November 19, 2009 – 12:15 pm

LEVON HELM R.I.P. 1940-2012

Levon Helm, singer and drummer with The Band, died from throat cancer on April 19, 2012 at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He was 71. The news was announced in a message posted by his family on Facebook and Twitter, which read: “Levon Helm passed peacefully this afternoon. He was surrounded by family, friends and band mates and will be remembered by all he touched as a brilliant musician and a beautiful soul.”

Earlier this week it was announced that Helm was in the final stages of his “battle with cancer”. Helm’s daughter, Amy, and his wife, Sandy, had then posted a message on his website, noting, “Thank you fans and music lovers who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration… he has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the back beat, and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage… We appreciate all the love and support and concern.”

Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, but that didn’t stop him from performing and recording albums. The passing of Helm also means that The Band is now left with two surviving original members - guitarist Robbie Robertson and keyboardist Garth Hudson. Pianist Richard Manuel died in 1986 while bassist Rick Danko died in 1999.

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In the face of heavy metal, America responded with The Band.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Ultrasonic Studios, Hempstead, NY 1971 [no label, 1CD]

Rehearsals live in New York, December 1971. Ex- SBD stereo. Speed-pitch corrected version.

To give their music an added dimension, The Band recruited Allen Toussaint and a five-man horn section to spice up their sound for the Cahoots album. When they rehearsed for a four-night stand at the Academy of Music in New York City back in the winter of ‘71, Toussaint and the horns were invited.

On the introduction to this brief 40-minute excerpt of a rehearsal, the signature horns blow nicely that toot-toot New Orleans sound as the Band come together for The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. That’s what you’ll hear throughout the rehearsal, how the horns swooped, swished and skittered around, above and below the songs. Injecting freshness and excitement to the Band’s repertoire.

Just on the horizon other bands were preparing louder, angrier albums, hamming up with makeup and marketing, posing for hours in front of mirrors as they vied to be the next big thing.

But The Band were digging the older vibe with accordians, horns, a carnival sound, vaudeville, a hoedown that invented Americana before the term was coined. Levon Helm handles much of the vocal chores on the songs here leaving Rick Danko with Unfaithful Servant. Richard Manuel gets to be heard on two takes of Across The Great Divide.

The sound is thick and chunky with nice turns from Garth Hudson’s organ and Robertson’s sterling solos. But really, the horns take up centerstage much of the time. By now, success with Dylan and as a working unit had changed their lifestyle and Cahoots, the album preceding the concerts, had a bittersweet taste.

“I can’t emphasize how much success had changed everything,” Rick Danko said of this period. “We were outrageous in our behavior, and it was impossible to get people in one place at one time. And when we did, it was hard to work because when we looked at one another and saw how wrecked we were, it was hard not to crack up.”

This fly-on-the-wall moment with The Band and Toussaint disputes this. They sound energised and refreshed. But this was before they lurched forward into a downward spiral, eventually disbanding in 1978 with the prophetic Last Waltz.

This was originally shared by “DynacoST70″ in 2005 and recently uploaded on DIME by JTT. This is the fixed version using Prof Goody’s recommendation on how to correct the pitch. Thanks to lolita for sharing the fixed version. Thanks to everyone who shared this. Sound quality is great.
- Professor Red

Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality MP3s - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Track 01. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (7.1MB)
Track 02. Across the Great Divide (take 1) (4.0MB)
Track 03. WS Walcott Medicine Show (take 1) (4.9MB)
Track 04. WS Walcott Medicine Show (take 2) (4.9MB)
Track 05. Life Is A Carnival (take 1) (3.9MB)
Track 06. Life Is A Carnival (take 2) (5.5MB)
Track 07. Across the Great Divide (take 2) (4.4MB)
Track 08. Unfaithful Servant (5.8MB)
Track 09. Chestfever (6.9MB)
Track 10. Rag Mama Rag (take 1) (5.2MB)
Track 11. Rag Mama Rag (take 2) (1.2MB)


Note: This was shared as the Saturday Night Live rehearsals on Oct 30, 1976. But the general consensus among fans is that this is the rehearsals at Ultrasonic Studios for the Academy of Music December 28-31, 1971 shows. The tracks rehearsed do not match the songs performed on SNL in 1976.

