Farewells: Lowell George (1945 - 1979)

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Lowell George

Lowell George
Lowell George
It was Lowell George's close friend Jackson Browne that once described the talented musician as the Orson Wells of rock. Sure, there were some physical similarities, particularly in regards to being overweight, but what Browne was trying to describe was George's unbelievable music ability wrapped in a larger-than-life personality.

Lowell George was the son of a wealthy Los Angeles furrier, and non other than Errol Flynn was the families next door neighbour. Mot would consider Lowell to have had a priviledged upbringing, living in one of the best area's of Los Angeles, and having the likes of W.C. Fields attend the home as a regular guest. Perhaps some of the humour was to rub off on Lowell, as it was his wonderful sence of comedy that so endeared him to his many friends and fans.

Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour



Lowell started off playing the harmonica, and he even made an appearance with his brother on a popular at the time US talent quest show "Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour". He sooned came to love jazz, and although underage he would often sneak into clubs to hear his idols play, musicians such as saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Roland Kirk.

Lowell himself was also becoming a fine musician in his own right, mastering the oboe and bartone saxophone - he even joined in on a Frank Sinatra recording session. A short lived attendance at College would see a young Lowell drop out to form his own rock band, the inspiration being his attendance at a Byrds' concert.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention



Knowing that wind instruments were hardly the makings for a rock band, he switched efortlessly to playing the guitar. He would team with quite a few Los Angeles bands, the most noteable being Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. It was Zappa who thought Lowell would be better suited to fronting his own band, aand he even suggested a suitable name - Little Feat.

The newly formed band quickly gained critical appraise, and a legion of adoring fans. An accomplished guitarist, most noteable for his unbelievably good slide guitar style, many were amazed at the depth and breadth of his vocal talent. The resulting albums Sailin' Shoes, Dixie chicken and Feats Don't Fail Me Now sold well, but it was by non-stop touring that the band were able to continue their growth and get their music heard by the masses.

Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead



But it was the constant touring that started to take its toll also, with friction building between band members and Lowell, some starting to resent his authority. He backed of a little, letting the group develop their next few albums without his guidance, himself concentrating on the production of albums for artists such as Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead. He also began work on a solo album, while continuing with his commitments with Little Feat.

Waiting for Columbus



In 1978 the double live album Waiting for Columbus finally managed to make it onto the radio station turntables, however the internal bickering did not abate, and the group disbanded shortly afterwards. Lowell's solo album Thanks I'll Eat It Here was released in March 1979, however many fans were disappointed that it featured more his singing talent than his fine guitar work.

Nevertheless Lowell put togther a new band and togther they toured as a means of promoting the album. It was during one such concert being played in Washington D.C. on the 29th June, 1979, that Lowell felt chest pains. He was rushed to hospital with wife Elizabeth at his side, however tragically was pronounced dead on arrival.
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