Jon Levin: Dokkens Axe Warrior Wears Two Hats

By Andrew Catania

Jon Levin is the current guitarist for Dokken.  He was involved with music very early on in life.  He began playing piano at age 4, trumpet by age 7, and guitar at age 9.  Instead of having formal lessons, Levin played along with his favorite musicians including Randy Rhoads, Eric Clapton, and George Lynch.  He played in a club band called Devias at age 19 in the Long Island, New York area and then auditioned for and joined the German Band Warlock at age 22.  When the grunge scene took over in the early 1990s, Levin took a break from being a musician because he wasn’t interested in that type of music.  Levin went to Law School and moved to the West Coast to become an entertainment lawyer.  In his capacity as an entertainment lawyer, Levin has served as legal counsel, working with Jim Paidas of Paidas Management, on a myriad of licensing programs; some of which include Orange County Choppers, Dog the Bounty Hunter, American Hot Rod and Rockstalgia

In 1998, Levin got a call from Jeff Pilson, Dokken’s bassist, who asked him to play some solos on a demo.  He anticipated playing on a solo album for Pilson, but when he eventually arrived at the studio, Dokken in its entirety was there.  Levin played on a Dokken track called ‘Dancin’ known as ‘The Irish Song’, which originally was supposed to be included on the Erase the Slate album but was later included on the Long Way Home import instead.  However, Levin didn’t join the group full time until late 2003.  He’s praised by many hardcore Dokken fans for his George Lynch-influenced style of playing.

Throughout the late 80’s, Levin had built himself a solid career as a heavy metal guitarist, most notably with the German Band Warlock.  When Nirvana hit he saw the writing on the wall.  Levin graduated in 1996 and by 1997 had his own practice in Century City.  He used his old music contacts to build his client list, specializing in entertainment contract law, as well as the occasional divorce case because, well, rock stars get divorced a lot.

He still played guitar in his spare time, but his old music career was the furthest thing from his mind.  So far, in fact, that when one of his clients, a member of Dokken, invited him down to the studio to “play a few solos,” he showed up in a suit and tie. “I’d been in court that day, I think.”  Levin had assumed that he would be helping out his friend and clients solo project.  Instead, he was greeted at the studio door by one of his childhood idols, Don Dokken himself.

Growing up playing in bar bands on Long Island, Levin had studied the solos of Dokken’s original guitarist, George Lynch.  So despite his nerves and Dokken’s deliberately vague directions, he nailed the audition and was invited to perform with the band at a Fourth of July concert in Dallas just a few weeks later and it was a sold-out show.   There were 20,000 people in attendance.  Despite the success of that gig, Levin opted to go back to his law practice.  “I was getting my business going and I didn’t want to let that go,” he explains.

He’s been with the band ever since, enjoying the career resurgence they’ve had since their 2003 album, ‘Hell to Pay.’  Levin himself, who now co-writes most of the bands material, had a strong hand in shaping the record.  “I wanted us to do a Dokken-sounding record,” he explains; a concept Don Dokken was slow to commit to, but has since fully embraced.

Jon Levin playing guitar with Dokken

In addition, Jon Levin and Lynch Mob shared some moments together.  Lynch Mob released several albums, but the most popular will always be Wicked Sensation in 1990.  Dokken, on the other hand, had more releases and live albums, but neither was able to reach the popularity they had when they were together.  With that being said, in 1993, they gave it another try.  It was a disaster.  They also put out an album that Don claimed was completely controlled by Lynch and was an act to ruin the Dokken name.  Lynch claimed that Don refused to modernize his music this was an attempt to put the Dokken name to rest because the album ‘Shadow Life’ was terrible and poorly received.  In 1997, they broke up again when George walked out on a European Tour.

Both went their separate ways again and recorded materials that have done very little to the Heavy Metal landscape, but their names come up in a big way a couple of years ago when they decide to do a song together at Rocklahoma.  It went well, however, one song doesn’t make a band.  Jon Levin is a man wearing two caps, namely an incredible guitarist as well as a lawyer.

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