Likely Lineup:
Rick Danko - bass, violin, vocals
Levon Helm - drums, mandolin, vocals
Garth Hudson - organ, piano, accordion, tenor and soprano saxophones
Richard Manuel - piano, organ, clavinet, drums, vocals
Robbie Robertson - guitar, vocals, introduction
Allen Toussaint - horn arrangements
Howard Johnson - tuba, euphonium, baritone saxophone
Snooky Young - trumpet, flugelhorn
Joe Farrell - tenor and soprano saxophones, English horn
Earl McIntyre - trombone
J. D. Parron - alto saxophone and E-flat clarinet

The shows at the Academy of Music would be released in August 1972 as Rock Of Ages, The Band’s live album and one of the finest live albums of all time. Buy it here.

  1. 27 Responses to “SLABS OF AMERICANA”

  2. Excellent gem!
    Many thanks bigo’s team :-)

    By Rochacrimson on Nov 20, 2009

  3. Thanks for that guys. When it came out as Academy Of Outtakes I reviewed it for Rock’s Back Pages: “The rehearsal features ‘Dixie’, ‘Divide’, ‘Walcott’, ‘Carnival’, ‘Unfaithful Servant’ and ‘Chest Fever’, and is interesting, mostly to hear how much The Band are responding to the horns. Levon shouts “Yeah!” as the Section piles into the break in ‘Chest Fever’ as he furiously battles the waves of sound coming at his drums. The horns are ragged but getting there, and if this was their only rehearsal, then they did an astonishing job of learning these complex, layered charts.”

    Apparently Toussaint was working with a tape machine running slow so the horn charts were all pitched wrong. He was mightily impressed when Garth and Richard just transposed their keyboard parts on the fly… Nicely fixed—well done!

    By Martin Colyer on Nov 20, 2009

  4. Very nice share BigO

    By Matt on Nov 20, 2009

  5. Are the SNL 76 rehearsals around anywhere?

    By Matt on Nov 20, 2009

  6. Amazing sound! Thank you!

    By John C. on Nov 21, 2009

  7. Thank you very much for The Band’s SNL Rehearsals, BigO.

    By Lee67 on Nov 22, 2009

  8. In the face of heavy metal, America responded with The Band.

    America ?..always trying to claim fame for everything..There were 5 members in the Band.
    four of them , Canadian…one American.

    a proud canuck Band fan,

    By sluggo on Nov 23, 2009

  9. I don’t know if the rehearsals are posted but I have posted the entire SNL set at:

    The Band plays one of their final live shows in front of the entire country on Saturday Night Live. Less than a month later they will play their “Last Waltz” at Winterland. The order of songs on “The Band” website shows “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” as the last song in the set. I would rate the quality of this video as an A considering its age. I do not know the genealogy as it came to me on a dvd coupled with the Woodstock 94′ show. I would have to guess that the lineage is: TV/VHS/DVD/ (The Band website shows this as: TV/EX/20)then I used a stand alone Sony DVD Player and extracted the video with Powerdirector > Mpeg 2 > then to you. Enjoy!

    1. Life Is a Carnival

    2. Stage Fright

    3/4? The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

    4/3? Georgia On My Mind

    By Owen on Nov 28, 2009

  10. Awesome. Thank you!

    By Mike & Kim Hayward on Nov 28, 2009

  11. Thanks for the SNL torrent. I’m getting it now.

    By Matt on Nov 29, 2009

  12. thanks so much for posting!

    By jeff on Nov 29, 2009

  13. TYSVD(AMN)M 4P!

    @ sluggo “‘In the face of heavy metal, America responded with The Band.’ …America ? always trying to claim fame for everything..There were 5 members in the Band. four of them , Canadian…one American.’

    OK, if you want to get technical… The members of the Band first came together as they joined rockabilly singer Canadian Ronnie Hawkins’ backing group, The Hawks, one by one between 1958 and 1963. However, upon leaving Hawkins in 1964, they were known as The Levon Helm Sextet, then Levon and the Hawks. The leader of the band, Levon Helm, being that ahem, American you mention. So when first on their own as a group they were an American band. Then they backed Dylan, another American. Then they finally struck out on their own in a major way, changing their name to The Band, and recorded their music in America.

