Eric Garth Hudson (b. August 2, 1937, in Windsor, Ontario) is a Canadian musician. The virtuoso organist and keyboardist for Canadian-American roots rock group The Band, he was the most accomplished musician of the group. A master of the Lowrey organ, Hudson’s orchestral tone sense and style anticipated many of the sonic advances of the polyphonic synthesizer. His other primary instruments are piano, electronic keyboards, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, and accordion. He has been a much-in-demand session musician, performing with dozens of artists. He also plays in a duo with his wife, Maud, and in 2002 joined his friend Sneaky Pete Kleinow in another group, Burrito Deluxe, an offshoot of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Garth now has his own 12-piece band, The Best!
Garth Hudson’s parents, Fred James Hudson and Olive Louella Pentland were musicians. His mother played piano, accordion and sang. His father played drums, C melody saxophone, clarinet, flute, and piano. Garth was born in Windsor and moved with his family to London, Ontario around 1940. He attended Broughdale Public School, Medway High School, and the University of Western Ontario. Classically trained in piano, music theory, harmony, and counterpoint, Garth first played professionally with dance bands. In 1958, he joined a rock and roll band, the Capers. He was also reported to say that he gained some performance experience from playing at his uncle’s funeral parlor. Then, in December 1961, the 24-year-old Hudson joined The Hawks, the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins, which already consisted of 21-year-old Levon Helm on drums, 17-year-old Robbie Robertson on guitar, and 18-year-old Rick Danko on bass and pianist Richard Manuel.
His parents would think he was squandering his years of music education by playing in a rock and roll band, Hudson joined the band on the condition he is given the title “music consultant” and that his bandmates each pay him $10 a week for music lessons. If anyone had questions about music theory, they’d turn to Hudson. And while pocketing a little extra cash, Hudson was also able to mollify his family’s fears that his education had gone to waste and that he was indeed a music teacher.
Revealing a bit of 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.”