- Hired at age 17 by rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins to play drums in his backing band, the Hawks.
- Became known as Levon when his fellow Hawks had difficulty pronouncing his given name of Lavon.
- By 1961 the Hawks consisted of the personnel that would become the Band: Rick Danko (bass), Helm, Garth Hudson (organ), Robbie Robertson (guitar) and Richard Manuel (piano); they split from Hawkins in 1963 due to personal differences.
- Hired with fellow Hawk Robbie Robertson to back Dylan on his first all-electric tour in 1965. Dylan soon brought in the full band to accompany him.
- Quit the Hawks in 1965 because he was fed up with being booed and jeered while backing Dylan, whose transition to rock music was not well received by folk fans. He rejoined the group in 1967.
- The Hawks were rechristened Crackers after their manager got them a deal with Capitol Records. Capitol didn't like the new moniker, however, and released the group's 1968 debut album, Music From Big Pink, under their individual names. They became known as The Band because of the credits, which listed the unnamed group's members beneath a header that read "The Band."