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.
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.