Photo by Dino
Perrucci and cover designed by Mike Dubois
Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble,
the new book from journalist
John W. Barry, based on and inspired
by exclusive interviews with Levon Helm.
"John Barry was the perfect 'fly on the wall' during
this great last chapter and final curtain call in
Levon Helm's life. He was the quintessential
observer from the early days of the Midnight Ramble
to the end and has brilliantly captured the details
and the spirit of that wonderful time in this book."
— Larry Campbell, Musical Director and Producer for
Levon Helm Band
"Reading this book is like being there, at the
Ramble. It's like Levon's talking to you."
— Anna Lee Amsden, Levon's lifelong friend.
Millions of music fans know Levon Helm from the
gritty, granular and hard-as-an-oak tree vocals he
delivered on one of modern music's most classic rock
songs, "The Weight."
"I pulled in to Nazareth/Was feeling 'bout half past
dead," Helm sings on "The Weight" by The Band.
The drummer, mandolin player and vocalist who was
raised in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, and lived in
Woodstock, New York, for more than 40 years,
generated a sonic landscape of America framed by dry
and dusty, dirt-on-your-boots tone and texture.
And more than five decades after the release of
their landmark debut album, Music From Big Pink,
The Band with songs and stories continues to raise
questions and demand answers.
Many are familiar with The Band and how this group
of four Canadians and one American poured the
foundations for Americana music. From barnstorming
North America while backing Ronnie Hawkins to
striking out on their own and conquering a new
frontier of rock music, The Band paved its own path
and left little standing in its wake.
You can learn plenty about The Band from Martin
Scorsese’s 1978 film, The Last Waltz, which
documented this ensemble’s final chapter.
And Levon shared his own story in his autobiography,
This Wheel's On Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of
The Band, which he wrote with Stephen Davis. But that
tale ended with the second incarnation of The Band
performing at President Bill Clinton's 1993
Levon, in the years that followed, encountered sharp
curves and steep declines. His Woodstock
home-recording studio burned to the ground. He
battled bankruptcy and cancer of the vocal cords. He
lost his voice and almost lost his home again—to the
Facing foreclosure and unable to work because he
could not sing, Levon scrambled to survive. And at
the very last minute, thanks to his vision and the
fans he had counted on his entire career, his
fortune began to turn.
Levon soon emerged in triumph with his Midnight
Ramble house concerts, intimate performances held at
Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, that
attracted sold-out audiences and the likes of
Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Mumford & Sons and
My Morning Jacket. Three comeback records inspired
by the Ramble—Dirt Farmer, Electric Dirt and
At The Ryman—won Grammys.
And not long after the launch of the Rambles,
journalist John W. Barry—whose writing has appeared
in USA Today and on RollingStone.com—entered the
John wrote about Levon and the Rambles for the
Poughkeepsie Journal, a Gannett daily newspaper
serving New York's Hudson Valley.
And as John began to hang around Levon Helm Studios
more and more, Levon invited him to chronicle the
achievements and travails that were capping his
life, which had stretched from the cotton fields of
the Mississippi Delta to the world’s most famous
concert halls. John was given unfettered access as
he captured Levon's reflections on life, and the
priceless stories, that set the stage for one of the
most stunning comebacks in modern music.
In the wake of Levon’s death in 2012, John continued
to work on this project, which he presents to you
now in a new book.
Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble—The Inside Story of
the Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble offers
plenty about the music Levon made, his achievements
in film, and those geographical points that provided
the backdrop for his life—Arkansas, Canada and
But this story at its essence is the tale of a man
who had nothing, won it all, lost it all and got it
back again. This is the story of a comeback kid, an
underdog who proved everyone wrong as he rocked,
Born in the Bronx, raised in the New York City
suburbs and living in New York State's Hudson Valley
since 1990, John W. Barry is an award-winning
journalist with a passion for writing and a love of
This combination has brought John to some pretty
incredible places and put him in the company of some
incredible people. From Radio City Music Hall in
Manhattan to Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and
many places in between, John's relentless pursuit of
the stories, the people and the circumstances that
define the world around us has enabled him to
assemble the puzzle pieces of a compelling tale or
two over the course of his lifetime.
John is a very proud graduate of Clarkstown South
High School and the State University of New York at
New Paltz. The latter is what brought John to Ulster
County, New York, and set him on his path to nearby
Woodstock, Levon Helm Studios and the Midnight
As a journalist for the USA Today Network's
Poughkeepsie Journal in Dutchess County, New York,
John found himself in the center of Levon's Midnight
Ramble house concerts, getting to know Levon, his
band, his crew, his management team, Team Levon and,
of course, his fans.
One thing led to another and now, John's passion for
writing and his love of music have crystallized in
the new book he is very proud to present, Levon
Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble—The Inside Story of the
Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble.
Copyright © 2022 John W.
Barry - All Rights Reserved.
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