Wachteligence: Ron Levy - Road Dog with a Lot of Tails

By A.J. Wachtel
February 2011

It used to be enough when considering this enormously talented man to just say, “Man, that cat can PLAY!” But now with Levy turning author, he will have to get used to hearing, “Man, that cat can WRITE!” as well. Already a long-time keyboard icon in the local, national and international worlds of entertainment, his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Tales of a Road Dog, documents his rise to the top and his continuing clout as one of the most impressive artists anywhere on the planet. You never know the next mountain Levy will climb, but read on and discover the high scales of his ascent.

A.J. Wachtel - You wear many hats in the local blues scene; you are an organist, pianist, writer, arranger, sideman, soloist, producer and A&R man. Am I forgetting anything? Tell me a little about your involvement in each currently.

Ron Levy - I'm presently involved on a few projects locally. For the first time in my life, I wanna be a local guy. I LOVE packing up and being home with my sweetie in our bed or my couch ... LOL - within 30 minutes! Oh yeah, Chinese at Tiki Inn!

The Levy-Stubbs-Rivelli Trio performs every Tuesday at Sally O'Brien's in Union Square, Somerville. It's an instrumental organ-based combo featuring me, Matt Stubbs and Chris Rivelli. I also appear regularly with Phillip Pemberton's band. Phil is the lead singer with Roomful of Blues. Barrett Anderson, Per Hanson and I play quite a bit together. Another fine guitarist and singer new to the area is Willie Laws Jr. He's from Houston. And last but not least, my old cohorts Benny Benson on drums and Jeff Lockhart on guitar and I have resurrected Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom! Check out Facebook for my various dates.

Sidebar: I need a good local booking agent!

A.J. - You have many different music styles you enjoy performing; blues, jazz, latin, even gospel and hip-hop. Tell me a little about your current involvement in each of these genres. And how does a Jewish kid get access to gospel and hip-hop music?

Ron - To me music is music and I love good music. It comes in all shapes and sizes, weights and measures. The correct term is “nice, sweet and smart Jewish boy,” as said by my loving shvigger (mother in-law). Hey, I thought youz guyz were PC?

A.J. - Albert King became your legal guardian in 1968 and you toured with him. How and why did this happen and what do you remember best about Albert and his tours?

Ron - I was 17 years old, my father wanted to make sure Albert would be responsible for my well being. The funny thing was, I thought I'd be more“free” to do what I wanted. Albert turned out to be much stricter than my parents, LOL!

A.J. - Then you hooked up with B.B. King and performed with him for seven years. How did this happen and what do you remember best about gigging with B.B.?

Ron - That will all be in my forthcoming book Tales of a Road Dog. It's a “tell some” not a “tell all” book but very entertaining according to all that have read it. It'll be published by a “random house” ... whoever picks it up randomly, I guess.

I'd really like to put it online as a subscription type deal with cool musical links and many photos. That way, people can read it on their computer while at work, rather than holding a book. I want to also include an interface blog with updates. Cool, huh? I will also “read” in accent my favorite “actors” in this non-fiction account of the wonderful things I've seen and experienced.

I'm a good read aloud reader, as my Rabbi can attest. He always makes me read stuff - English, Hebrew, don't matter.

Should've been a DJ. I do weather well as well. I always know what temperature it is, just by feeling the air! My lovely wife always asks me every AMand I always get it within 3-4 degrees, especially in the summer, depending on the wind. Winter is just cold, mostly, especially this time of year.

A.J. - You are also on B.B.’s albums Live at Cook County Jail and Lucille Talks Back. What was the main difference between being recorded live with B.B. and going in the studio with him? Any good B.B. touring stories you'd care to share? Any good studio story too?

Ron - One was inside a studio indoors with a dumb producer and the other, “live” at concerts, where we were at our best and most creative. Wish we had done a Willie Mitchell production session. Oh well, dumb ass record folks. I tried not to be one at Rounder, Blacktop, Bullseye Blues, Tonecool, Cannonball etc.

A.J. - In the past few years, you have played the blues with national acts Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John among many others. What are some of the local bands we should keep an eye out for now? And what are some of the local groups you guest appear with ?

Ron - See question #1

A.J. - You are currently playing in 4 or 5 different bands. Who are they and do you still perform 200 plus tour dates a year? Why?

Ron - See question #1 and I need the pocket money ... talk about “change,” they pay the same they did 30 years ago ... whatevah ... also LOVE to playand entertain folks, especially for myself and my band mates and my best sweetie pie, ever, my Shell.

A.J. - You have been called “the best kept secret in contemporary music today” but you are a 9-time Grammy nominee, you were the 1994 producer of the year for Living Blues Magazine and you have won a few W.C. Handy awards. What are your music goals for 2011 and what do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?

Ron - Not now anymore A.J. [also my son's name] ! Thanks for this huge break! ~ LOL ~ I'm sure something good will develop in 2011.

A.J. - Your songs and music have appeared in movies and T.V. including:Copland, Sex In The City, 60 Minutes, ABC Wide World Of Sports, NBA on NBC and NFL Report

Why does your music seem to be so conducive to visual sports?

Ron - I'm a real sporty type guy! I can be dramatic as well ...

A.J. - Would “icon of the Hammond B-3” be an appropriate title on your gravestone?

Ron - Maybe in Yiddish? Let's not go there right now, OK, .A.J?

I'm gonna be hitting 60 next May 2011 pal ... this is a very sensitive subject my friend, can you diggit?

A.J. - Any advice to young artists trying to get their music heard in these tough economic times?

Ron - Get a day job along with a viable education, start your day with a good breakfast. Or, play trumpet instead of organ or drums - that way, you can drive a sports car and pack up in 30 seconds with a beautiful goil.

Have great 2011 and forever y'all!

For more information on Ron, his gigs or the upcoming release of “Tales of a Road Dog” check out http://www.levtron.com/

www.levtron.com

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