Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Lowell George - 4.13.1945 - 6.29.79 "Two degrees in bebop, a PhD in swing..."

"He was born under a bad sign, the Hollywood sign," said his old friend and songwriting partner, Martin Kibbee in the liner notes to the posthumous tribute CD, "Rock and Roll Doctor: A tribute to Lowell George." Growing up in movie society (next door to Errol Flynn & a stone's throw from Grauman's Chinese Theatre) during Hollywood's glamor era, this son of a Beverly Hills furrier synthesized an incomparable mix of R&B, blues, country and funk into perhaps the most eclectic and technically proficient American rock sound ever as the founder, frontman and guiding visionary of Little Feat. From an early age, Lowell displayed a wide range of philosophical and musical interests. In between blasting around the Hollywood Hills in a battered Morgan sports car, he earned a black belt in traditional Okinawan karate, mastered the saxophone, harmonica, slide guitar, shakuhachi, (traditional Japanese instrument) and his virtuosity on classical flute can be studied at leisure on "Juliette" from Little Feat's 1973 album "Dixie Chicken". Following the obligatory apprenticeship with various L.A. garage bands, he formed The Factory, making a few demos produced by Frank Zappa, then had a brief alliance with proto punk band The Standells. He caught the eye of Frank Zappa again who enlisted him to play guitar and sing with The Mothers of Invention where he appears on "Weasels Ripped My Flesh". His predilection for dabbling with controlled substances didn't sit well with the notoriously straight-laced Zappa however, who fired him in 1969 and told him to start his own band. Little Feat was the result of that, and the recordings they made from 1970 to 1979 showcase an improbable combination of surreal lyrics, garage band blast, funkified New Orleans second-line rhythms and grooves of earth-moving proportions. Beginning with their second album, "Sailin Shoes" avant-garde artist Neon Park's delightful & disturbing album cover art completed the package. 1975's release, "The Last Record Album" however, seemed to portend George's gradual waning of his authority within Little Feat, as well as a reduction in his songwriting, as his contribution to that effort resulted in only three songs. "Time Loves A Hero", released in 1976, further evidenced his decline and the growing internal rift & artistic differences between keyboardist Billy Payne, guitarist Paul Barrere and George. His sole songwriting credit on that consisted of "Rocket In My Pocket". Despite George's health problems stemming from substance abuse, hepatitis & motorcycle crashes, Feat managed to release in 1978 their crowning achievement, (commercially, at least) "Waiting For Columbus" a magnificent live album with material taken from performances at London's Rainbow Theatre and Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C. In the summer of 1979 George embarked on a tour to promote his solo album "Thanks, I'll Eat It Here" and following a gig at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium was found dead in his motel room in suburban D.C. The Rock & Roll Doctor was dead at 34. Years of substance abuse, chain-smoking, obesity and just generally his hard-driving rock & roll lifestyle had taken their toll. He was cremated and his ashes scattered from the stern of his sailboat into the Pacific Ocean.

"The best singer, songwriter and guitar player I've ever heard, hands down"......Bonnie Raitt

A Tribute
Lowell's approach to slide guitar

Guitar Player Magazine Interview



  1. Great post! You’ll find the same in Sound Crank
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  2. Excellent stuff - my youngest son is called Rory Lowell and I saw Feat twice here in the UK with Lowell, and I've seen them twice more recently - including a great gig 2 months ago at The Sage in Gateshead. Nice work.

  3. Nice post William...Lowell is a personal favorite.

  4. The death of Lowell George was a big loss for the Rockabilly genre. There are not many artists like him in current music even in all the other genres. I had sold a disk that had found in the Internet but I have to Buy Viagra.