The Night Levon Drove Old Westport Down

The list of great musicians who have played the Levitt Pavilion is long and storied:  Willie Nelson. Ray Charles. Smokey Robinson. Buckwheat Zydeco.

And Levon Helm.

Levon Helm, back with The Band.

Back in the 1980s — after playing with Mountain (“Mississippi Queen”) and at Woodstock — drummer Corky Laing moved to Westport.

On Independence Day 1989, he threw his “2nd annual 4th of July Picnic” at the Levitt.

The musicians and set list have been preserved on an obscure website, It’s what you find if you dig through enough Google pages after searching for “Levon Helm Levitt Pavilion.”

Check out the band (not The Band — but just as good):

  • Corky Laing (drums, vocals)
  • Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, vocals)
  • Felix Cavaliere (Hammond B-3, vocals — former member of the Rascals)
  • Lester Chambers (vocals — former Chambers Brother)
  • Mark Clarke (bass, vocals — former member of Uriah Heep)
  • Plus “a few folks from Felix’s band.”

Levon Helm in 2007.

Among their 20 songs: “Can’t Turn You Loose,” “Rag Mama Rag,” “Up on Cripple Creek” (“NASTY,” the website says admiringly in all caps), “The Weight,” “The Shape I’m In,” “Groovin’,” “Mustang Sally,” “People Got to Be Free,” “Good Lovin’,” “Time Has Come Today,” “Mississippi Queen” and a “La Bamba/Maybelline/Roll Over Beethoven” medley.

In other words:  the best of the Band, Chambers Brothers and Rascals, played by guys who had a great time rockin’ Westport on the 4th of July.

Whoever runs the BootsDaily website added this information about himself:

I worked for a sound company in southern CT in the late 80s and early 90s.

Mostly I was a glorified moving man, long hours, shitty pay, and the women have all gone home by the time you break down and get the truck loaded again….

At this (Westport) show, because of a overbooked schedule, I ended up running monitors….

(This) was my favorite show I was ever involved with, and one of my high moments of 34 years of concert going.

It must have been one hell of a show. I can’t believe I missed it.

And today, we’re all missing Levon Helm.

8 responses to “The Night Levon Drove Old Westport Down

  1. Steve Haberstroh

    He was one of the greatest. I spent last night watching “the last waltz”, the scorsese documentary about one of The Band’s most famous shows–might be the greatest show of all time. Van Morrison, Neil Young, Neil, Diamond, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Michell, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters and more all stopped by to perform with The Band. Amazing footage! May Levon rest in peace!

    • Levon was not pleased with “The Last Waltz.” He (and a couple of other Band members) felt it focused too much on Robbie Robertson.

  2. Richard Lawrence Stein

    How cool was Levon Helms!!!??? He use to have a nearly monthly Jam session at his home with an up and coming act or a well known artist… That was open to the public… Who does that!!! Levon did!!!

    • Well Darryl Hall kinda does that, every Saturday night after SNL “From Darryl’s House” has guest musicians coming over and performing their songs with Darryl and his band. Not exactly the same maybe, but in the same vein.

      Definitely missing Levon Helm though, and I am glad Dan picked up on this Westport connection. I had a feeling there was one somewhere.

      Hey Dan, Jonathin Frid, the original Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows,” died yesterday as well. Can you come up with a Westport connection to Frid or at least the original series? It was filmed in NYC so there must be *something* there!

  3. Rest in peace, Levon. And big thanks for all the fabulous music from you and The Band – music that I’ll listen to till the day I die.

  4. The Levon Helm Band played at the Gathering of the Vibes last July. I’m so glad I got to see him! Must have been nice to be a neighbor of his in the Saugerties/Woodstock area, with him opening his home for an annual bash. HIs fans are lamenting, “oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in!”

  5. He was a great talent… RIP

  6. Levon and The Band are a true American treasure, (even if Robbie, Garth and the others were Canadians! ) RIP