Rick Danko

This site is all about Rick Danko, the charismatic bass and acoustic guitar player and one of the three lead singers for the legendary rock group, The Band. Rick's iconic plaintive tenor, his ethereal, one-of-a-kind harmonies and his loping, melodic, percussive bass playing were a large part of The Band's signature sound. Equally integral to The Band's mystique--and to their secure and enviable perch high atop the upper crust of rock and roll--was Rick's magnetic, larger-than-life persona--part innocent country boy, part wandering troubadour, part reluctant rock star.

Rick Danko was about music. He was about melody. He was about harmony. He was about authenticity. He was about vulnerability. Rick was--and always will be--the epitome of unadorned, unaffected, unparalleled cool.

I worked with Rick for many years. He was a dear friend and a major influence who "taught me how to seek the path." This site is part of a promise I made to him a long time ago. I hope you enjoy it.

Please note that all content on this site is copyright-protected. All articles, essays, and other written materials (c) Carol Caffin, unless otherwise noted. Do Not Reproduce.


Rick and Managers

Over the course of his career, Rick had a number of managers and agents. Some of them were good, some of them were bad. Some were honest, some were shysters. Some (precious few) had Rick’s best interests at heart, some had their own best interests at heart. I will reserve both judgment and comment here, save to say that, except for a very small core group of people whom I got to know over the years, most were yes-men and glorified flunkies with stars in their eyes and hopes of filling their pockets.

In early 1992, Rick announced that he was going to have a “new manager.” As was Rick’s way, there had been no lead-up, no indication, no preparation. He just introduced his “manager,” as he introduced most everyone, with “Say hi to…” So I said hi. But I took it all with a grain of salt, because, even though I’d only been working with Rick for a relatively short time at that point, I’d already seen a veritable freak parade of posers and hangers-on full of empty promises come and go.

Rick took me aside to tell me all the great things this guy was going to do for him and his career. So my response was something to the effect of a smile and an assuring “That’s good.” (I was still shy; it would be another year or so before I’d be confident enough to say “whatever” when Rick would tell me about another “good guy who wants to help the neighborhood” or a “great idea that can’t go wrong.”) “I’m an optimist,” he’d say with a smile when someone or something new came along and he sensed suspicion or concern. I tried to be an optimist too, but usually it was just a matter of time before he got disappointed—or completely screwed.

But looking back, I can say that Rick did not trust blindly or easily—he was used to music biz people promising him the moon and the stars. Most often, he just listened. But once in a while, somebody pitched something that seemed to make sense. And it’s not because Rick wasn’t smart or savvy that he occasionally said “yes.” It’s because he was hopeful. He had a sense of wonder about him, and, though he did have a part of him that was, out of necessity and self-protection, jaded, he liked to see—or at least hope for—the best in people. And that is an admirable—even enviable—quality. It’s part of what made him so beloved by so many.

Rick’s new manager seemed to be a stand-up, straight-laced guy, if a bit—okay, very—controlling. He did some positive things. But Rick and controlling—not a good match. I knew this wasn’t going to last long.

A few months after the big announcement, Rick called to tell me that “the manager” was gone. I asked no questions and we quickly went onto another subject. But I remember that conversation well. It was the day that Rick Danko proudly declared himself “officially unmanageable.”

Elliott Landy's Woodstock Vision--Revised

Band fans, Dylan fans, Woodstock fans, and rock fans are familiar with the iconic photographs of Elliott Landy, who had not just the talent and the vision, but the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time--in the eye of the musical hurricane that was Woodstock, the town; Woodstock, the festival; and Woodstock, the generation, as it happened, in 1968 and 1969.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Elliott, an official photographer of the festival, has released Woodstock Vision: The Spirit of a Generation (Celebrating The 40th Anniversary of The Woodstock Festival). The beautiful, hardcover edition of the book (it has been published in other versions, in other languages, in softcover, as both Woodstock Vision and Woodstock Dream, has just been published by Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard. It features an introduction by Jerry Garcia, a commentary by Richie Havens, and tons of iconic--as well as relatively obscure--photos of The Band, Dylan, Janis, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and stage and audience shots of the Woodstock Festival (there are 90 pages of Woodstock coverage in total).

Of greatest interest to Rick Danko fans, though, is the addition of a beautiful shot of Rick taken in Woodstock in 1968. Until its publication in this book, the only known print of this photo--at least that's what Elliott told me in 1991 or so--is the custom print that Elliott made for me, which I chose from one of scores of contact sheets he showed me when he allowed me a glimpse of his massive archives, and which I've had on my wall ever since.  Unfortunately, I don't have a quality scan, and it is not included among the images that Elliott has selected to promote the book. Trust me, though, if you are a fan, that photo alone is worth the $35 purchase price of the book, though many of the other photos are beautiful as well.  

When I last spoke to Elliott a couple of weeks ago, he was heading to Spain for a show. Quicksilver free spirit that he is, if he can ever sit down in one place long enough to speak to me for an hour, he will be featured in a future BandBite.

Happy Birthday Robbie Robertson

Happy Birthday to Robbie Robertson--66 years young today.

Man Outside: Rick Danko's Acting Debut

The Last Waltz wasn't Rick Danko's only foray onto the silver screen. A decade after TLW, Rick made his real acting debut as Jim Riggs, the father of a kidnapped boy who is at the heart of the story, in Man Outside. The film features Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel--plus a cameo by one-time Band associate Bob Illjes, who also worked as Rick's manager for a few months in the early 90s--and is well-known by most hardcore Band fans.

If you've never seen the movie, you should know that, except for the rare treat of seeing the guys in The Band together (and separately) onscreen--and particularly seeing scenes of Rick washing dishes, working on cars, and punching out thugs--the movie is virtually unwatchable.

Rick has a couple of lines, but they are cringe-inducing. All in all, though, he does a pretty good job, but I think I speak for many of us--and I know Rick would forgive me--when I say thank God he chose music.

Here is a clip of all you need to see from Man Outside, posted recently on YouTube: Rick in Man Outside

A DFA Facebook Group

Fans of Danko Fjeld Andersen should check out (and join!) the wonderful DFA Facebook Group started by Jaynie Vermac. There you will find tons of information, links, press releases, and photos related to Rick and his work with DFA, or as he liked to call the trio, "a Damned Fine Act."

Here's the link: DFA Facebook Group