Bassist Rick Danko steps up to the mic and wishes the cheering audience a "Happy Thanksgiving." His band, The Band, launches into a scorching, horn-laden cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It" that ends with guitarist Robbie Robertson's iconic sign off: "Thank You. Goodnight. Goodbye." It was November 25, 1976, and Danko, Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel were ending a fruitful and longstanding musical partnership that had resulted in perfect singles like "The Weight" and "Up on Cripple Creek," and in landmark LPs like Music From Big Pink. Thirty-five-year-old filmmaker Martin Scorsese recorded their star-studded farewell with performances by marquee artists like Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond, the Staples Singers, and a dozen more. The Last Waltz arrived in movie theaters in 1978 and has become the concert documentary against which all others are measured.
- “We called it The Last Waltz.”
"My favorite scene in The Last Waltz has gotta be Van Morrison doing 'Caravan,'" says Memphis songwriter and keyboard artist Jason Pulley, who's participating in Memphis' third consecutive Thanksgiving tribute to the epic farewell concert. "I love the spirit in his performance, and the first time we performed it live as a band, it gave me chills."
The Last Waltz tribute was first organized in 2016 by Pulley's Glorious Abhor bandmate Josh Stevens and included members of Glorious Abhor, HEELS, and Chinese Connection Dub Embassy. "To my recollection, the original plan was to do this once, for the 40th anniversary [of the concert]," says Pulley, who helps Stevens navigate the ambitious project. "But after the turnout and response was so incredible, we absolutely had to try it with a horn section and more guests," Pulley says.