ROBBIE ROBERTSON INTERVIEW
(Originally aired on November 6, 2008)
When the Band made its 1968 recording debut with Music From Big Pink, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel had already achieved notoriety backing Bob Dylan on his 1965 and 1966 tours. But Big Pink proved that accompanying Dylan was simply a prelude to greater things. Rejecting the psychedelic sounds of the era and embracing instead a radical blend of Cajun, rural blues, gospel, Memphis soul, and Appalachian folk, the Band launched a roots-rock movement that reshaped late-’60s music and still echoes today in alt-country and Americana. When the quintet released their second album, The Band, their rustic vocal harmony, loping grooves, and poetic lyrics struck a nerve. Critics hailed the group’s instrumental interplay and praised Robertson for his songwriting skills, and fans flocked to record stores, propelling “Up on Cripple Creek” into the Top 40.
Roberston's songwriting ("The Weight" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" are among his many gems) often overshadowed his superb guitar playing, which had a bright, spanky tone that drew from James Burton and Roy Buchanan. In our exclusive interview, Robertson explains his picking technique, and why he used metal fingerpicks in conjunction with a flatpick in the early Band records.