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Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Rick Levy of Wax from 2010


Can you catch the readers up on the history of some of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Churning brain cells…I mean churning… Firstly, I’m Rick Levy, I was/am Wax’s guitarist, one of the songwriters, and backup vocalists. When I get to the point where Wax reunited, you’ll understand why I’ve become the spokesperson and business guy (ie manager)…but Wax was never, and is not my band. Wax was truly a democratic band. But let’s go back.

In 1965, living in Allentown, PA (home of pop hitmakers Jay & The Techniques, who I’ve managed and been guitarist since 1985), I was playing in a garage band called “The Limits.” The band was fun, mostly covers, but some originals, and we regrouped in the ‘80s, and again for our 40th anniversary in 2005, and still play a few dates a year. Beau Jones, one of the three Jones brothers in The Limits, was the bassist.

After high school, I went to University of Pennsylvania in Philly, and Beau (a certified genius..but strange..) ended up in the US Army! By late 1968, Beau ended up stationed at a high security missile base in NJ, but lived with a bunch of us college hippies in Philly. The first Wax was formed then, more of a folk rock group with a girl singer, and flute player.

By 1969, the lineup of Wax that almost made it first time was set, however, with David Kagan, lead vocals, Rob Hyman, keys, vocals, Rick Chertoff, drums, Beau Jones, bass, vocals, and me, guitar and vocals. We all wrote songs. Managers Bill Sisca and the (to become legendary) John Kalodner guided us in an amazingly fast ascent and descent! As a quick aside, Rob and Rick Chertoff played in a campus band called “Buckwheat” before Wax, and David played in various blues bands. I was in one of them with him called “Mrs Wiggs Cabbage Patch.”

The quick story is we signed a huge deal, began recording in the Record Plant in NYC (John Lennon and the WHO were there at the same time.) Our label got shut down by the IRS, and voila! We were out of a deal, no tapes, nothing. We soon recorded a totally live group of songs that were going to be used to sell the band again, but frustrations and other personal changes caused the band to break up.

The now infamous lost live tape from 1971 was complete forgotten…as members and management went their ways. Here’s a brief recap:

Rob Hyman recorded with Baby Grand on Arista, then formed the million selling Philly group, The Hooters, He also co wrote the classic “Time After Time” for Cyndi Lauper, and he’s recorded with everyone from Mick Jagger to Levon Helm.

Rick Chertoff became a five time Grammy nominated record producer. forgoing drumming to produce hits for Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, Sophie B. Hawkins, The Hooters, The Band, Bill Joel.

David Kagan also was in Baby Grand, and after that went into magazine publishing and advertising, which he still does quite successfully.

Beau Jones played with the later Limits, and lots of ‘60s pop groups, but died of brain cancer September 3, 2010. He is the reason Wax reunited!

I have been a fulltime musician and manager, managing and/or leading bands for ‘60s hitmakers Herman’s Hermits, Tommy Roe, Jay & The Techniques, Bo Diddley, and more.

John Kalodner, co manager became Columbia Records’ legendary A&R man, signing Foreigner and working with Phil Collins, AC/DC, and many more.

Bill Sisca co manager, became one of the most successful video informercial directors in the country.

MSJ: How did it come about that this new CD was released after so many years?
In 2009 Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer. Beau and I had always been like brothers, and  all the other guys had varying levels of relationships. But I knew it was time to get everyone together to show some love and support. A couple years before, Kalodner found a tape marked simply “WAX,” and was going to get rid of it, but fortunately, sent it to Rob Hyman. This was the May, 1971 live recording. Well long story short (not so short apparently) we heard this music, totally freaked out at how great it sounded, how tight we were, how original the writing was, and another college pal Arnie Holland, CEO of Lightyear Entertainment (distributed by EMI) said..”F***..this is great! The world should hear Wax. I’ve got the label, and lets do it”

Rob has a world class studio outside of Philly, and he, along with John O. Senior, and Paul Hammond were able to remaster. We couldn’t remix because there were no multitracks. It was two-track live recording, but it sounds great.

Sadly, Beau died September 3rd, 2010, about a week before the worldwide release, and damn we miss him! Waxreunited to perform at a musical celebration of Beau’s life (we sounded great) with pal Eric Bazilian playing bass.  Yes, I would love to tour again, but that’s another story.

