William Forrest “Bill” Lowe of West Union, South Carolina, passed away on Sunday, April 28. He was aged 82.
Born at Hatfield, Pike County, Kentucky, on May 8, 1930, he grew up listening to old-time country music.
His uncle Grover taught him how to play clawhammer banjo while he learned to play flat-pick guitar from two friends Russell Farley and, later, Doc Watson. The Carter Family were also great influences on his music.
At the age of 16 Lowe started his first band called the Lonely Mountain Boys, which played hundreds of schoolhouse shows and on radio stations WLSI, WPKE, both in Pikeville, Kentucky, and WBTH, in Williamson, West Virginia.
After serving in the Marine Corps, he lived near Los Angeles, California, where he actively played and wrote both bluegrass and country music songs. While in California he teamed up with Joe Nixon and the Happy Hoedowners with whom he appeared on KXLA TV. Also, he befriended Roland and Clarence White, co-writing songs recorded by the Kentucky Colonels.
In the late 1950s Lowe’s recording of Foolish Heart (released by Sundown Records) made the lower reaches of the country music charts.
During his time in California he worked as a studio musician and opened shows for such greats as George Jones and Merle Haggard, but the highlight of his time there was when Bill Monroe offered him a job, a position that he had to turn down due to him having four children to raise.
In the mid-1970s, Lowe moved to Farmersville, Ohio, and became heavily involved with the thriving bluegrass community that called WYSO in Yellow Springs its home.
Lowe cut a great laid-back album on Ramblin’ Records (a subsidiary of Rounder) in 1976. He also recorded at least two albums on Vandalia’s Rose Records in the late 1970s as Bill Lowe and Cripple Creek, a band that he fronted for 25 years.
In 1987 he put together a joint project with Ron Thomason, released on Gordo Records.
For three years he was a DJ, playing bluegrass and old-time music once a week, at a radio station based at Antioch College, Yellow Springs Ohio.
In 2012 Lowe became the 179th member of the IBMM’s Bluegrass Music’s Pioneering Generation.
Ron Thomason remembers Lowe fondly ………………
“Bill Lowe was my friend. His music was not only from the true vine; he was one of the roots. His voice was earthy in the way of Doc Watson’s, Clint Howard’s and George Shuffler’s. His guitar approach was unique, but could be described as an amalgamation of Maybelle Carter’s, Riley Puckett’s and Roy Harvey’s.
He and I made a record several decades ago. We picked songs which had the bark left on them. Such songs had a deep emotional effect on Bill, and once he cried while we were singing.
I am honored to have been able to get him to perform at both Grey Fox and High Mountain Hay Fever, not for Bill’s benefit; but for the benefit of the folks at those festivals who would never otherwise have gotten to hear what the True Vine grows.”
Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday; May 1, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. from the Hatfield Funeral Chapel in Toler, Kentucky, with Elder Eddie Hatfield officiating. Burial will follow in the T.S. Lowe Cemetery in Hatfield, Kentucky.