Born in New Orleans, Levy worked for a while as a jazz bassist, and played with many jazz notables. Levy changed careers in the late 1940s, handling the business end of the careers of numerous performers, one of the first African Americans to fill this role. Among the people he managed were: Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Betty Carter, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Abbey Lincoln, Herbie Mann, Wes Montgomery, Joe WIlliams, and Nancy Wilson. He also managed the comedian Arsenio Hall.
The collection documents Levy's short career as a musician, his longer career as a manager, and the careers of some of his clients. The client most well represented in the collection is Nancy Wilson, with recordings, photographs, correspondence, financial statements, and contracts included. Papers relating to other clients include business records such as ledgers, scheduling information, itineraries, and contracts; publicity materials such as articles, press kits, photographs, and videotapes; personal correspondence; photographs; oral history interiviews; scrapbook pages; recordings, some commercial and some non-commercial; and miscellany. The non-commercial recordings feature artists including Nancy Wilson, Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderly, Abbey Lincoln, Wes Montgomery, Shirley Horn, Letta Mbulu, and others. Also included are some of Wes Montgomery's music manuscripts.
John Levy Papers, ca. 1940s-2001, Archives Center, National Museum of American History