It is a party every time The Falling Bones play their brand of rhythm and blues. Once Levy and Higginbotham found each other, the gigs keep rolling in. Working together is fun for them. “We are having fun,” says Levy, “and we want everybody else to have fun.” Levy goes on to say, “It takes me back to the old Limits days when the audience would get up and sing with us.”
Levy is referring to his Allentown, Pennsylvania teen garage band The Limits. That was in the sixties. Levy grew up in Allentown. With all the “Under 21” clubs that were there, a lot of bands played in the Lehigh Valley. Jay and the Techniques were formed there. Who would have thought that Levy would end up playing with them today? In 1985, he was asked to audition for Jay Proctor. He has been with them ever since. (He is also their producer and manager.) That’s what landed him a two-year gig with Herman’s Hermits a few years back.
Levy’s mission in life is to promote sixties music. “The sixties live on!” he says and with good reason. The Limits now have two vintage CDs available through cdbaby.com. “People just can’t get enough of the sixties brand of harmony, when the lyrics were plain and simple,” was Levy’s comment.
When Long John goes from harmonica to vocals, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Grammy-winning songwriter David Allan Coe says Long John’s playing is “too esoteric.” Long John sang in a church choir when he was nine. He didn’t play an instrument until he was an adult after he heard Jimmy Reid play in Texas. After that, Long John decided he was going to learn the harmonica. “It touched something in me,” he says. “It is the closest thing to the human voice.”
The Falling Bones does a lot of old Rolling Stones hits. The opening number at Allison’s was Spider and the Fly with repeat lyrics Don’t Tell Lies. It was the wailing part of the blues followed by swinging blues in Off the Hook. A lot happens in between verses and songs with continuous entertainment in some shape or form. Bass player Deron Baker (Mamased) was featured while Levy announced, “everybody must get boned.” That was “groovy” as they would say back in the sixties.
The beat went to reggae for You Better Move On with Long John singing with a tender and sweet voice and Rick interjecting some catchy guitar licks. The audience joined in every time those four words came around. “What you hear is unrehearsed,” says Long John, referring not only to his and Rick’s individual styles of singing and playing that come together so well but also the dialogue that goes on between them. For example, after they finished You Better Move On, Rick starts talking about who wrote the song “The artist was Arthur Alexander” to which Long John replies, “He also wrote Anna for the Beatles.”
When they perform their blues version of Sam Cooke’s ballad “Bring It on Home to Me,” I was really moved by Long John’s delivery on vocals. What I heard was unmistakable blue notes, high notes, low notes and those that fall somewhere in between with some impromptu changes in the lyrics.
Rick takes his cue as lead by playing the great Keith Richards’ (Rolling Stone guitarist) type of licks. “I throw leads in here and there,” says Rick, “to get the whole rhythm going as opposed to doing guitar solos.”
The Falling Bones is an “in your face” party band and judging by the applause at Allison’s, everybody loves to party with them. “Being unrehearsed makes us so fresh. People feel like they are in their living room with us,” says Long John.
Without warning, tempo turned to fast with Rick taking the lead vocals for Roy Head’s Treat Her Right. Long John gave some long sustaining notes on the harmonica in this one along with some intricate trills. “I don’t play rests,” he told me. It should have got everyone up dancing but it didn’t. This particular audience was more interested in what was happening on stage.
What I didn’t stay long enough to hear was slide guitar material, which Levy does for Robert Johnson’s Love in Vain and the Rolling Stones’ Little Red Rooster. “It sounds good,” he says. “Rather than playing on electric, it gives a little more authenticity. I try to keep it real.”
“Jay, the Hermits, this is part of my DNA, the rhythm and blues, the British Invasion, what I cut my teeth on,” remarks Levy. Long John’s influences - growing up with Elvis, Ray Charles and Johnny Cash – these were, “three different techniques, but they all could make you feel it.”
About Falling Bones, says Levy, “Me and Long John have hit an age and a level of confidence and comfort in what we are doing. We know who we are.” He goes on to say, “It really transports you to another time. It transports the audience too, which is lovely.”
Check out www.ricklevy.com and/or www.longjohnmusic.com for more information and for their schedule.