Alan Stowell performing recently in Florida, and as a younger man
This obituary is a contribution from C.P. Heaton, Alan’s regular pickin’ partner on guitar and banjo in the Gainesville clubs for many years.
Florida fiddler and guitarist Alan Stowell, 78, died on March 17 in Gainesville, FL. For sixty years, in groups or alone, he was a beloved and accomplished musician, performer, and instructor. His stage presence and personality were enjoyed and appreciated from Florida to New England, and from Europe to Japan.
In his teens, Alan began his musical journey in the Orlando-area coffee houses of the 1960s. He was self-taught and played by ear. His early inspiration to play the guitar was listening to Gamble Rogers in Orlando’s now-legendary Carrara Room. He was then drawn to the northeast where he became an integral part of the folk music scene, playing with musicians such as John Herald, Vassar Clements, David Bromberg, Frank Wakefield, Norman Blake, John Hartford, Don McLean, and others too numerous to list.
In the late 1970s, back in Orlando, Alan performed with musicians whose names are remembered fondly and with respect: banjoist Paul Champion (and his Florida Blue Grass Boys), Gamble Rogers, and Jim Ballew, among others. In addition to the clubs and festivals, Alan performed at Disneyworld, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and at Tokyo Disneyland. More recently he picked with John Rose and the Woods & Bridges bluegrass band out of Jacksonville.
More significant than a listing of venues and performers with whom he shared so many stages were Alan’s love for the music, and his willingness to share with individual students, fans, and audiences. He performed with the big names, but in the early 2000s he discovered his love for making music with the kids who came to Tim & Terry’s music club in Gainesville, wanting to listen and learn. He would stop performing, leave the stage, and go out to pick with the audience.
Alan was a sweet, humble, and lovable man. He made the lives of countless people—friends and strangers—more enjoyable and meaningful. After his passing, dozens who knew and remembered him shared their sorrow and memories on social media. In the words of the old song, Alan was “a jewel here on earth.”
Sarah Craig of the fabled Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, wrote:
“I send you condolences from the crew here at Lena’s. For many years we had a beautiful photo of Alan on the wall of the dressing room. He was with Frank Wakefield and some of the other Wildflowers at an event over at the train station in Saratoga. Young, hairy, handsome, wind blowing, surrounded by friends, making music. It’s hard to see that generation, with all its memories and big dreams, leaving the planet. But Alan and all left a piece of themselves behind at Caffe Lena, and we keep things going in that spirit as much as we possibly can in this crazy world.”
R.I.P., Alan Stowell