Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Pittsburgh native Barry Levensonís lifelong love affair with the blues began at an early age. At fourteen, an older friend played him some of Buddy Guyís Vanguard records and Levenson immediately fell hopelessly and passionately in love with this great American art form.
After playing in numerous blues bands in his home town, Levenson landed a job doing studio work, which he still does to this day. He then moved to Boston to study arranging at the Berklee School of Music. While in Boston, he became the house guitarist at Bostonís premier rhythm and blues hot spot, the Sugar Shack, backing up numerous R&B and soul greats. Looking for a better climate, both musically and weather-wise, Levenson next moved to the sunny climes of Southern California, where he immediately began working with such blues greats as Big Mama Thornton, Pee Wee Crayton, Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson and J.D. Nicholson. Of this exciting and fruitful period, Levenson says, ďI was lucky to get in on the tail end of the incredible L.A. blues scene because within a few years, most of these great artists had passed on.Ē Levenson then formed his own group called the Automatics, which landed a recording contract with famed Kent Records where he was the house producer.
The guitaristís next step was to land a deal with the prestigious European jazz and blues label, Storyville Records under his own name. Levensonís first release, Heart to Hand, received critical raves and was one of the most popular instrumental releases of the decade. At this juncture in Levensonís career he was hired as a producer and A&R man for Storyville, finding undiscovered and overlooked talent, then producing and recording them. This was then followed by the Closer to the Blues release which garnered an invitation to the prestigious Blues Estafette Festival in Holland. Levensonís latest release for Storyville, Hard Times Won, earned him a Handy Award nomination for Blues Song of the Year. He was also included on 2 Delta Laserlight compilations, Blues Guitar Heaven along with Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and Mike Bloomfield to name a few; and Blues for a Rainy Day with T-Bone Walker, Buddy Guy and Bobby Bland. Other highlights of Levensonís career include work on William Clarkeís Groove Time CD, numerous blues festivals in Europe and the United States.
Levenson still resides in Southern California and is an in-demand studio guitarist whose work has appeared in many movies, television and commercials. He gigs regularly around Southern California and is now playing with one of Americaís greatest and most loved bands, Canned Heat.