Remembering Levon Helm
May 26, 1940 - April 19, 2012

In 1989 The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hosted their Will The Circle Be Unbroken concert at Red Rocks. Among the guests were Chris Hillman, Tracy Nelson, Bruce Hornsby, The New Grass Revival, John Denver, Jimmy Martin, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, and many others. The Dirt Band played a set and spent the rest of the evening backing up the other artists on their contributions to the Circle albums and also their own hits.

When the various artists took the stage for their sets, people were milling around back stage and a few would stop and listen to their favorite songs. When John Denver took the stage, a magical thing happened. Everything back stage stopped and almost the entire cast came out to listen to John. There was total silence except for the voice of John and The NGDB. John closed with Country Roads and there was a choir of at least 50 voices standing behind the band singing along. At first I was not even paying attention to who was standing at my left shoulder. But when the choir (including me) joined in with John, I realized I was sharing the moment with Levon Helm. So we sang together, or maybe we just sang at the same time, doing harmonies with everyone else and John Denver with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It is one of the treasured moments of my life.

We had spoken briefly earlier in the day. Later that night, back at the hotel, I was talking with the late Vassar Clements and someone wanted a photo op with Vassar and Levon. Levon came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and introduced himself as he shook my hand. He apologized for having interrupted me a couple of times earlier in the day and for interrupting again, took Vassar away for the photo and then brought him back so we could continue our conversation. What a treat.

Somehow, over the years I have been fortunate enough to be in some pretty memorable spaces. Almost 20 years earlier, I was standing back stage at another John Denver concert and singing harmonies to Country Roads with Helen Reddy. After singing with Levon, I felt like I had graduated. Having him put his arm around me later that evening was my diploma.

John McEuen's Rocky Mountain Opry

In 1981 I was playing roadie for John McEuen at the 1st Annual Rocky Mountain Opry at Red Rocks. Doc Watson was on the stage and Jimmy Ibbotson and John were in the dressing room going over a song. I happened to be walking down the hall and Jimmy said "Hey, Warren, come sing harmony on this." We ran through Ripplin Waters and 10 minutes later we were on the stage in front of a sold out house singing to almost 10,000 people. I sang on 4 of the 5 Opries, sharing the stage with John and Jimmy on the first Opry in 1981, sharing the stage with John in 1982, with John, Jeff Hanna and Jimmy Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and T Michael Coleman, Doc Watson's bass player, in 1983 and opening the last Opry by myself in 1985. That last year, playing in front of almost 10,000 people by myself, was a great feeling. When I turned to walk off stage I saw Arlo Guthrie and Bonnie Raitt applauding. That was even better.

Remembering Doc Watson
March 3, 1923 – May 29, 2012

In the Winter of 1983, John took his Opry on the road, billing it as John McEuen's Great American Road Show. I was with them for two shows one night in Aspen. Between shows, most of the players went out to walk the streets of Aspen; not a good idea for Doc Watson when the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice. Peter Rowan and I stayed behind in the dressing room with our jaws dropping to the floor as Doc gave us a private concert of music and stories for about an hour. It was the best walk I never took.