The Medicine Show Man: A remembrance of Levon Helm.



BlaiseP is the pseudonym of a peripatetic software contractor whose worldly goods can fit into an elderly Isuzu Rodeo. Bitter and recondite, he favors the long view of life, the chords of Steely Dan and Umphrey's McGee, the writings of William Vollman and Thomas Pynchon, the taste of red ale and his own gumbo. Having escaped after serving seven years of a lifetime sentence to confinement in hotel rooms, he currently resides in the wilds of Eau Claire County and contemplates the intersection of mixed SRID geometries in PostGIS.

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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    I saw them at a free concert at Trenton Waterfront shortly before Danko died.  Steven Seagal, believe it or not, guest played with them on a few numbers.

    I wish I got to see LH one more time (but I did not). He was playing with Donald Fagen (who is married to the mother of LH’s daughter) recently.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The last news I have of Levon comes from the Dandom Digest:

      Subject: Re: “SPOILER”: 3/16-Chicago:  Levon Helm, with Donald, et al  perform In Chicago

       I went on Friday, and as much as I enjoyed the overall concert, I was puzzled by the set list, which short-shrifted DF in favor of others. DF sang “Hesitation Blues” and “Black Friday,” and as I recall “The Weight” was his big keyboard moment, but Brian Mitchell — who he? — sang lead on at least three songs and got most of the keyboard features.

      Given how well Donald sings Richard Manuel’s parts and the number of Band songs that were performed, I don’t understand why Donald didn’t get more vox opportunities. Nice video!

      Subject:  Re: “SPOILER”: 3/16-Chicago: Levon Helm, with Donald, et al  perform In Chicago
      Date: Monday, March 18, 2012

       (Donald) participates because he wants to part of a band . He wants to play keyboards and just be another band member… That’s a big reason he loves The Dukes Of September. He also has two other big stars on stage (McDonald and Scaggs)… Remember, he never wanted to sing or be the leader of SD when they first started out. He’s said this in many interviews. He wasn’t lying.

      I co-produced the NY Nights shows with DF’s wife when he first stared playing out again in small NYC clubs. This was 1989/1990. He refused to sing at all the first four or five shows. The fans were booing and getting very upset. People were flying in and coming from all over the country to see him play. At the fourth or fifth show, we finally convinced him to sing one song, and he wouldn’t do a Steely Dan song. He ended up singing ‘Drowning In The Sea Of Love’. The crowd went f**king ape shit! After that show, little by little he started feeling more comfortable and started to add SD songs to the set list. It’s been a long ride!

      Subject: “SPOILER”: 3/17–Chicago: Levon Helm  Blue Jean Gala

      Just got home from a wonderful night. The sound at the Old Town School was 5 star. The only Steely tune done was Black Friday. Levon looked like he was on the tail end of a cold but still sounded great.  Amy Helm was fantastic. What a voice.

      It was really fun.



  2. Avatar Chris says:

    If you haven’t read Charlie Pierce’s thoughts on Helm, you should:


    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I remember that old Al Kooper review.   Everyone sorta-gets The Band, but it’s no accident I put in those links to all those Medicine Show performers.   Levon Helm grew up on the front row of rock and roll as it happened.   Trying to work out his influences is pretty much trying to dissect the bunny rabbit:  don’t expect it to hop again once you’ve done so.

      Better by far to take the long view of the music of North America.

      I Hear America Singing.

      I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
      Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
         and strong,
      The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
      The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
      The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deck-
         hand singing on the steamboat deck,
      The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
         as he stands,
      The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morn-
         ing, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
      The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
         or of the girl sewing or washing,
      Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
      The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
         fellows, robust, friendly,
      Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

      Walt WhitmanReport

  3. The Beatles worked their asses off in one city, Hamburg, Germany.


    Great tribute, Blaise. Many thanks. Levon, R.I.P.Report

  4. Avatar terry buckalew says:

    Helena is the home of “King Biscuit Time,” the “KBT Hour” is the rock radio show that ripped off the original blues show’s name.


    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      That’s right.  So noted, and corrected

      But quoting Jim O’Neal, “The King Biscuit hour was the thing that really crystallized blues music in this area. Muddy Waters and B.B. King would come home from working in the fields every day just to listen to the King Biscuit hour.”Report