Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Lowry, Steve (Steven Michael)
"Mom would bring me up to the counter of the local pharmacy and butcher shop to sing my a capella tunes to the housewives shopping there. I was only 4 years old. I would sit for hours in front of the Majestic phono/radio and gather in all the great jazz sounds flowing forth. I was enthralled with the trumpet. My plastic Emenee was the first, followed by the Olds cornet provided by the music program at Stockton School in East Orange, my actual hometown. I outlasted the majority of students throughout the school year and garnered the " best new student" award in the spring. I never lost my love for singing though, and even began writing songs for performance that same year. I was 11."
"East Orange High School was a remarkable place for music, with many young talents around school and in the community. Dionne Warwick was often in programs at school, and so I was joined with her in performances. Betty Carter lived one block over on 17th street, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk had the Vibration Society as well. Billy Brooks played drums and pianist Albert Prince really inspired me to grow further. Money being tight in the family, I was left no choice but to enter the state teachers college in Montclair. The first year was tolerable, but the second found me in trouble with the administration and it's policies regarding jazz music on campus. Push came to shove, and I left before the decision to remove me from the program became their option as a result of my challenging behavior. The Viet Nam war was heating up, and I found myself caught up in the draft. I opted for enlistment in the Army band, and passed my audition at Fort Monmouth N.J. After basic training and six months at the Naval School of Music, I was sent to join the 291st U. S Army band in Fort Benning. The" 291" was formerly an all black unit sent down from it's original home in Fort Jackson S.C. Ron Tooley, Emmet Simmons, Clarence Houston (of the Philadelphia brothers) and others made things inspiring for a bit, but the routine and monotony of military life eroded any gains from even this amount of creativity. The "TQ" was formed with Glen Ingram, Marty Smith, Rick Thompson and Tom "Thumper" Lund. The five of us played often around the post, in town, and even in places in Birmingham and Atlanta."
"Columbus, Georgia relied on the musicians in the two Army bands to support shows and national acts that came to town. The Ice Capades and the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus were two of those I gained experience with as well as shows in Atlanta with Marilyn Maye and Marilyn Michaels. One by one we departed from our military experience and headed to our futures. In my final year I married a local woman. We agreed that she would work to support me in completing my education in music. She went ahead to Boston to locate an apartment near Berklee School of Music, and I followed within a week. I earlier thought to enter the University of Georgia to study sociology, but a letter to a close friend mentioning this brought a strong rebuke and I realized that music was my love and my choice. Larry Pyatt, that friend, went on to become a major player as a lead trumpet with Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton (Gates) among many others. I was thrilled to perform with fellow students Neil Stubenhaus, Steve Smith, JR Robinson, Vinnie Caliuta, Abraham Laboriel, "tiger" Okoshi, Claudio Roditi, Joe Giorgianni, George Garzone, John Novello, and many others from 1970-73. I graduated with a degree in composition in the very first class of the new Berklee College of Music. I was offered a teaching position and took on classes in the Boylston street and new Massachusetts Avenue facilities in the fall of '73."
"After three years of experience I felt it was time to do some more work on my playing and singing. I worked with a local club group for a time, and then met the Gringos. They were a seven-piece group enlisting three horns. The trombone player decided to call it quits, so I joined on. During my years as a student and teacher at Berklee, I played with and in support of Motown groups the Temptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Freda Payne and others. Earl van Dyke and "Pistol" Allen supported these acts on piano and drums respectively. Latter I worked with Martha Reeves, The Four Tops, Ben E. King, Dick Clark and rock/r&b classics the Coasters, Freddie Cannon and once again Anthony and the original Imperials. Gigs with a group known as Park Street Under in my first year at Berklee included The Guess who, Johnny Winter, J Geils, Canned Heat and comedians Marty Allen and Martin Mull."
"After a comfortable Christmas season on Cape Cod the Gringos headed on the road West. We played Tulsa, Phoenix, Tucson, L.A. and showcased for a record deal. We signed with United Artists under Snuff Garrett. He assigned his producer, a very young Steve Dorff to arrange the music for the first of five scheduled releases. Snuff was a close friend and partner of Leon Russell before they parted ways over an ownership dispute of a Hollywood building. It was ironic that Leon's producer would find us at the Tennesee Gin and Cotton company lounge gig in Tarzana and employ our horn section for a new artist, Gary Ogan, under Leon. We recorded several songs on the Paradise label at Leon's home prior to the building of his new studio. Plas Johnson and John Guerin also were on this release of music by Gary Ogan. After Snuff became involved with the music for Clint Eastwood's "Every Which Way But Loose," he didn't have time to oversee the Gringos's music and they couldn't find another record label. We floundered for awhile in California and Arizona, but the wind had left the sails."
