Flashback: On Set with Levon Helm 8.10.2001

With the recent passing of legendary musician Levon Helm, I felt obligated to crack open the archives and review an episode of Live at the Bubba Mac Shack from 2001. At that point the program, which I’d created with entrepreneur and musician Herb Birch as a vehicle to promote both the restaurant and his career as an artist, had really gained quite a following. We are attracting bigger and hipper musical acts and had expanded to air on a few new networks. On 8.10.01 we were lucky enough to have booked Bob Margolin’s Rolling Fork Review, which was as Herb put it, “a mini blues festival”. The Rolling Fork Review in all reality was a bunch of blues/rock legends getting together to jam, it featured some amazing players plus Levon Helm and of course, Bob Margolin.

At that point we had shoot quite a few bands, quite a few icons I’d say but this shoot stood out to me more than any other. I’d always loved The Band and their work plus Levon recently contributed on “Largo” that was Rob Hyman’s from the Hooters project, so for me the timing was perfect. Levon had been battling cancer for quite a while at this point and was having a hard time talking and didn’t sing a note during the set, but the show was amazing. Seeing him play and love every beat of every song was really touching. The difference was, after the show he came up to me and asked about it…he showed a real interest, that obviously meant quite a bit to me as it’s co-creator and director. We talked for quite a while and while his voice was strained I think he asked more questions than I did and talked quite a bit more as well. The conversation turned to his health, music, what it was like for him as a solo artist along with other things that time and distance from the event have sadly wiped from my memory.

After a bit of time while my crew and I were packing up the gear from the shoot, we spoke for a few more minutes as this unassuming rocker and I loaded his drum kit into his convertible and he was off. Too cool.

The show went on the air and was one of the episodes we had the most viewer feedback and requests about over the time it aired and is really special to me especially since it was nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award (my first Emmy® nomination). It’s been in storage since the show went off the air but at this point I figured it was time to upload.

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