Levon Helm John Barry Rock Roll & Ramble


Photo by Dino Perrucci and cover designed by Mike Dubois



Levon 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 the
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 inauguration.

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 bank.

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 Ramble 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 picture.

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 Woodstock.

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, rolled—and Rambled.

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 music.

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 Ramble.

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.




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