Stan Szelest

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Stan Szelest
Born (1943-02-11)February 11, 1943
Buffalo, New York, United States
Died January 20, 1991(1991-01-20) (aged 47)
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 The Band
Ronnie Hawkins
Stan and the Ravens
Lonnie Mack

Stan Szelest (February 11, 1943 – January 20, 1991) was an American musician, known for founding an influential blues band in the 1950s and 1960s, Stan and the Ravens, and then later as a keyboardist with The Band.[1][2]


Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1958 Szelest formed Stan and the Ravens, a blues group that became popular in western New York. 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.[3] When Szelest left The Hawks a little over a year later,[4] Richard Manuel stood in for his place, and The Hawks would later leave Hawkins to form an act of their own, which eventually came to be named The Band. In 1967, Stan and the Ravens broke up, and two of its members, Calandra and Mallaber, joined the group Tony Galla and the Rising Sons, which in 1968 changed its name to "Raven". With David Lucas as producer, the new band recorded the song "Farmer's Daughter", written by Szelest, which helped the band to secure a contract with Columbia Records.

Szelest also recorded with King Biscuit Boy (Richard Newell), the noted harp player, slide guitarist and singer from Hamilton, Ontario, about 50 miles from Buffalo.

In the summer of 1984, Stan Szelest and Levon Helm played together again as members of the short-lived septet The Woodstock All-Stars.[4] With Manuel's death in 1986, Szelest was called back to 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 album Jericho, released in 1993, on "Blind Willie McTell" and "Atlantic City".[1] 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 Jules' Woodstock home. When Stan died, Jules was called by both Levon Helm and Rick Danko and was asked to finish the song as a tribute Stan; apparently Stan 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. Szelest was also in Lonnie Mack's band during the 1980s, and can be heard on Mack's albums Strike Like Lightning and Attack of the Killer V; he can also be seen on several videos playing in Mack's band during that period.

Partial discography[edit]

The Rivals
  • Howlin' For My Darlin' / It Won't Be Long Now (1960?) Wand Records
    • Credited to "The Rivals" this release is actually Stan & The Ravens
Ronnie Hawkins
  • Summertime (single) (1960) Roulette Records
  • The Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins (1960) Roulette Records
    • Appears on "Summertime", "I Gave My Love A Cherry", "John Henry", "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child"[5]
Garland Jeffreys and Grinder's Switch
Jesse Ed Davis
  • Ululu (1972) Atco
David Wilcox
Roy Buchanan
The Band
  • Jericho (1993)
    • Appears on "Blind Willie McTell", "Atlantic City"; Co-wrote (with Jules Shear) "Too Soon Gone"[6]
Lonnie Mack
  • Strike like Lighting (1985) Alligator


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ Levon Helm and Stephen Davis: This Wheel's on Fire; William Morrow & Co. 1993 – ISBN 0-688-14070-X
  4. ^ a b "Stan Szelest". Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  5. ^ "Ronnie Hawkins Discography". Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  6. ^ "Jericho". Retrieved 2013-11-28.