Local ‘Last Waltz’ tribute to return to George’s Nov. 25

(The Band / Photo: David Gans)

A new Thanksgiving weekend tradition has sprouted in Fayetteville in recent years.

For the past few years, an all-star group of local musicians led by 1 Oz. Jig have payed tribute to the Last Waltz, the Band’s legendary star-studded farewell concert and documentary event.

The event is back for another year this month, when some of the same group of musicians plus others will perform the tribute again on Saturday, Nov. 25 at George’s Majestic Lounge.

This year’s lineup is impressive. In addition to the talented organizers in the 1 Oz. Jig., legendary guitarist Earl Cate (whose band The Cate Brothers collaborated and intermingled with The Band for decades, more on that below), along with Paul Boatright (Punkinhead), Michael Tisdale, Rachel Fields, Rochelle Bradshaw, Eric Witthans, Richard Burnett, Patti Steel, Meredith Kimbrough, Brian Hembree, Bernice Hembree, Derek Russell, Sam Apperson, and Lee Zodrow will perform songs from the Last Waltz.

Just as in the original, the evening is expected to include lots of collaboration, improvisation, and guest appearances from the musicians on stage as the evening progresses. 

For those who aren’t familiar, the original show was held on Thanksgiving Day in November of 1976 at Winterland Ballroom in San Fransisco. The show, conceived as a farewell show for the band after guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson was considering giving up life on the road and pianist/songwriter Richard Manuel had been injured in a boating accident, went on to become what is considered to be among the greatest documentary concert films ever made. The group decided to invite artists they’d performed with previously including (former Fayetteville resident) Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, along with artists that had influenced their sound over the years including. The guest list grew to include artists such as Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Bobby Charles, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Wood, and Neil Young.

The Last Waltz concert was also filmed as a documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese. 

In addition to Ronnie Hawkins’ appearance in the film, there are plenty of other Fayetteville connections to The Band. Members of Hawkins’ band The Hawks, regular performers at his south Fayetteville bar The Rockwood Club, eventually became The Band. Local legends The Cate Brothers, including Earl Cate who will perform at the tribute this month, frequently performed with The Band. The Cate Brothers drummer and singer Terry Cagle, who also plays with Earl & Them, is Levon Helm’s nephew. Helm, The Band singer and drummer who was born near Marvell, Arkansas and grew up in the small community of Turkey Scratch, also famously introduced The Cate Brothers music to a record exec that lead to them later signing with Asylum Records. 

Doors open for the tribute at 7 p.m., and music will begin at around 8 p.m. It’s an 18 and up show.

Tickets are $15-$18, on sale now at George’s ticketing site.