Fall line-up: Paramount has Helm, Cole, Tritt & Stuart

A Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame drummer, a Grammy-winning R&B songstress, and a pair of country music icons are among the luminaries who will grace the Paramount Theater stage in the coming months. The venerable venue announced its fall schedule today, and headliners include the Levon Helm Band (September 14), Natalie Cole (October 12), and Travis Tritt & Marty Stuart (November 14). Tickets for the fall season go on sale July 22 for Paramount members ($75 paid at the time of purchase makes you a member), and July 29 to the general public.

As the drummer for the Band, Levon Helm used his Arkansas upbringing to help make his four Canadian bandmates into founding members of the neo-Americana movement of the late '60s. After touring with Bob Dylan when he went "electric," the Band struck out on its own and released Music From Big Pink in 1968, an album that, while modest in its initial sales, turned the psychedelia-dominated rock world on its ear with its country, blues, and folk-tinged sound.

So influential was the Band's out-of-leftfield brand of American roots music– a sound defined in part by Helm's backbeat, mandolin picking, and twangy tenor– that Eric Clapton says it inspired him to ditch the tripped-out jams of Cream for bluesier solo material, and prompted George Harrison to pursue a more down-home style on his first post-Beatle album, All Things Must Pass.

Nine years and several hits ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Up on Cripple Creek," "Stage Fright") later, the Band disbanded, but not before admirers like Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond and, of course, Dylan came together to join the Band for the mother of all send-off concerts on Thanksgiving Day 1976, a gig captured in Martin Scorsese's documentary film The Last Waltz. Since then, Helm has recorded solo and with members of the Band, embarked on an acting career (The Right Stuff, Coal Miner's Daughter), and battled and defeated throat cancer. In February, his comeback album, Dirt Farmer, won a Grammy for Best Folk Recording.

Despite winning the hearts of many an R&B fan and three Grammys, Natalie Cole spent the first decade-and-a-half of her career laboring in the shadow of her father, legendary crooner Nat King Cole. That all changed in 1991 when Cole embraced her father's legacy through the magic of the recording studio, and cut a "duet" with her prominent pop on a re-recorded version of his hit "Unforgettable."

The new father-daughter version of the song propelled the album Unforgettable... With Love to 8 million copies sold, and earned Cole three Grammys, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year. In the intervening years, Cole has racked up two more golden gramophones (including one for another Nat-Natalie duet, 1996's "When I Fall in Love") and has rekindled interest in her back catalogue by licensing her 1976 #1 R&B hit "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" for use in ubiquitous TV commercials for online dating site eHarmony.com.

Between the two of them, Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart have racked up 25 albums' and over 50 years' worth of experience in the country music game. Since his debut album, Country Club, sold over 2 million copies in 1990, Tritt pulled off the rare feat of putting out five platinum albums in the span of six years, containing such hit singles as "I'm Gonna Be Somebody," "Anymore," "Can I Trust You With My Heart?," and "Foolish Pride."

Stuart married country music royalty when the up-and-coming songwriter and session musician wed Johnny Cash's daughter Cindy in 1983. Two years later, Stuart had his first top 20 single, "Arlene," kick-starting a solo career that has spanned three decades. Despite the end of his union with the daughter of the "Man in Black" in 1988, Stuart remained close with Cash throughout the remainder of his life, and now he wears all black at each performance in tribute to his ex-father in law. Tritt and Stuart first teamed up in 1991 for the smash duet "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'" and again in 1992 on "This One's Gonna Hurt."

Tickets for the fall season will be available through the Paramount's website, by calling 979-1333, or at the theater box office. Other highlights from the latest slate of shows include TV and folk music legends the Smothers Brothers (September 25), English folk singer Billy Bragg (October 29), New Orleans R&B veteran Allen Toussaint (November 15), and bluegrass mainstay Ricky Skaggs sharing the stage with Virginia's very own piano-playing hitmaker, Bruce Hornsby (September 8).



Still waiting for a Paramount schedule that approaches in scope and quality the sample schedules they had on their fund raising web site.

At least Billy Bragg's coming this time around.