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 interviews; 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.
The collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1916-2010, undated
Series 2: Business Records, 1957-2007, undated
Series 3: Photographic Materials, 1963-2002, undated
Series 4: Artist Files, 1942-2001-05-12
Series 5: Joe Williams, 1962-2007, undated
Series 6: Nancy Wilson, 1959-2008, undated
Biographical / Historical:
John Levy was a renowned leading representative of jazz musicians and was the first African American to work in the music industry as a personal manager. Born in 1912 in New Orleans, Louisiana his family moved to Chicago when he was six. By the early 1940s he had begun playing bass in jazz bands around town. In 1944, Levy left Chicago with the Stuff Smith Trio to play an extended engagement at the Onyx Club on New York City's 52nd Street. Over the next years, he played and recorded with many jazz notables, including Ben Webster, Buddy Rich, Errol Garner, Rex Stewart, Milt Jackson, and Billy Taylor, as well as with Billie Holiday at her comeback performance at Carnegie Hall in 1948. In 1949, blind pianist George Shearing hired Levy for his own group and as they toured the country, Levy gradually took on the role of road manager. By 1951, Levy stopped performing to become the group's full-time manager, making history as the first African American manager of a major musical group, and establishing the career he would continue for the next fifty years.
Levy's client roster included many major artists, including Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Betty Carter, Roberta Flack, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Abbey Lincoln, Herbie Mann, Wes Montgomery, Carol Sloane, Joe Williams, and Nancy Wilson, as well as Arsenio Hall (the only comedian he has managed among some one hundred entertainers). In recognition of his achievements, Levy has received numerous awards, including induction into the International Jazz Hall of Fame (1997), receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Jazz Society (2002), and being named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master (2006). His autobiography, Men, Women, and Girl Singers: My Life as a Musician Turned Talent Manager, written with his wife Devra Hall, was published in 2001 and expanded into a photograph book, Strollin': A Jazz Life through John Levy's Personal Lens, released in 2008 on the occasion of his 96th birthday. Levy died in 2012 at the age of ninety-nine in Altadena, California.
Bobby Short Papers
Donated to the Archives Center in 2011 by Devra Hall Levy.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Collection consists of 128 albums featuring the music of Duke Ellington, spanning some 50 years of Ellington-based releases.
Scope and Contents:
The Felix Grant collection consists of commercially produced Duke Ellington phonograph recordings that were collected by Grant during his career as a premier disc jockey. The recordings are arranged alphabetically by title. In addition, there are miscellaneous newspaper clippings and correspondence, consisting of press releases, that were removed from some of the album sleeves, and book abstracts from books and dissertations about Ellington. This material is arranged alphabetically, and is located at the end of the collection. The record company label, catalog number, and release date are included in the container list. Many of the albums are promotional copies which Grant obtained at radio stations where he worked. Of special interest are "...and his mother called him Bill' and "Anatomy of a Murder", two albums that are considered to be among Ellington's best. Also of note are a Japanese pressing of "Ella at Duke's Place" and a 1986 pressing of "Money Jungle" that features tracks not on the original release, as well as a program order from an Army Blues salute to Ellington included in the second series.
The collection is arranged into one series, alphabetically.
Felix Grant (February 22, 1918-October 13, 1993), a renowned jazz disk jockey dubbed Washington, D.C.'s "Mr. Music" and recipient of the U.S. Navy Commendation Medal for his service during WWII, was born in New York and developed a deep passion for America's jazz as a young man listening to local radio broadcasts and visiting Manhattan's numerous jazz nightclubs. He attended LaSalle Academy and first worked for a New York advertising agency as a messenger. Near the end of the war Grant was transferred to Washington D.C.'s Coast Guard headquarters and in 1945 took an announcing job at WWDC-AM.
Grant eventually became a fixture of Washington, D.C. radio, working for such stations as WMAL-AM, WRC-AM, and WDCU-FM. During the 1950s and 60s his WMAL radio show called "The Album Sound" gained popularity in the D.C. area for its unique mix of jazz, blues, and Latin music. Grant's diverse play list helped him gain listeners from all different races long before the end of segregation in Washington, D.C. Native Washingtonian, Duke Ellington, was a particular favorite of Grant's and his music was often featured during Grant's shows. In 1953 Grant took a position at WMAL and in 1984 joined WDCU where he remained until his death. In January of 1996 the University of the District of Columbia opened the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives, a collection of audiotape and archival records documenting Felix Grant's life and career.
Collection donated by Mr. Felix Grant on April 9, 1991.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright restrictions. Contact staff for information.
The victory collection [sound recording] : the Smithsonian remembers when American went to war / compilation by the Smithsonian Institution Press ; produced in association with ... RCA Special Products