    As Wikipedia correctly reports, “The Band’s music fused many elements: primarily old country music and early rock and roll, though the rhythm section often was reminiscent of Stax or Motown… The Band’s “The Band” album, featured songs that evoked oldtime rural America.” And as Professor Red correctly says above, “The Band were digging the older vibe with accordions, horns, a carnival sound, vaudeville, a hoedown that invented Americana before the term was coined.”

    I’d venture to say that they were one the most quintessential American bands.

    By thewaymouth on Dec 5, 2009

  14. you need not try to lay your Band history on me..i have been a fan , and attendee of concerts since 1965..I often saw Ronnie and the Hawks at teen dance here in our city [30 miles east of the Hawk`s Nest] where they preformed regular sat . matinees at the local u.a.w. [at the time , C.A.W. now] union hall.
    Rick , Robbie , Garth and Richard all are form the stratford area, their families still there and they continue to be very much rooted in Canadiana,,,like I said it is just typical americanism to want to claim anything that woks as being theirs..Perhaps you don`t or won`t realize the rooted Canadian sounds that are quite present in their music..a for instance itself , listen to Acadian driftwood and it will explain the genesis of “Acadjun” or “Cajun ” music..just dig the music don`t get hung up on ownership.

    By sluggo on Dec 5, 2009

  15. It seems you may be the one hung up on ownership sluggo. Levon was the first member of what would become “The Band”, born and raised in Arkansas. To not consider the band categorically as “Americana” is ridiculous. After all it is a continental term.

    By Jeff on Jun 17, 2010

  16. “To not consider the Band categorically as “Americana” is ridiculous. After all it is a continental term.” - unless you are a proud Canadian. Rompin’ Ronnie knows a good place to live and make great music, I saw them in 1964 in London (Ontario, that’s in Canada, not California) with the Hawks. I recall Levon and the Hawks playing in Toronto the next year, and Neil Young busking in front of the Riverboat on Yorkville Ave in 1966 too.

    By HytekFred on Nov 11, 2010

  17. Hello Big-0, Thanks for all the cool music. You rock!!

    By Bill H. on Nov 13, 2011

  18. What a sad, sad, sad day. We’ve lost an American original.

    By jfarrell04 on Apr 20, 2012

  19. This is a nice little treat,even a rehearsal sounded great with The Band.They existed at a time when the world needed their music and every serious music fan knows this.Thx Big O…..

    By couz on Apr 20, 2012

  20. good point sluggo…4 Canadians…but they were doing American music…great music too!

    By jbbmusic on Apr 20, 2012

  21. Levon’s art was a unique and exquisite sound. Thanks for continuing his legacy. Videos of Levon’s band from a 2008 concert are being featured for free at Wolfgang’s Vault. Realize that it was 10 years after coming down with throat cancer. You wouldn’t know it by his voice, considering he was in his late 60’s at the time. He was blessed - and so were we - that he could still perform.

    By 4yrsnojob on Apr 20, 2012

  22. Let me weigh in on the subject of the Band being an American band. Yes, North American and you must consider that the region where the Canadians grew up should be in the United States. I will admit that if Ontario was the 51st, it would be the nicest state in the Union, with the sanest people.

    Ronnie was an American also.

    Regardless, the Band was a collection of some of the finest musicians to ever play music.
    It is too bad that some have gone but the music that they created will be with us until we are all cold and dead.

    Be thankful that we were around to see this magnificent creation.

    By nobsartist on Apr 24, 2012

  23. “you must consider that the region where the Canadians grew up should be in the United States”

    Being a Canadian myself in this region you have me puzzled as to why because we certainly don`t feel that way, actually we are quite content being Canadian thank you.

    By sluggo on Apr 24, 2012

  24. sluggo - even tho i should be the last to talk cuz clearly they lure me in like that idiot jerry did on the heckling dylan post and got me into a tirade before i caught myself and finally stopped…u are way more perceptive than i am and u know when people are pulling your chain. i dont always know when theyre doing this and i sometimes give them the benefit of the doubt and answer them thinking that they could be serious.
    someone who says that there is a region of canada that should be in the united states actually got your goat? even i laughed when i read that. now if he really believed what he said theres no hope.
    course youre not french canadian are u sluggo? cuz then of course theres no hope for u!!

    on another note… since dixie & carnival from snl are on old shoes i am guessing i should look for the other 2 songs on youtube and convert em. makes it easier with the titles. i guess i didnt realize or had forgotten they had done 4 songs. i used to have every single live performance by everyone from snl til july 02. and some of my fave items were the rehearsals that started to make their way out. these werent anything too special normally til they included material that wasnt performed on the show. like mccartney and clapton. wouldnt mind a few recordings of the band rehearsing for snl.
    did the band do only one song on sullivan in 69? if there are others i guess looking for those would be fun to look for as well. all i have is cripple creek. i wonder how many more songs were soundchecked for watkins glen? and how many more outtakes there are from big pink? im on a kick.

