Garth was born on August 2nd, 1937 in Windsor, Ontario, to musical parents—his mother played piano and accordion and sang and his father played drums, saxophone, clarinet, flute, and piano.
In 1940, the Hudsons moved to London, ON, where Garth received his education, Which included piano studies.
"I found out I could improvise. I probably found out too young. I could never really adhere very strictly to classical music, could never become a good classical player, could never get anything down." – Garth Hudson
After playing organ in his church and joining some dance bands—starting in 1949 at the age of twelve, Garth started his career in rock in 1958 as a member of the Capers.
From 1961 to 1963, Garth joined drummer Levon Helm, guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, and pianist Richard Manuel in Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, serving as organist, saxophonist, and music consultant—the latter title he demanded in order to convince his parents that he wasn’t squandering his music education.
"Anybody who gets a chance to play with Garth Hudson, they'd be a fool not to. As far as The Band is concerned, he's the one who rubbed off on the rest of us and made us sound as good as we did." – Levon Helm
The Hawks played for a while without Hawkins and were then recruited to support Bob Dylan on his 1966 “electric” tour, having already recorded on Dylan’s 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde. Afterwards, they settled down in a pink house near Woodstock.
“The wonderful thing in working with Dylan was the imagery in his lyrics, and I was allowed to play with these words. I didn't do it incessantly; I didn't try to catch the clouds or the moon or whatever it might be every time. But I would try and introduce some little thing at one point a third of the way through a song, which might have something to do with the words that were going by.” – Garth Hudson
The band had officially taken the name “The Band” by the time their debut album, Music From Big Pink, came out in 1968.
In addition to organ, Garth contributed accordion, saxophone, clavinet, and eventually synthesizer to The Band’s music.
"Garth is beyond question the most brilliant organist in the rock world. His improvised variations, drawn from a vast knowledge of popular and classical music, provide both the decorative scroll-work and depth to the Band's total impact." – from a Time Magazine cover story in 1970
The following eight years saw The Band releasing eight more albums (including two live ones) and playing many shows, ending with “The Last Waltz” on Thanksgiving.
While living in California, Garth contributed music to a variety of projects, including movie soundtracks, a multimedia show called “Our Lady Queen of the Angels,” and as a session musician, albums by Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, and many others.
The Band reformed without Robbie in 1983, and they played many shows in the 80s and 90s—Richard died in 1986, but The Band continued with additional musicians filling in. In ’91, he returned to the Woodstock area, where he recorded three albums with The Band over the next few years.
2001 saw the release of Garth’s first solo album, The Sea to the North.
"I feel fortunate for this opportunity to bring you my own music. During the recording process, I envisioned it being two guys in a canoe in the year 1740 or a Paris fashion show or an ice skating routine or mountain climbing or driving a vehicle or being part of that special moment. I hope The Sea To The North makes you feel good and takes you somewhere you've never been before -- somewhere you will want to return to often. Happy trails..." – Garth Hudson