Band. The album features Canadian artists covering songs that were recorded by the Band. Hudson plays on every track and co-produced the album with Peter J. Moore. Acts that appear on the album include Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies, the Trews, Great Big Sea, Hawksley Workman, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Chantal Kreviazuk, Raine Maida and Ian Thornley. [27]

Garth Hudson made his most recent public appearance on April 16, 2023, performing in Kingston, New York, in the Flower Hill House Concert No. 6, where he played Duke Ellington‘s “Sophisticated Lady”. [28]

Awards and honours

As a solo artist

  • Canada South Blues Society – Lifetime Achievement Award, 2002 [29]
  • Hamilton Music Scene – Instrumentalist of the Year, 2005 [30]
  • Dofasco Hamilton Music Awards – Lifetime of Achievement Award, 2007 [31]
  • Blues Hall of Fame – inducted as a "Legendary Blues Artist", 2012 [32]
  • London Music Hall Of Fame – inducted 2014 [33]
  • Member of the Order of Canada, 2019 [34]

As a member of the Band



Garth Hudson studio albums
Year Album Label Note
1980 Music for Our Lady Queen of the Angels Buscador Music Cassette only release. 2005 CD reissue on Other People's Music
2001 The Sea to the North Breeze Hill Records Reissued by Dreamsville Records, Woodstock Records, Corazong Records
Garth Hudson live albums
Year Album Label Note
2005 Live at the Wolf Make It Real Records With Maud Hudson

Other appearances

Garth Hudson studio appearances
Year Album Label Note
1988 Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films A&M Records " Feed the Birds" (from "All Innocent Children Had Better Beware" medley)
2010 Garth Hudson Presents: A Canadian Celebration of the Band Curve Music/Sony Music all tracks
2013 The Beautiful Old: Turn-of-the-Century Songs Doubloon Records "The Rosary (1898)", "Till We Meet Again (1918)"
Garth Hudson live appearances
Year Album Label Note
2006 The Harry Smith Project: Anthology Of American Folk Music Revisited Shout! Factory "No Depression in Heaven" (with Maude Hudson)
2013 Love for Levon (A Benefit to Save The Barn) Time Life Appears with John Prine on "When I Paint My Masterpiece" and Dierks Bentley on "Chest Fever"
Garth Hudson guest appearances
Year Album Label Note
1965 So Many Roads Vanguard Records John P. Hammond
1975 The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album Chess Records with Muddy Waters

Film credits

Hudson is credited in the following films:

See also

  • Keyboard Magazine – "Garth Hudson: Legendary Organist with '60s Supergroup the Band" December 1983


  1. ^ Kienzle, Rich. "Happy 80th To The Band's Organist Garth Hudson". PG Publishing Co., Inc. Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Music: Down to Old Dixie and Back". Time. January 12, 1970. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  3. ^ "Keyboard Magazine: Garth Hudson". December 1983. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  4. ^ "Happy 75th, Garth Hudson!". Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  5. ^ "Happy 75th, Garth Hudson!". Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  6. ^ Andy Greene (February 2, 2011). "Elton John Gives Billy Joel 'Tough Love' in New Rolling Stone Cover Story | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Pp67-68, Chapter two "Who Do You Love: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks" in Jason Schneider's book "Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music... From Hank Snow to The Band" ECW Press Toronto ISBN  9781550228748 2009 First Edition hardcover
  8. ^ P68, Chapter two "Who Do You Love: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks" in Jason Schneider's book "Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music... From Hank Snow to The Band" ECW Press Toronto ISBN  9781550228748 2009 First Edition hardcover
  9. ^ P69, Chapter two "Who Do You Love: Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks" in Jason Schneider's book "Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music... From Hank Snow to The Band" ECW Press Toronto ISBN  9781550228748 2009 First Edition hardcover
  10. ^ Minturn, Neil (2005). The Last Waltz of The Band. Pendragon Press. p. 94.
  11. ^ Johnson, Brian D. (July 22, 2002). "Garth Hudson (Profile)". Maclean's.
  12. ^ Heylin, 1996, Bob Dylan: A Life In Stolen Moments, pp. 83–84.
  13. ^ Heylin, 1996, Bob Dylan: A Life In Stolen Moments, pp. 86–89.
  14. ^ Sounes, Howard. Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (Grove Press: New York 2001), p. 221
  15. ^ "Who Plays What Instruments 'The Band'". Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  16. ^ Fear, David. "Why the Band's 'The Last Waltz' Is the Greatest Concert Movie of All Time". Rolling Stone, LLC. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Holden, Stephen (November 25, 1983). "Pop/Jazz – Band's Reunion Recalls Its 'Last Waltz'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  18. ^ Harrington, Richard. "WILLNER'S 'STAY AWAKE' MOSTLY MARVELOUS DISNEY". WP Company, LLC. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  19. ^ Kahn, Andy. "Happy Birthday Roger Waters: Performing 'Comfortably Numb' With Van Morrison & The Band". JamBase, Inc. Retrieved January 12, 2020.
  20. ^ "Rick Danko And Garth Hudson On Mountain Stage". NPR. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "The Band's Garth Hudson Files For Bankruptcy". Retrieved November 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Selvin, Joel (January 8, 2011). "The day the music lived / Rereleased 'Last Waltz' documents amazing night in 1976 when rock's royalty bid farewell to the Band – Page 2 of 2". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  23. ^ "Jason Schneider: The World According to Garth". Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  24. ^ "Happy 75th, Garth Hudson!". Postmedia Network Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  25. ^ "Garth Hudson performing with Gent Treadly Sept. 14 at the Palace Theater in Hamilton". Hearst Media Services Connecticut, LLC. September 5, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  26. ^ Doole, Kerry. "Daniel Lanois Great Hall, Toronto ON September 11". Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  27. ^ Greene, Sarah (November 25, 2010). "Garth Hudson – Presents A Canadian Celebration Of The Band". NOW Central Communications Inc. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  28. ^ "Garth Hudson Setlist at Flower Hill House Concert, Kingston". April 16, 2023. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  29. ^ "Happy 75th, Garth Hudson! – Windsor Star". August 2, 2012.
  30. ^ Circelli, Mario. "Garth Hudson". FCLMA.
  31. ^ "2007 Dofasco Hamilton Music Award Winners". The Hamilton Spectator. November 19, 2007 – via
  32. ^ "Garth Hudson Exhibit in The Blues Hall of Fame ®".
  33. ^ "Inductees". FCLMA. Archived from the original on June 26, 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  34. ^ Lapierre, Matthew (June 27, 2019). "2019 Order of Canada appointees have made their mark on all aspects of Canadian society". The Globe and Mail.
  35. ^ "1989 – Canadian Music Hall of Fame – The Band".
  36. ^ "The Band". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  37. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Award". October 18, 2010.
  38. ^ "Canada's Walk of Fame". Canada's Walk of Fame.

External links