Rick Levy Remembered as “Quiet Genius”

Colleagues share memories of an engineer and friend who did “what must be done”
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Longtime broadcast engineer Rick Levy, co-founder of Broadcast Signal Lab, died in August at the age of 81.

A Boston Globe obituary (https://tinyurl.com/ybv7zrxd) called him a friend of the broadcast community. SCMS Northeast Regional Sales Manager Jim Peck said Levy was “a consultant, designer and quiet genius for decades in the greater Boston/New England area.”

Rick Levy, Lew Collins and John Bisset (from left) in 2006 at one of the quarterly engineers’ lunches Levy organized.

Rick Levy, Lew Collins and John Bisset (from left) in 2006 at one of the quarterly engineers’ lunches Levy organized.

We share remembrances from some of his friends and colleagues.

Richard J. Levy was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1937 and moved to Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard College in 1953. He studied astronomy, was a Westinghouse Science Scholar and graduated in 1958, but remained in the greater Boston area, according to a biography provided at his funeral.

Grady Moates, owner of Loud and Clean Broadcast Science and director of engineering for WUMB(FM), spoke at the funeral service. Moates said he and Levy “met” in 1980 — via “a file drawer full of monthly frequency measurement reports,” all signed by Levy and all meticulous.

He and Levy became further acquainted when Moates worked on the tower site for WDLW(AM), and he discovered “solid-state tower light flashers at each tower,” all handmade by Levy, along with a diagram. Moates says the flashers stood the test of time; two decades later, they were still working when the station moved to a new tower site.

“Designing custom equipment that lasted forever, and saved stations lots of money, kicked my respect for Rick up yet another notch,” Moates said.

Moseley Broadcast Broadcast Sales Manager Bill Gould said that, while working for Northeast Broadcast Lab in 1977, he was “contracted to build studios at WLYN in Lynn, Mass., where Rick was chief engineer.” Gould remembers Levy as curious and involved during the process. “Every time I looked up from inside the console, there was Rick’s inquisitive face, inches away. So we sent him for parts — one value at a time,” he joked.

BROADCAST SIGNAL LAB

The funeral pamphlet noted that Levy co-founded Broadcast Signal Lab in 1982 with David Maxson because he “saw the difficulty a station can create for others by stepping over its assigned frequency boundaries and realized that those stations risk FCC problems, as well as reputation problems.”

BSL offers services for AM, FM and television stations, and according to the pamphlet, Levy offered “regular signal measurement to give [broadcasters] peace of mind as well as the freedom from FCC action.”

He and Maxson eventually parted ways, and Dave Peabody joined Levy at BSL, and they “spent hours keeping up with technology to ensure their instrumentation is the best in class to vanquish competitors and keep their clients’ confidence that their stations are operating as accurately as possible,” according to the short biography.

Bill Gould writes, “Here is one of my favorite pictures of Rick Levy, center, taken at FIM Day outside the Marriott Newton/Boston after the Boston Radio Engineers Luncheon Nov. 10, 2011. Engineers were encouraged that day to bring their field intensity meters for an informal comparison calibration. As you can imagine, the bellman was quite curious, so we told him it was air pollution monitoring. Also pictured are Rob Landry, Carol and Lew Collins and Ed Perry.”

Bill Gould writes, “Here is one of my favorite pictures of Rick Levy, center, taken at FIM Day outside the Marriott Newton/Boston after the Boston Radio Engineers Luncheon Nov. 10, 2011. Engineers were encouraged that day to bring their field intensity meters for an informal comparison calibration. As you can imagine, the bellman was quite curious, so we told him it was air pollution monitoring. Also pictured are Rob Landry, Carol and Lew Collins and Ed Perry.”

“Rick was your best friend when you needed to make sure your signal was legal and robust,” Moates said. “Rick was a very smart engineer. His understanding of the minutiae of radio signals and how to measure and adjust them is legendary.”

Levy shared his knowledge with Radio World readers through Workbench tips numerous times throughout the years.

Additionally, he knew and valued the camaraderie of fellow broadcast engineers, so through BSL, Levy organized quarterly luncheons that brought together the technically minded to share “latest experiences, concerns, war stories, advice and data for informal discussion, sympathetic sharing, commiseration and shoptalk,” according to Gould.

Moates said, “His focus was not only on precision engineering through services provided by Broadcast Signal Lab, but also on building community.

“The Boston area radio engineering community has become legendary for the cooperative, friendly group that we have become, and it is largely due to the BSL quarterly Radio Engineering Luncheons that Rick continued for more than a decade.”

MORE THAN AN ENGINEER

The funeral highlighted not only Levy’s love of his work but his interest in astronomy, Gilbert & Sullivan, distance running, Judaism, jokes and more.

Moates says Levy was “a golden-eared audiophile, with a collection of top-notch high-fidelity equipment. Having Rick tell you your radio station sounded good was high praise indeed, and he was always helpful when he noticed something amiss in a station’s sound, giving us a friendly heads-up.”

Moates said the Brother Sun song “What Must Be Done” by Greg Greenway reminds him of his friend:

Some people do what must be done.
They see the hole in the fabric that must be sewn.
They see the way blockaded and they roll back the stone.
They see the day beyond the horizon
and they do what must be done.

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