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Levon Helm

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Marvell AR, United States (1940 – 2012)

Mark Lavon Helm (May 26, 1940-April 19, 2012), better known as Levon Helm, was an American rock musician most famous as the drummer for the rock group The Band. Helm was also known for his deeply soulful, country-style voice, and powerful drumming style highlighted on many of the The Band’s recordings, such as “The Weight”, “Up On Cripple Creek”, “King Harvest”, “Ophelia” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”.

Early years

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. He was influenced by the Grand Ole Opry and by R&B songs that he heard on radio station WLAC out of Nashville, Tennessee.

Helm became interested in rock and roll after attending an Elvis Presley concert. He 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 where, in 1959, they signed with Roulette Records and released several singles, including a few hits.

In the early 1960s Helm and Hawkins recruited an all-Canadian lineup of musicians: guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson. In 1963, the band parted ways with Hawkins and started touring under the name Levon and The Hawks and later to the Canadian Squires before finally changing back to The Hawks.

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