Rick Levy has pretty much done it all in a musical career that spans close to 40 years. He has played with later incarnations of
Herman's Hermits and Jay & The Techniques, and is currently musical director for not only The Techniques, but also for Tommy Roe
and Freddy Cannon. On top of that, he also acts as manager for The Box Tops! In addition, he's also a very successful producer of
music education videos for grade school children. Before all this, however, he was the guitarist for The Limits, a teen band that
shared the stages with all the other great local bands of The Lehigh Valley in the 1960's. Here is his story...
An Interview With Rick Levy
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Rick Levy (RL): I got interested in music when my uncle, who worked in business in New York City, would bring me Elvis and all sorts of stuff as a kid. I played various instruments, but ended up on guitar. I had great teacher - legendary jazzman Watts Clark. My sister and I had a folk duo...until I heard The Beatles and decided a band was a must.
60s: Was The Limits your first band?
RL: My first band was The Outcasts. We were pretty progressive and had a female bass player. I was lead guitar, and Irwin Goldberg was Organ. He also later became a member of The Limits. Mike Mittman was on guitar too; he is now a big deejay, and Randy Cohen played drums. He's since become a notable journalist.
60s: When was The Limits formed?
RL: The Limits was put together in 1964 by Chris Jones and Jack Schaeffer. In March of 1965 I auditioned via phone, playing rudimentary Chuck Berry stuff to Chris' brother Beau. I then became lead guitarist. The line-up was Chris Jones -rhythm and lead; Beau Jones - bass and vocals; Rook Jones - lead vocals, rhythm guitar; Rick Levy - lead guitar and vocals; Irwin Goldberg - organ and vocals; Jack Schaeffer - drums. There were also a few other members in and out (at various times), notably, in 1966, Ned Earley of The Shillings replaced Jack on drums.
60s: What type of gigs did The Limits land?
RL: We played at lots of school parties, post games, proms, swim parties, teen clubs, frat parties galore, store openings, fashion shows, radio promo gigs, and even bars.
60s: How would you describe the band's sound?
RL: The Limits business cards said "English American Sound." Obviously, we were big British Invasion fans, but also R&B and rock. We were very heavy on harmonies, and very poppy.
60s: The Limits were one of many local groups from the Lehigh Valley. What was that scene like?
RL: Lehigh Valley in the '60's was amazing. There were many, many "Under 21" clubs: Purple Owl, Mad Hatter, Mod Mill, Third Eye, Illicks Mill, King Arthurs Court, plus Muhlenberg College, Lehigh, Lafayette, Cedar Crest colleges. They all had parites regularly. Downtown Allentown was vibrant with cool shops, clothes, record stores. WAEB was the king radio station and we played for lots of their functions.
60s: Did The Limits participate in any Battle of the Bands?
RL: We were in a Vox Battle of the Bands in Allentown. We won some microphones, but it was fixed like most contests (of the day). One highlight was a gig backing Roy Head (Treat Her Right) like in 1966.
60s: How far out did The Limits typically play?
RL: We played pretty much Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Reading, and into Philly for frats and some shore stuff, too.
60s: Did The Limits work with a Manager?
RL: We were self managed, but for a time Dale Schneck, who handled The Shillings, came on board. He also brought Dave Purcell, an excellent vocalist dubbed Adam, and he did a "show" within The Limits' shows.
60s: You must have associated fairly regularly with The Shillings. What do you remember about them?
RL: Oh, yes... The Shillings were excellent. They recorded for Three Rivers, a division of Mercury if I recall. We played together many times. They wrote, played well, and of course we got Ned Earley from them. I believe they have a CD of material; it's good stuff. Tom Ross, I think, passed away. Mark Jennings is in the Midwest. Hub Willson (their second drummer) is in Allentown. They were managed by Dale Schneck, and almost really made it. I think they were going to work with Don Kirschner too, but I don't recall it all.
60s: How popular would you say The Limits were?
RL: We were in the top few of the most popular bands, playing 6-7 times a month - along with Kings' Ransom, The Shillings, Balladmongers, Uproar, Johnny and High Keys (an amazing band). There was also The Pastels, Echos, Purple Reign, and Marigold Circus. All styles of bands...from loungy to psychedelic. We played with them all.
