The ballad of Duke Levine

The kid never had a chance, or a choice of what he was going to do when he grew up.

Astronaut was out. President was out. As was doctor, teacher, accountant and everything else … except guitarist and performer.

Indeed, his guitar, talent and drive have taken Worcester-born Duke Levine on a long, successful career, from his start at city haunts such as Ralph’s Diner to tours and records with the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Peter Wolf and the Del Fuegos.

The youngest of five – brothers Buzz, Elliot and Rick and sister Rachael – Levine, now 56, was surrounded by music. Everyone had a guitar and was either in a band or between bands. And they all practiced with their bands or buddies in the basement of their house.

Rick was in the Prairie Oysters in the early 1970s with Walter Crockett, a longtime area artist in both music and writing. He and his late wife, Valerie, were staples of the Worcester music scene for decades.

“Rick is still in Worcester, and has a band called Cosmic Slim and His Intergalactic Plowboys. I sit in with them every once and a while,” Levine said. The band includes Bill Fisher on bass (from The Prairie Oysters), and Tim Bowles on pedal steel (from The Trailers), and they play around the Worcester area.

Rachael eventually formed a band called The Worst, a punk group  in the early 1980s, and Levine eventually played alongside her, too, for a brief time. She also remained in Worcester and performs music and comedy at the Friday Open Mic at John Henry’s Hammer Coffeehouse at the First Unitarian Church, 90 Main St.

Initial allure

At about 8 or 9, Levine said, he picked up his brother’s acoustic guitars that had open tuning and started picking, and he liked what he heard. “It sounded pretty cool and it made a nice sound without doing anything to it. So, how hard could it be?” he asked himself.

Audio Journal helps visually impaired ‘see’ the world

Sun Shine is an occasional series highlighting the good works of nonprofits, groups, colleges and individuals. If you know something or someone deserving of such a spotlight, email editor Fred Hurlbrink Jr. at hurlbrink@worcester.ma

Audio Journal is part of a statewide network of towns that carry the Talking Information Center (TIC), which started in Marshfield in 1977.

While TIC programming runs 24/7, Audio Journal provides broadcasts eight to nine hours per day from its studio at 799 West Boylston St.

“Some programs are pre-recorded, but most are live,” said director Vincent Lombardi, who has been at the helm since 1999. “We have two volunteer DJs interacting with each other. It’s fun for them to learn about how to run a radio station, and they also take calls from the listening audience. We train our volunteers on how to run the audio board, and that makes it more exciting than just reading.

Every morning readers broadcast the local obituaries, news, business, sports, commentary and advice columnists from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and other local papers: Worcester Magazine, Worcester Business Journal, Boston Globe; 30-plus community newspapers from throughout Central Mass.; and regional/national publications such as Yankee, New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, People and Time.

And then there is programming for specific audiences, such as live theater, children’s shows, senior issues, the book club, and much more. (Go to www.audiojournal.net  or call the station at 508-797-1177 for a complete list of daily shows.)

The station has about 150 volunteers who help out in various departments and tasks, and more are always welcome.

Good as Gold Coffee has an air of staying power

Cream, sugar … computer? Worcester’s Good as Good Coffee has a high-tech new take on making coffee precisely the way customers like and expect it. The company’s new Airis brand and heated air-driven process are all about replicating the roast — and keeping one of the city’s longstanding success stories steaming toward the future.

Joe's Albums

Joe’s Albums helps lead resurgence of vinyl and retail on Main Street

“Between size and proximity, I wanted to get more ‘central’ and larger. I had looked in the Canal District … then looked down here and saw all of the development going on and thought that was very intriguing. We’re still a few more years away from what’s going to happen, but I think Worcester is truly coming back this time.” Art Simas reports on the place where vinyl records and retail are making a comeback.

Meat and greet: Fairway Beef’s Sigel, customers share unbreakable bond

If one visits the establishment and concludes, “They certainly don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” that’s the best compliment anyone can offer, according to George Sigel, one of the four sons of Manny Sigel, who opened the store in 1946. Now 82, George is the front man. With the straw hat and big smile, you can’t miss him if you tried.

Good as Gold Coffee has an air of staying power

Good as Gold Coffee has been a staple of the Green Street neighborhood since Sid Goldman founded the company in 1969.

Lately, the family owned company now run by Dan Goldman with the help of wife, Patrice, and sons Michael and Jay is three years into a grueling adventure that is the art of “modern brewing.”

The project is an evolution in coffee-making, heating the beans and roasting them with carefully measured doses of heated air, controlled by a computer and new technology.

The Good as Gold family considers its new brand Airis to be coffee’s answer to craft beer.

“Over 99 percent of the coffee that is roasted today is done on drum roasters,” said Dan Goldman, owner and patriarch. “In roasting, it’s all about how you apply heat to the coffee bean.”

The daughter also rises: 50 years of family at Foley & Son Fish and Chips

“Basically everything is the same as it was in 1967. The fryolators, counter and back room are still in the same location. Of course, we’ve had some upgrades over the years but the layout is exactly the same as the original,” Patti Foley said. “I’m very fortunate and blessed that we keep going. I have a lot of regular customers. So without them, I’d never be here.”

Meet Worcester’s clinical trial pioneers

“If we can relieve pain differently, and get people away from opioids by understanding how other pain pathways can be impeded, that would make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Joe's Albums

Joe’s Albums helps lead resurgence of vinyl and retail on Main Street

Joe Demers, owner of Joe’s Albums at 317 Main St., has chosen to follow the adage generally attributed to Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

With apologies to Mr. Hendrix, if you want to be “Experienced,” head to the former WRTA headquarters near Mechanics Hall and enter the room of vinyl. Strike up a conversation with Joe and you, too, shall be immersed in the art of sound, texture and warmth, found in those long-lost scratchy treasures, now reborn as newfound friends.

Demers has been a big music fan since he received his first all-in-one “stereo” when he was 6 years old.

“For people who truly want to listen, vinyl is a high quality sound. I believe that people who listen to records are ‘active’ listeners, because you have to physically take it out, manually place it on the turntable, then take it off, too. You are much more attached to it. … It’s a tangible experience and I think that plays a big part.”

But kids grow up to be teens, life gets in the way and the “stereo” is shuttered away to a dark corner of the house.

“For about 20 years, I never listened to my records, which were stored in the basement. By that time, I was listening to music on CDs, iPods and MP3 players,” he said.

About eight years ago during the winter, he decided to revisit his dusty childhood friend and the amazingly still-preserved albums.

More Local Business Spotlights

Meat and greet: Fairway Beef’s Sigel, customers share unbreakable bond

Survivor Series is an occasional series highlighting Worcester businesses that have stood the test of time. Do you know of a long-running business with a unique story that fits the bill? Contact us at info@worcester.ma.

It’s got character — and characters — charisma and class.

It’s also a microcosm of the American Dream. A 7-year-old Russian immigrant comes to the United States, eventually lands in Worcester, and grows up to own his own business. And leaves a legacy of success to his four sons.

Seventy-one years later, Fairway Beef stands in the same place as a testament to hard work, community, endurance and pride — a success story built on hard work, integrity and low prices for consumers.

If one visits the establishment and concludes, “They certainly don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” that’s the best compliment anyone can offer, according to George Sigel, one of the four sons of Manny Sigel, that 7-year-old who arrived at Ellis Island.

Art Simas / For Worcester Sun

This big bovine will steer you in the right direction — if your’e looking for Fairway Beef.

Now 82, George is the front man. With the straw hat and big smile, you can’t miss him if you tried. His youngest brother, Jack, 66, also works at Fairway.