What about young Anna Lee? She’s backing Levon Helm memorial

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — “Young” Anna Lee Amsden, immortalized in The Band’s song “The Weight,” is kicking off an effort to restore Levon Helm’s childhood home and extend a musical heritage the drummer from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas, developed over 60 years.

The Levon Helm Legacy Project says it needs about $150,000 to preserve the green-sided sharecropper’s house, erect a bust of the performer nearby and introduce young people to the blues, folk and rock ‘n’ roll traditions.

“One of the last things he said before he died was ‘Just keep it going,’” Amsden said in an interview Wednesday.

Helm died from throat cancer in 2012 at age 71 after spending his final years at Woodstock, New York — far from the cotton fields that surrounded his old home a few miles from the Mississippi River. Characters from his youth populated his songs. In his vocals on the 1968 song “The Weight,” he sings: “Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee? He said, ‘Do me a favour, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company.’”

“I don’t think of him as a big movie star or a musical icon. I think of him of somebody that I love dearly who was a part of my family,” said Amsden, who is 76 and grew up along another country road near Turkey Scratch. “The fact that he left Phillips County and made out as well as he did — people would come to his rambles and be just in awe of playing with him — he needs to be immortalized.”

Helm is noted for his work as a drummer and a singer for The Band, though he also played Loretta Lynn’s father in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Capt. Jack Ridley in “The Right Stuff.” His final two solo albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” each won a Grammy. The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Arkansas tributes already are underway, even without contributions rolling in to a GoFundMe site set up for the Levon Helm Memorial in Marvell. Arkansas legislators this year designated a portion of U.S. 49 as the Levon Helm Memorial Highway.

“People from all over the world are coming to eastern Arkansas because of the music,” said Rep. Chris Richey, a Democrat from West Helena who sponsored a bill to honour several performers.

While Helm’s childhood home has been moved twice from its original location, there’s still interest in Turkey Scratch, said North Little Rock sculptor Kevin Kresse. He has completed a bust that will be placed near the home, but needs $25,000 to bronze it.

“There’s nothing there and yet people are still wanting to come” to see where Helm grew up, he said.

Joe Griffith of Marvell, the chairman of the memorial effort, said the group’s initial hope is to have something concrete in place so people will realize the effort is serious. He said it hopes to raise $30,000 to qualify for matching funds from the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, which serves the area, and is also seeking a grant from the Delta Regional Authority.

“His daughter Amy said ‘My dad would rather teach kids the love of music than a tribute,’ but Dad ain’t here to vote against it,” Griffith said.

Just Posted

WATCH: Property taxes in Red Deer will go up 2.02 per cent in 2018

City council passes a “tough” budget that maintains most service levels

Red Deer councillor balks at city getting stuck with more provincial funding responsibilities

Volunteer Central seeks municipal funding after being cut off by FCSS

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

Red Deer’s Soundhouse closing its doors on Record Store Day

The owners of The Soundhouse want to shut down their store on… Continue reading

NorAm Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships begin in Red Deer

The biggest cross-country skiing competition in Red Deer’s history is underway. Nearly… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month