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Paperback Details
  • 07/2022
  • 9780578306056
  • 301 pages
  • $29.95
John Barry
Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble—The Inside Story of the Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble

Adult; History & Military; (Market)

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 FarmerElectric 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—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.

With a foreword by Ringo Starr and interviews with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd and Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash, 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.

"John Barry was the perfect 'fly on the wall' during this great last chapter and final curtain call in Levon Helm's life," said Larry Cambbell, a former member of Bob Dylan's band who served as Levon Helm Band Music Director and won three Grammys as Levon's record producer. "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."

Hudson Valley One

New book sheds light on Levon Helm’s final act“The music of The Band meant the world to me…” says John Barry, the freelance writer/music journalist who has been a keen observer of regional events for decades and now has offered a definitive version of Levon Helm’s last years and how his Midnight Rambles provided him with an iconic final act. “It opened my eyes and heart to the American south, and piqued my curiosity to learn more.”“Millions of people followed Levon and the Band because of the music — just iconic American music that has stood the test of time, and will stand the test of time for generations, ‘Ophelia,’‘Stage Fright,’‘The Shape I’m In,’ — that’s part of the bedrock of this country.“But Levon’s story of being diagnosed with cancer of the vocal cords, filing for bankruptcy more than once, almost losing his home, and then having this vision to just turn the knob on his front door and invite this band into his living room, which was the catalyst to this triumph for him — this amazing run for the last years of his life, that just transcends the music…I would be so bold as to say that it really illustrates the enduring American spirit and our humanity and his humanity.“From a hard news perspective, and the hard news journalist within me, compelling stories just don’t come any better.Barry’s new book, Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble—The Inside Story of the Man, the Music and the Midnight Ramble, will be the topic of a Golden Notebook-sponsored conversation with Barry and Barbara O’Brien, at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 28 at Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery, 297 Tinker Street, Bearsville, 12409. O’Brien worked closely with Levon Helm to produce the Midnight Rambles — a series of concerts which ran at Helm’s home in Woodstock from 2004 until Levon’s death in 2012. The site remains a valuable venue in the Woodstock music community these days.Barry wrote about music for the Poughkeepsie Journal for 18 years, and before that as a hard news reporter for Gannett.“Even before I took my first journalism class at SUNY New Paltz, I loved going to concerts.I grew up in Rockland County so we had the Meadowlands, the Garden, all of that was within reach as a teenager…by the time I got to college at SUNY New Paltz I had seen, how many shows?Bought all the records…But The Midnight Rambles wrecked me for live music because the setting (Levon’s living room), the 12 piece band, Levon leading it all, I had never seen anything like it and I never will see anything like it, in terms of live performance, the horn section, the whole thing...“Emmy Lou Harris, Bob Weir, Ricky Skaggs, Mumford and Sons, they all traveled here (to Woodstock). In the early 2000s, the music industry was shifting with the digital age…I’m an album guy, I still like albums, they tell a story…but these days it’s all the digital single and iTunes, which is fine. But all of that was gaining traction or under way, and here Levon’s response was a lot of acoustic instruments, friends and family — he’s playing with his daughter, Larry (Campbell) and Teresa (Williams), husband and wife, there was a big family element. The pot luck table…it was almost like his response to what was going on in the music industry…and I would say, he shifted the music industry single handedly with the Rambles…“Just as a guy and an Ulster County neighbor, we’ll never ever, ever see someone like Levon Helm again, in my opinion…”

Times Union: Hudson Valley

The ‘fly on the wall’ at Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles

"The Road to Now" Podcast: Celebrating Levon Helm w/ John Barry & Larry Campbell

From, website for "The Road to Now" podcast, co-hosted by Bob Crawford, bass player for The Avett Brothers, and Dr. Benjamin Sawyer, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University:  

Although he passed away a decade ago, Levon Helm is still the voice of Americana music. Always will be, in my opinion. Levon was drummer for The Band, collaborator with Bob Dylan, actor, husband, father, and friend. In his new book, Levon Helm: Rock, Roll, Ramble, author John Barry gives a first-hand account of Levon’s struggles with cancer and financial ruin that led to the legendary Midnight Rambles concerts at his home in Woodstock, New York.

On this episode of the Road to Now, Bob celebrates the life of Levon Helm with John, and musician and producer Larry Campbell who has worked with Levon, as well as Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, K.D. Lang, and Willie Nelson. This is an episode you don’t want to miss.­

This episode was edited by Bob Crawford & Gary Fletcher

Paperback Details
  • 07/2022
  • 9780578306056
  • 301 pages
  • $29.95