60s: Did The Limits ever record?
RL: Yes. We recorded covers, originals and made home recordings, live recordings, and even mobile studio stuff. We don't have the session we cut in Philly at Cameo Studios as an audition. We didn't get the contract!
60s: How did you line up the Cameo audition?
RL: I don' remember much about Philly - it was very, very early on. We went and did some stuff with Bob Finiz, a staff producer. We also auditioned covers for Tom Takayoshi from Capitol early on as well. I think maybe we weren't quite ready at those times; we were pretty much kids, 15 and 16 years old. Of course, we always wanted to record. I never did have my own hit, but I get to play with lots of guys who did. It's been way cool.
60s: Did the Limits ever appear on local TV, or is there any surviving footage of the band?
RL: We have some silent films, and a Limits documentary tape. There is lots of narrative on the tape as well, and we have lots of photos, too.
60s: Why did The Limits call it quits?
RL: As we went to college, there were changes, distance, etc. Beau and I were founders of Wax in Philly with Rob Hyman of Hooters fame, and Rick Chertoff - who is a huge producer. Our manager, John Kalodner, is head of Sony West Coast. He's a big-time executive. We recorded with Bob Crewe in 1970, but the label went defunct. I also have live in studio recordings of Wax; it was quite an art band.
60s: What did you do after Wax disbanded?
RL: After Wax disbanded in 1971, I spent the next eight years in various things. I was always gigging, but (also) marrying, divorcing, and becoming a single dad. My son Jonah is now head of makeup and Special FX at Universal Studios in Florida. He's a cool dude.
I also worked in clothing design and manufacturing with my dad. The show biz experience paid off quite well, and (I was able to take) a long sabbatical to become involved as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. In 1979, Beau and I hooked up with Allentown drummer-singer Hub Willson, who had replaced Ned Earley in The Shillings, and Peter Smoyer, a great engineer, producer, guitarist and writer. We all were pop fans with '60's roots, and decided to reincarnate The Limits, form our own label, Luxury, record, perform, etc. High In The Mid-'60's was our first LP (on vinyl) in 1981. We were promoted vigorously on college radio in the early days of college radio.
Teenage Bedrooms was a LP pressed and distributed by Celluloid in France. Vingt, which means 20 in France, was released as an EP in USA commemorating Beau and I being musical partners for 20 yrs. This was also scheduled for UK release, but never came to fruition. Close Enough For Governement Work was released in 1988. Songs About Girls is a compilation CD from these projects. Perhaps a '60's CD will follow with the early Limits.
In 1985, I was asked to audition for Jay & The Tecniques, who hailed from Allentown, and had big hits with Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Keep The Ball Rollin'. At that time I was teaching elementary school, and gigging with The Limits regularly in Phaldelphia, New York City, and elsewhere. But - I thought...why not?
I heard Jay Proctor sing. What a friggin' incredible soul singer - and I wanted to be on board. I have been with Jay since then. There have been many players in and out, and we have played hundreds and hundreds of shows. Using my business experience, I became manager, and developed relationships with booking agents all over. The Techniques also are a crackerjack backup band, and many acts used us on package shows. That's how I met Peter Noone in 1987 in Louisiana, and we remained in touch. After I moved to Florida in 1993, I would periodically get calls to back him. That's how I met many of the artists we continue to work with. What a blast playing hit songs by the real guys!
Most of my activities were just born out of necessity! In 2000, Peter Noone wanted a new band with a more '60's sound and look and I put that together for him. At that time, Jay was ill, and could not perform for some time. Things worked out, and I played with Herman's Hermits for almost two years - as a guitarist. I really couldn't do the business things I wanted to do, so it was time to move on.
Today, I perform, manage, book, and love it all. I also produce music education videos for kids in grades 3-8, and have seven titles distributed nationally via school and library catalogues.
60s: Looking back - how do you best summarize your experiences with The Limits?
RL: The Limits: High school times. They were, and remain, the happiest times of my life - full of passion, love, happiness, music, friends, and great music. I am blessed to have continued to keep the fires alive, and keep many original aritsts working.
NOW FOR THE WORLD TO HEAR THE LIMITS!
To check out Rick's website, visit www.ricklevy.com
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