Levon Helm

From Academic Kids

Mark Lavon Helm, a.k.a. Levon Helm (born May 26, 1942) is an American rock musician most famous as the drummer for the Canadian rock group The Band.

Levon Helm was born in Marvell, Arkansas and began playing the guitar at the age of eight. Helm also played drums during his formative years and established his first band "The Jungle Bush Beaters" while in High School. Helm was influenced by the Grand Ole Opry performers and R&B that he heard off radio station WLAC out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Helm became interested in rock & roll after attending an Elvis Presley concert. Helm moved from Arkansas to Memphis, Tennessee where he was influenced by Bo Diddley and Conway Twitty. At age 17 he was invited to join The Hawks, backing rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins. Soon after Helm joined The Hawks they moved to Toronto, Ontario where, in 1959, they signed with Roulette Records and released several singles, including a few hits.

In the early 1960s Helm and Hawkins recruited guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson. They soon ditched Hawkins and changed their name to "Levon and The Hawks" and later to the "Canadian Squires" before finally changing back to "The Hawks". They recorded two singles, but found little success.

By the mid 1960's, Bob Dylan was interested in performing electric rock music, and asked The Hawks to be his backing band. Dylan's new sound received a mixed response from Dylan's fans, and by the end of 1965 Helm had returned to Arkansas for what turned out to be a two-year layoff. During his absence The Hawks changed their name to "The Band" and began writing their own songs and co-writing with Dylan.

Helm returned to The Band in 1967 and recorded the seminal Music From Big Pink which catapulted Helm and "The Band" into super-stardom. Helm remained with The Band until their 1976 farewell performance, The Last Waltz, which was made into one of the first rockumentaries. The documentary was produced by Martin Scorsese and, for a while, became standard fare at midnight movies across the country.

With the demise of The Band, Helm began working on a solo album Levon Helm and the RCO All Stars which was followed soon thereafter by Levon Helm. He recorded solo albums in 1980 and 1982 entitled American Son and (once again) Levon Helm

In 1983, The Band reunited without Robbie Robertson, until Manuel committed suicide while on tour in 1986. Helm, Danko, and Hudson released the album Jericho in 1993 and High on the Hog in 1996. The last album from The Band to date was the 30th anniversary album Jubilation in 1998.

Helm has acted in a few films, including Coal Miner's Daughter and The Right Stuff.

Helm published an autobiography entitled This Wheel's on Fire in 1993. Helm currently performs with his blues band Levon Helm and The Barn Burners which features his daughter Amy.

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 90's. Although the tumor was successfully removed, his vocal cords were damaged, and his sweet, pure and loud tenor voice was replaced by quiet rasp.

In recent years, Levon's voice has grown stronger. He is now (2004) shooting a with Tommy Lee Helm sv:Levon Helm


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