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by Stuart Perry Schuster
story from 2014
Woodstock Wednesdays at Panama Hattie’s on St. Augustine Beach is standing room only these days. The Falling Bones co-founder and guitarist Rick Levy likes it that way.
At 63, Levy is older and wiser. Type A personality, maybe; guitar hero, no doubt. These days Rick manages and plays guitar for the Falling Bones at more that 100 gigs a year in the local St. Augustine area.
But that’s just part of the story.
Rick’s life and times in the music business is in its 5th
decade with only some sign of slowing down. A typical middle class life in Allentown Pa. saw young Rick playing guitar behind his folkie sister Judi, learning songs of the day by Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, and Bob Dylan. Judi took little Rick to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in the early 60s as a way to be a part of the folk music scene.
He started his own teenage band, The Limits, at age 15. Lifelong childhood friends, Limits band members would continue to play and record music sporadically for the next 4 decades.
In 2011 Rick cut a deal with Cleopatra Records, making this bands’ music available on Itunes currently.
His first brush with fame in the 70s was with Wax, a
Philadelphia Pa. progressive rock band way ahead of its time. The future for Wax at this time seemed to have a lock on success in the music business. Wax found itself opening for every top band of the day that passed through Philadelphia. The bands’ first, and only, manager was 18-year-old John David Koladner, who, in later years, went on to sign Genesis, Aerosmith, and AC/DC to labels like Atlantic, Sony/Columbia and Geffen Records.
Fueled by youthful bravado and a $50,000 retainer from
a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, Wax’s’ bubble burst. Fame was not meant to be. Even though it was in its prime, the band disbanded. Two of Wax’s’ members went on to form the Hooters in the 1980s, winning a Grammy for song of the year, “Time after time” on Cindy Lauper’s first album.
“We were kids in our early 20s recording a session at
the Record Plant in NYC. John Lennon was on one side of us and The Who was on the other. We were too young to appreciate the opportunity. As a result the band broke up,” says Rick.
Wax was a no-hit wonder and a classic rock-and-roll era flop. The only live demo from the sessions at the Record Plant was found among boxes by Koladner after his retirement in 2009, 35 years later. Rick used this opportunity to reunite the band for a listening party in support of cancer stricken and original band member Beau Jones. Beau eventually passed away but not before Rick started a website, meltedwaxmusic.com, as way to share Wax’s’ one and only CD, “Melted” with the world.
The CD was reviewed favorably by independent internet sites including Rolling Stone magazine.
Rick’s resume since his earliest professional work is impressive: In the 70s, after Wax, he started a family, moved to the Pennsylvania suburbs, embraced Transcendental Meditation as an instructor, continued
playing guitar, but never really settled down.
Eventually the phone rang. It was Allentown native and 60s chart topper, Jay Proctor, of Jay and the Techniques. He called on Rick to jump start a touring band to ride the nostalgia wave. Other 60s pop era acts came calling including the Box Tops, Barbra Lewis, Freddy Cannon and Dennis Yost of the Classic IV.
His reputation as a bandleader and music industry manager continued into the 1990s. This time Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits called and asked him to put together a band for a world tour.
By now, masterful guitar playing and band leading skills were his calling card. A similar world tour with Tommy Roe was done in 2005, again with Rick in the role of bandleader and manager.
He continued to tour through the decade but chose to co-found the Falling Bones in St. Augustine as a way to establish a home base. He agreed to exclusively play and endorse Epiphone guitars.
Current Bones band members have realized success on their own before working with him, including Jim Stafford, owner of Eclipse Recording Studio, and (kin to Hoyt Axton), drummer Rob Piazza who (toured with Blues legends, Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins) and front-man Long John Higginbotham, who shared Texas stages with the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, among others.
Rick says, “Even with 5 decades in this business, I’m more humble than ever. I set myself apart from typical local musicians who build themselves up with inflated ego’s and unrealistic demands. The feedback I get from club owners here including Panama Hattie’s, the San Sebastian Winery and JT’s in the Hammock is that the Bones are easy to work with, and once we start playing, we can hold a crowd. That’s not something just any band can do.”
This new decade has started well for Rick. Another comeback tour with Tommy Roe in 2014 has plans for the UK and Australia and he appeared with Tommy Roe at Epcot in Walt Disney World in 2013.
“The Tommy Roe band played at BB Kings in NYC last year and it turned out to be the most fun show of all for me,” says Rick.
“To play BB Kings’ club is a career milestone. To play for an attentive, appreciative, sophisticated audience in such a hollowed venue built just for live music performance is a dream come true.”
“My second favorite show last year was in the Georgia Dome. We brought the house down just before returning home, “ he says.
A date is set later this year (2014) for a show at the St. Augustine Beach Pier Pavilion with the Hollies’ Terry Sylvester. The Falling Bones set an all time attendance record at the Pier in 2013 with the largest audience ever (1,800+) to see a Wednesday night show.
His personal life, like his professional career, is an open book. He is still dedicated to TM and practices it twice daily. Other professional commitments include lobbying on behalf of retired professional musician benefits. He studies and teaches ceramic pottery at St. Augustine’s Dixie Pottery Galley.
He’s a loving grandfather. Having accepted being the bridesmaid and not the bride hasn’t kept Rick from
loving his life and professional career. A devout spiritual seeker, Rick lives simply in a quiet beach condo .
He can often be seen routinely walking his dog Windy, recognized only by Bones fans, condo neighbors and
He says, “To have played shows with pop heroes like (Elvis’ guitarist) James Burton, Bo Diddley, James
Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Peter Noone, Tommy Roe,…including having a great group of friends and Bones
fans in St. Augustine is a cherished life,” says Rick.
“Being able to be terminally teen, irreverent, garage rockband sloppy, loud, psychedelic, bluesy, ballsy, sometimes all at the same time, and to carry on the rock-and-roll tradition. …well, what more could a young guitarist from Allentown Pa. ask for.”
Rick Levy rocks.