Remembering Levon Helm


I did not know Levon Helm personally, but I did share an experience with him that could be seen as a testament to his personal character.

A few years back I took my family up to Levon Helm’s home in Woodstock, NY to witness one of his Midnight Rambles. Today’s show was a special “Kids Ramble”, so I knew it would be a great musical experience for my two kids, aged 3 and 5 at the time.

In typical Harter family fashion, we arrived a little late, and were forced to stand next to an empty Slingerland drum kit that was set up on the side stage. A few songs into the band’s set, I felt someone rudely pushing my daughter and I aside, obviously jockeying for a better view of the musicians. As I turned around to give this asshole a piece of my mind, imagine my surprise when I realized it was Levon himself, trying to squeeze past us to get behind his drums!

Once he started performing, my kids were in complete awe. They had never seen a drummer who was that close, personal, and LOUD. Of course, I was also in awe, as my entire family was standing two feet from one of the most legendary musicians of our generation. Levon, sensing my son’s fascination with the noise he was making, leaned over in mid-song and handed my son a drumstick, without ever missing a beat.

What Levon did next completely blew my mind. He started encouraging my son to start hitting the cymbals while he was still performing! My three-year-old son, no stranger to hitting things, began bashing away at Levon’s cymbals, while Levon just laughed and continued to groove. He genuinely seemed to enjoy the racket more than my children! He never once told my son to stop, even while his cymbal work was beginning to throw off the rest of the band! Levon just kept smiling, and egging my son to keep playing along.

They didn’t allow cameras at The Ramble, so I have no photographic evidence of the event. But it doesn’t matter. It was such a great personal moment, that I don’t even care if people believe me when I tell the story.
My wife, who really didn’t know too much about Levon Helm or The Band before that day, walked away a fan-for-life.

Myself, well let’s just say, whenever my kids interrupt me in the solitary composer’s confinement of my own studio to, “Help Daddy make music”, I never turn them away.

Thank you for that Levon.