    By darth on Apr 25, 2012

  25. ..”how many more outtakes there are from big pink?…”

    I wonder that the vaults !!!!

    By sluggo on Apr 25, 2012

  26. im a little confused about something here.
    the band played snl on sept 18th 1976. not oct 30th. they only played 2 songs on the show.. not 4. the rehearsals if u listen closely to them on here have some audience in them. i have many rehearsal recordings from snl and there are no audience(s) on any of them. the studio is empty save for the band itself. however at ultrasonic studios there is usually an audience since its done that way with an invited audience to enjoy the performances. normally a small one but there would be people there nonetheless. that would correspond to these recordings.
    if u listen to the tape of the palladium broadcast from sept 18th the dj chatter actually says that later that nite they will be going over to nbc studios to perform on snl. i can assure u that they did not do snl twice in sept and october. it just did not happen that way. snl did have dress rehearsals but they always do the same 2 songs at both shows. and there is a full audience at both shows. now back in 76 the show at the palladium would have begun at 8pm and gone til 10pm the latest. they could rush up to rockefeller center in time to do their first song to the dress rehearsal and their 2nd about 45mins later. thats just how its done. having been to over 2 or 300 snl’s i know how they do things.
    granted i didnt go to many prior to 1980.
    since dixie and carnival are the songs they actually did on the show it is very likely that those are the songs that they did in the dress rehearsal as well. i dont have the actual rehearsals for the show. i believed i did but comparing it to what we have here it seems i dont.
    so i too am still looking for the snl rehearsals. but they are from earlier in the week of sept 76. not october 30th.
    the december 71 material that u will find on cd2 of academy of outtakes the genuine rock of ages songs 8 thru 15 (the material found on this page u are reading here) is rehearsals for the academy of music performances that happened december 28 thru 31 of 1971.
    now.. i hate to confuse matters but…
    the academy of music changed its name in 76 to the palladium. haha. its the same location. 14th street near 3rd avenue in nyc.
    these songs on this page are all from 5 years before they did sat nite live. they are not from that show nor the rehearsals for that show at all whatsoever.
    listen to the songs they did on the show itself and compare the sound. thankfully we arent comparing audience recordings with soundboard recordings which would make it much harder.
    i hope i helped people fix their collections and the info on them here.

    By darth on May 2, 2012

  27. darth, it took you three days to stop. who’s the idiot :-)

    By that idiot jerry on May 3, 2012

  28. owen - i thank u for the snl video. i downloaded it today myself. and then i made an audio dub of it. it came out perfect. thanks to u. cant thank u enough for this. i had given up on torrents and only yesterday had i found a new way to obtain this without having to start getting into going thru the whole client thing again. i just cant do the utorrent thing or bit torrent thing again. i did it for years and i just dont have it in me anymore. i shared the audio track with a few friends of these 4 songs. including 2 that contribute here. if anyone else here is interested feel free to contact me privately. u know how by now. its only 16meg.
    the video is 873meg. clearly i cant send that thru the mail. i was very impressed with it. now if we could only find those snl rehearsals.

    and from the new information i have since discovered.. on 9-18 james taylor played snl and on 10-30 the band played snl.
    the palladium gig that was broadcast that i downloaded was evidently mislabeled as being 9-18 for some reason so i believed that date for both the palladium and snl. when i compared it to my database of all snl shows the correct information became clear.
    and also.. clearly when the announcer on snl says ‘once again’ before georgia when richard manuel starts to sing that proves that georgia is the final song. obviously the other 3 songs were all performed all at once. as there is no break between them. cute camera trick notwithstanding. if georgia wasnt the final song the announcer would say something like ‘here again..’

    i cant thank u enough owen. i had 2 songs from this show. u alone made it possible to have all 4 songs. u da man.

    By darth on May 7, 2012

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