MSJ: I know it’s been a long time, but do you remember how the name of the group originated?
Absolutely no recollection how the name Wax evolved, but I do know that the script logo on the album is the one I designed for what would have been our original album in 1971!
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
If I wasn’t full time in music, I would be teaching kids. I love working with kids, and in fact, I taught school for three years in the ‘80s, as a total change of pace. It was great.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
My musical influences? Wow! Big, big time original British Invasion, Stones, Beatles, Hollies, Kinks, Who, etc. Blues, R&B, old school country.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Ahead for me? Beau’s death has been a huge blow. I haven’t begun to come out of grieving, and I am not sure. I love working this Wax project because, even if nothing big happens, we are keeping his spirit alive, and truly letting the world hear some very original music. Kids seem to be digging the hell out of it. My son is a brilliant special FX makeup artist (I was a single dad back when it was rare). I will be helping him run the business side of his company. Of course, I will be playing, locally, and doing some national and international oldies shows. Who knows? if Wax gets a proper offer to tour, we’ll come to some answer at that time.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe the sound of Wax?
The Wax sound, you’ve read it, highly unique blend of jazz, acid rock, psychedelic, bluesy, country, boogie, rock n roll… oh yeah, progressive too. Stoned, talented young kids, not worried about writing hit singles, and not editing what we did, fortunately. FM radio would have eaten it up at the time.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
In the future I would love to play more with Wax, yeah, I would. I’ve been blessed to play with lots of ‘60s artists. I am not too current on what’s going on. It’s too big out there. I also play with an 80 year old blues guy, Willie Green, lots of fun. I would love to jam with Keith Richards, my hero. Maybe Ray Davies, too (I managed Alex Chilton and his first group the Box Tops).
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Pure and simple, illegal download is stealing and piracy. It always existed, always will, but now it’s totally unstoppable. How can you be for it?  It’s hard enough for musicians and artists to make money. So, f*** ‘em! Pay for it! Pay something!

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Fans recording shows, I think that’s OK. I mean, again technology is moving so fast, you can’t stop that, but they at least paid to see the show!
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
My fave superhero was always Green Lantern, so cool, (My son, by the way, is on the Special FX team for the upcoming movie Green Lantern) the ring thing. I can’t think of an arch nemesis. Usually, I end up being my own worst enemy! I keep trying to work on that.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Ultimate band? Well, now my age shows,Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Ray Davies, Graham Nash, Keith Moon, Otis Redding, James Brown, Booker T, and maybe me, just for fun.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Again, my festival you’d have to be in heaven. I saw them all live: Hendrix, Joplin, Otis, James, but I love Kings of Leon. They got pure spirit. I’d want some reggae in there too, Sorry but I don’t get rap or hip hop much, doesnt move me internally.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Funny, I don’t listen to much music. For the past year I really listened a lot to our CD, Wax, ‘cause it had been 40 years, and to understand how we created and played it live is a mindf***! Then to learn several songs to play live at Beau’s memorial, wow! But normally, I listen to Little Stevens Underground Garage on XM, and classical music, and Irish/Celtic music - love it.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I go between spiritual books and good mysteries. James Patterson, Kellerman, etc., and I love the Conversations with God series by Neale Walsh. I’ve been doing Transcendental Meditation (as did Beau) since 1972, so I try to stay grounded and ethereal at the same time.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Aha! Got to see Paul McCartney at Radio City in New York, only 5,000 in the audience. It was a Transcendental Meditation charity. F***ing guy still rocks! What a band! And every, every, every song is a massive hit, but my gut still reacts to the Stones.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Guilt is a waste of time. It’s all fun. It’s only choices and consequences. Be prepared. Be nice and good, though, it comes back.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
You know Spinal Tap? The best music rock movie, ever, totally real! Mine was a good one, though. Playing an oldies show at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, huge,James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.. I was soundchecking with my band (we backed up some acts) and I hear another guitar. Look over and it’s James Burton, Elvis’ guitarist, one of the originators. I totally froze.But he said, “Hey, you’re cooking, keep jamming.” We became friends after that too.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Three folks for dinner? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who brought TM to the West, a true guru. Keith Richards ‘cause he just lives his truth, and probably my son, ‘cause he’s the best pal I have.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Vegetarian for sure, and no cheese. Keith hates f***in’ cheese.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Well, before I cut out of here, thanks. I thought losing my parents was the hardest thing, but losing Beau Jones is so deep, yet even in dying, Beau was giving. He gave Wax back to each of us. He reunited so many people. It keeps on going. That was the way he was. This really is a great record from a time when you really had to play you’re a*** off to have a quality band. I think we scored on all fronts, and here, thanks to people like you…Wax is back!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at
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