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George, Lowell (13 April 1945 – 29 June 1979)

Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter who started out playing the harmonica in concert with his brother on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, a contest that also featured a young Frank Zappa doing puppetry.  The meeting was more than serendipitous.

While in high school, Lowell learned to play the flute in marching band and orchestra.  At the age of eleven, he picked up a guitar, which would eventually become his signature instrument.  (He would ultimately play it slide-style after a bizarre accident involving a model airplane propeller.)  Ever musically curious, he also took on the saxophone and the sitar.

In 1965, Lowell co-founded The Factory, where he met Richie Hayward and re-united with school chum Martin Kibbee.  The Factory shut down and Lowell gravitated to The Standells in 1968, just in time for them to break up, then did a brief stint with Fraternity of Man.  In November of 1968, Frank Zappa hired him on to perform with The Mothers of Invention, a collaboration that lasted about seven months.

The turn of the decade saw the formation of Little Feat, which comprised Lowell, Mothers defector Roy Estrada, the aforementioned Richie Hayward, and keyboardist Bill Payne .  Little Feat recorded a string of successful albums in the seventies, including their eponymous debut, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, The Last Record Album, Sailin’ Shoes, Time Loves a Hero, and Waiting for Columbus.  After the release of this last album, Lowell split the band to work on a solo project, which manifested itself in 1979 as Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here.

Lowell was on tour in support of this album in the District of Columbia when he was found dead in at the Key Bridge Marriott in nearby Arlington, Virginia.  He had died of a massive coronary on 29th June 1979.  On 2nd August 1979, he was cremated, his remains flown to L.A. and scattered from his fishing boat to the four winds of the Pacific Ocean.  A scant two days later, a concert was held in his honour:  Guests included Jackson Browne, Nicolette Larson , Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda Ronstadt .  Browne immortalized Lowell George in song with 1980’s “Of Missing Persons”.

Lowell left behind an incredible recording legacy which included collaborations with Duane Allman, Blondie Chaplin , Delaney & Bonnie, Yvonne Elliman, The Grateful Dead, Etta James, Linda Lewis, Martin & Finley, Maria Muldaur, Harry Nilsson, Robert Palmer, John Sebastian, Carly Simon, Steppenwolf, James Taylor , Jimmy Webb, and Bill Wyman.  A commemorative CD, simply titled Rock-n-Roll Doctor – A Tribute to Lowell George, featuring Browne, Raitt, Lowell’s daughter Inara, Eddie Money, Randy Newman, and J.D. Souther, was released in 1997.

Here is with Little Feat singing “Willin'”…