"I left for Boston and a final year at Berklee on a contract vacated by Tom Warrington, who rejoined Buddy Rich. There was, however, unrest among the faculty and the administration at this time, and salaries were quite low in contrast with the cost of living in Beantown. I landed back in L.A. in April of '79. My first marriage ended after two years while I finished out my years at Berklee. On my own, I struggled at first, but steady progress led me to a successful decade in the "City of Angels". A wedding date at the Castaways in the valley paired me with Tommy Peterson on tenor. This was my first gig in L.A. Perhaps an omen toward the future as was my first date in Boston with Jan Hammer on piano. I established "Top Shelf Entertainment" as a vehicle with which to provide work and contacts with many in the industry. Many of those from Berklee were also building on their success in the industry. I played in numerous venues like Nucleus Nuance where Joe Sample, Herbie Hancock, Joe Farrell, and a host of artists plied their trade in jazz. I played with young lions Mark Massey, Jerry Watts, Wally Minko, among many others. The experience of working on the film "Welcome Home Roxy Charmichael" with producer Penny Finkleman Cox and director Jim Abrams, along with stars Winona Ryder and Jeff Daniels was invaluable. L.A. was intense, especially in the mid 80's as the drug scene was growing more violent each new day. Venice, my home for nearly eight years was heating up crime-wise along with every other community."
"When asbestos removal forced me to take a two-week break from "Windows On Hollywood", I took a much needed vacation to visit Tom Lund (my army buddy) on the Island of Maui. Four months later it became my home for the next seven years. I performed on all the islands and headlined on Fridays at Blackies Bar in Lahaina with Brian Como, John Zangrando, Paul Marchetti, Marcus Johnson and Llyod Grace. Players from L.A. often joined us such as Bill Perkins, Howard Roberts, Emil Richards, Don Lanphere, and others. The lifestyle was idyillic but expensive as well. I went back to teaching. Aside from the students at Maui High School I earned a salary at the Maui Bulletin as the entertainment editor and sales representative. Blackies went under, and the shows and corporate parties dropped off. One of the larger agencies in Honolulu contacted me to fly to Hong Kong for a show there. I was inspired again to seek new venues."
"On the main road in Pa'ia was a new restaurant. I ventured into Bangkok Cuisine and the path to the future. Mangkorn, who owned and managed the place, became my confidant. He urged me start fresh in Thailand which was booming at that time. One last recording project to finance the move, and I was on my way back to Asia. I have performed in theatres, halls, hotels, clubs, and numerous recording sessions as well. My voice can be heard daily on the "Green Wave" 106.5 FM. After the first two years in this land the economy collapsed and the rest of Asia followed in it's wake. I cut short my teaching position at Mahidol University and headed to the states with my second wife."
"With little money and a broken marriage once again, I decided on Las Vegas as a means to earn enough to rid myself of this place and to return to the "Land of Smile". A phone call from my brother informed me of my mother's serious condition in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey. I had just completed a one-year teaching contract at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and was working almost nightly with David Booker and the Swingtet in Denver, Boulder and the mountain resorts of Vail, Aspen, and Beaver Creek. I took time off to rush to my mother's side knowing it was critical that I was there to assist my brother. His mental state had become very poor over the years. He had spent his entire life at home and was now 68. Mom passed away within two weeks, and I began planning for the move to Nevada with my brother in tow. In October a call came from Beijing with a job offer. In the week prior to my leaving for Thailand, I received a call from Beijing that the gig was off. I was on my way back to Bangkok. Since returning in December of '99 I have taught at the International School Bangkok, MIFA Academy, and Silpakorn University. I have had the privilege of playing with Poncho Sanchez, Maynard Ferguson, the Dirty Dozen Jazz band, Plas Johnson,Urbie Green, and numerous L.A. jazz celebrities at the Thailand Cultural Center in honor of his Majesty the King of Thailand. Now, I am very happily remarried to Vondao Lowry of Korat, Thailand, and have just purchased a new home and auto."
Radio broadcasts: He was the program director, and on-air host of " Jazz for a night in the Tropics"; a nightly broadcast on KPOA, Lahaina, Maui, U.S.A.
Steven M. Lowry
(661) 820-8754 / (01) 820-8754 in Thailand