Levon Helm!

By Gary:

Again I have the unfortunate task of writing about another musician we have just lost.  The first time I  saw Levon Helm “live” would have been  1960, in Toronto, at the Concord Tavern on Bloor Street. Levon at that time was part of the original Hawks, that came North with Ronnie Hawkins from Arkansas. 

Now Ronnie and Levon would be in Toronto for many years, but the rest of the original Hawks would return to Arkansas.  When the Original Hawks disbanded, it was Ronnie’s task to find a new band. They had a drummer, Levon, but needed other musicians.

Over the next few years the Ronnie Hawkins Band, the Hawks (with Levon) would gather the other Canadian Musician’s and eventually would become “The Band”.  I know that Carl Perkins loved the Levon Style of drumming. 

I am sorry that we have lost another great musician that was part of my youth; keep on drumming Levon.  Here in pictures and video is the Levon I remember.

The recordings that stay with me the most are the ones from 1958.  At that time, in a small studio on Kingston Road in Toronto,  Jimmy Ray Paulman, Willard “Pop” Jones, Ronnie Hawkins and of course on drums, Levon Helm laid down some tracks. 

“They” (whoever they are / the experts) say that the tracks that were laid down in that session may have been the best  ever recorded by them.   I think they were originally released under the name “Ronnie Hawkins Quartet”.  I have only one, “30 Days” the Chuck Berry song. Listen to those very young men and especially Levon in this classic recording.

30 Days / recorded 1958 / Toronto /

In my opinion, the original Hawks plus the Hawks that became The Band are two of the most exciting and pure “Rocking Bands” I have ever seen.  

  A young Levon
Levon Helm  (May 26, 1940 – April 19, 2012)

Levon Helm, Ronnie Hawkins, Jimmy Ray Paulman, Wiilard “Pop” Jones

The Hawks signing autographs

Jerry Penfeld, Rick Danko, Levon, Richard Manuel , Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson

Levon and the Hawks or The Canadian Squires circa 1964/65
The Hawks / Farther up the Road / 1961
Levon & the Hawks or The Canadian Squires / Leave me Alone / 1965

I always enjoyed Levon, but I guess his greatest success came with The Band and this performance in 1976 with Ronnie, filming The Last Waltz – one of my favourite’s 


He would have a long battle with throat cancer which started in 1998.


This is one of my favourite videos / The old Larry Williams Song / Short Fat Fannie /

With the Band and from the Last Waltz “Up on Cripple Creek“/
Levon with the band and Paul Butterfield / Mystery Train/

4 responses to “Levon Helm!

  1. Levon was another Peppermint veteran. When he and the Hawks were on stage, there wasn’t alot of work done because everybody was mesmerized by there down home funky groove. It was so different than anything that was ever heard at the Pepperming Lounge. Check with Misty on on this. I think she was there at the time.

    Levon stated in his book, “This Wheel’s on Fire”, that one of the “shady” owners, probably a guy named Ralph, grabbed him in the dressing room and yelled, “Forget that blues sh**! What are you, nuts? This is a twist joint!” They left the Pep that night.

    I was there but I wasn’t aware of this incident. When I read Levin’s account of what happened, I felt so angry. He brought the best damn music to the Peppermint Lounge that had ever been played in between those walls and due to some tin-eared, know-nothing empty suit, it all to come to an abrupt and premature ending.


  2. That Short Fat Fanny is a favorite of mine too. The song was intended to be fun. Levon did a good job on it.

  3. Pingback: The Band | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

  4. When Ronnie was on stage he would at times, move his feet as if walking backwards he called it the camel walk………..Michael Jackson did the same walk years later and it was called the moon walk.

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