cover image Levon: From Down in the Delta to the Birth of The Band and Beyond

Levon: From Down in the Delta to the Birth of The Band and Beyond

Sandra B. Tooze. Diversion, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-63576-704-9

Tooze (Muddy Waters) keeps a steady beat in a straightforward chronicle of the life of Band musician Levon Helm (1940–2012). Drawing on interviews with Helms’s daughter, Amy Helm, close friends, and his music director Larry Campbell, Tooze traces Helm’s life from his Arkansas childhood where he grew up listening to soul, country, blues, and gospel on the radio. By the time he was 15, he was playing drums in the Hawks; guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, and pianist Richard Manuel joined the band, and in 1964 the four musicians left to form their own group. They moved to Woodstock, N.Y.—in the famous pink house of their first album’s title, Music from Big Pink—and added multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson to the band. Tooze methodically traces the rapid rise to fame of the Band through perceptive and judicious summaries of each of the group’s albums. By 1976, the group had disbanded, and Helm, after being treated for throat cancer, eventually built a barn on his Woodstock property where he would host and record his famous Midnight Ramble sessions—“a musical and communal gathering [attendees] wouldn’t forget.” Tooze’s well-paced history serves as a solid companion to Helm’s memoir This Wheel’s on Fire. (June)