Mistaken Identities

Musicians travel to so many unusual places and meet so many people. Lots of times people who we don’t know come up to us and say that they saw us play somewhere we don’t remember playing. When this happens, usually I smile politely and say “Thank you- glad you enjoyed it”, and wonder if it was me that they heard.

Howard Levy is a common name, but I started to wonder what was going on when people who weren’t drunk came up to me in Chicago clubs to tell me that they had heard me play with Sonny Stitt on the South Side in the ’60’s (when I was still in high school in New York). One guy looked at me and said, “Man, you look about the same as you did then.”

I couldn’t figure it out until someone finally told me that there had been a Howard Levy who looked like me, lived in Hyde Park in the 60’s, and was a jazz pianist.

There was another Howard Levy who was a conga player from New York living in Chicago in the 70’s. He was about my age, played concerts with a popular singer named Frannie Golde, and when his name appeared in the paper, I always got confused calls from friends. We even got each other’s checks form the Union by mistake a few times.

There is an older musician in Chicago named Harvey Levy whose name people have confused with mine. I got a phone call one Sunday morning about 10 years ago from an irate trombone player demanding to know where the gig was. “What are you talking about?” I asked sleepily from my bed.

“Don’t mess with me, man”, the guy said. “You know, the gig on the boat.”

I started to wake up in a hurry. Something occured to me, and I asked what type of music he was supposed to play.

“Dixieland”, was the answer.

“You want

Levy the tuba player, not me”, I said. The trombone player (whose name I don’t remember) realized his mistake, called Harvey, and (I assume) made it to the gig.

Just a few weeks ago, I received a picture from a Chicago Musician’s Union officer of Harvey (white-haired and at least in his 60’s) and another older musician taken at a Musician’s Union party. It was addressed to Howard Levy and came with a note to me saying how nice it was to see me at the party.

And then there is Charlie Garcia. He’s a huge rock star in Argentina, and looks a lot like the way I looked with my old glasses. I had met several Argentinians who said that we look like twins. On my last trip to Brasil, I happened to catch a show about him on Argentinian TV, and he really does look like me. Look him up on the web and you’ll see.

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