Stan Szelest

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Stan Szelest
Born(1942-02-11)February 11, 1942
Buffalo, New York, United States
Died January 20, 1991(1991-01-20) (aged 48)
Woodstock, New York, United States
Genres Country rock, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, country
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboard
Years active 1958–1991
Associated acts Stan and the Ravens
Ronnie Hawkins
The Band
Lonnie Mack

Stanley Martin Szelest (February 11, 1942 – January 20, 1991) was an American musician from Buffalo, New York, known for founding an influential blues band in the 1950s and 1960s, Stan and the Ravens, and later as a keyboardist with Ronnie Hawkins and, briefly, with The Band. [1] [2]

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of July 2016, the population was 256,902. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.

Ronnie Hawkins American musician

Ronald Hawkins, OC, is an American rockabilly musician whose career has spanned more than half a century. His career began in Arkansas, where he was born and raised. He found success in Ontario, Canada, and has lived there for most of his life. He is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.

The Band rock band from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Band was a Canadian-American roots rock group including Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, and Levon Helm. The members of the Band first came together as rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins's Toronto, Ontario-based backing group, The Hawks, which they joined one by one between 1958 and 1963.



In 1958, Szelest formed Stan and the Ravens, a blues group that became popular in western New York. New York producer David Lucas recorded sessions with the group, resulting in the release "Farmer's Daughter" a song written by Szelest. Lucas also recorded a song entitled, "Howlin' for My Darlin" and b-side, "It Won't Long Now" using the name, the Rivals instead of Stan and the Ravens for the Spector/Wand label. Lucas made some other recordings of the group, only one of which “Rag Top”, has ever been released.

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, spirituals, and the folk music of white Americans of European heritage. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds or fifths flattened in pitch, are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

David Lucas (composer) Rock and roll composer and music producer

David Lucas is an American rock and roll composer, singer, and music producer. He has written thousands of commercial jingles, such as AT&T's "Reach Out and Touch Someone." In 1981, he received a Clio Award for composing the music to Pepsi's "Catch That Pepsi Spirit." As a record producer, he worked with many new artists such as Blue Öyster Cult. On the 1976 Blue Öyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper" which he co-produced, Lucas sang backup vocals and came up with the idea for using a cowbell, parodied by Christopher Walken in the "More cowbell" skit on Saturday Night Live. In June 2011, Lucas was inducted into Buffalo's Music Hall of Fame.

In 1967, Stan and the Ravens broke up, although they would re-unite occasionally well into the 1980s. [3] In 2009, the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame released “Rag Top” on a CD compilation, and again on a vinyl compilation in 2016 - this time featuring Szeleste on the cover (see discography).

In 1960, at the age of seventeen, he started to work with Ronnie Hawkins and his backing group, the Hawks. Calling Szelest "a living fountain of rock and roll piano", Hawks bass player Rick Danko claimed to have developed his bass style by copying Szelest's left-hand work on piano. [4] Szelest left the Hawks a little over a year later [5] and was replaced by Richard Manuel. The Hawks later left Hawkins to form an act of their own, which eventually came to be named The Band.

Rick Danko Canadian multi-instrumentalist

Richard Clare Danko was a Canadian musician, bassist, songwriter and singer, best known as a member of The Band.

Richard Manuel Canadian musician and composer

Richard George Manuel was a Canadian composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as a pianist, lead singer, and drummer of the Band. He was a member of the original band from 1967 to 1976 and the re-formed band from 1986 until his death.

Szelest went on to have a busy career as a session player with acts as diverse as fellow Hawks alumnus King Biscuit Boy to avant-garde former Velvet Underground member John Cale. Szelest was also in Lonnie Mack's band during the 1980s and played on Mack's albums Strike Like Lightning and Attack of the Killer V; he can also be seen in several videos playing in Mack's band during that period. Szelest would return to Ronnie Hawkins many times over the years as well.

King Biscuit Boy Canadian blues musician

Richard Alfred Newell, better known by his stage name, King Biscuit Boy, was a Canadian blues musician. He was the first Canadian blues artist to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Newell played guitar and sang, but he was most noted for his harmonica playing. Newell's stage name, given to him by Ronnie Hawkins, was taken from the King Biscuit Time, an early American blues broadcast.

Lonnie Mack American blues-rock guitarist and vocalist

Lonnie McIntosh, known by his stage name Lonnie Mack, was a pioneer of blues-rock music and rock guitar soloing.

In the summer of 1984, Szelest began playing with his old bandmate from The Hawks Levon Helm as a member of his Woodstock All-Stars, [5] who played intermittently for the next four years, often featuring the Stan And The Ravens song "Rag Top" in their sets. [6] Szelest joined The Band, playing live with them in 1990 and participating in rehearsals and writing for their new record deal with CBS Records. He died of a heart attack in 1991 while in Woodstock recording with Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. His piano playing can be heard on The Band's 1993 album Jericho (see discography). The album also features the song "Too Soon Gone", co-written by Jules Shear after Szelest handed him over 16 bars of a melody, which sat around Shear's Woodstock home. When Szelest died, Shear was called by both Levon Helm and Rick Danko and asked to finish the song as a tribute to Szelest. Apparently, Szelest had begun the song as a tribute to the late Richard Manuel. The album is dedicated to Manuel and Szelest with the caption "Too Soon Gone" in the liner notes.

Levon Helm American musician and actor

Mark Lavon "Levon" Helm was an American musician and actor who achieved fame as the drummer and one of the vocalists for the Band. Helm was known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, multi-instrumental ability, and creative drumming style, highlighted on many of the Band's recordings, such as "The Weight", "Up on Cripple Creek", and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".

<i>Jericho</i> (album) The Band album

Jericho is the eighth studio album by Canadian-American rock group the Band. Coming seventeen years after their "farewell concert", it was released in 1993 and was the first album to feature the latter-day configuration of the group, as well as their first release for the Rhino subsidiary Pyramid Records.

Jules Mark Shear is an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He wrote the Cyndi Lauper hit single "All Through the Night" and The Bangles' hit "If She Knew What She Wants", and charted a hit as a performer with "Steady" in 1985.

Stan Szelest was inducted into The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 1986. [7]

Discography [8]

with Stan & the Ravens
with Ronnie Hawkins
with Lonnie Mack
Other Contributions

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  1. "Obituaries – Stan Szelest, Rock Pianist, 48". The New York Times . Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  2. "Stan Szelest | Credits". AllMusic. January 20, 1991. Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  3. See, for example this performance at Toronto Club El Mocambo from 1986:
  4. Helm, Levon; Davis, Stephen (1993). This Wheel's on Fire. William Morrow. ISBN   0-688-14070-X.
  5. 1 2 "Stan Szelest". Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  6. see, for example this ROIO of the ensemble at Joyus Lake, NY in 1984:
  9. "Ronnie Hawkins Discography". Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  10. "Jericho". Retrieved 2013-11-28.
  11. As noted in the liner notes to the album, 1997, Moon Haw Records)