BILL LOWERY

Born Willam James Lowery, Jr., 21 October 1924, Leesburg, Louisiana
Died 8 June 2004, Atlanta, Georgia

Disc jockey / publisher / manager / label owner / producer.

Though he was born in Louisiana, Bill Lowery's name will always be associated with the city of Atlanta, Georgia, where he lived from 1946 until his death. More than anyone else, Lowery helped establish Atlanta as a musical presence.

Lowery started working as a disc jockey at age sixteen. In 1945 he was appointed station manager at WBEJ in Elizabethton, Tennessee, making him the youngest station manager in the nation at that time. The next year his Tennessee employer obtained a broadcast license for the Atlanta area and named Lowery the manager of a new station, WQXI. In 1948 Bill accepted an offer to work at WGST in Atlanta, where he continued his disc jockey work and hired out recording facilities to visiting A&R men, as there was no bona fide recording studio in Atlanta. It was here that Piano Red made his first recordings for RCA in 1950. By then Lowery was one of the top country music deejays in the USA.

Together with his associate Dennis "Boots" Woodall, Lowery started his own publishing company, the Lowery Music Company, in 1952. Colleagues had warned him that music companies outside of New York, Nashville, Los Angeles and Chicago had little chance of surviving, but Lowery proved them wrong. Early hit songs published by Lowery Music included a string of country hits for major labels, but the two Lowery Music songs that really put the company on the map were "Be Bop A Lula" (1956) and "Young Love" (1957), both recorded by Capitol artists, Gene Vincent and Sonny James. Over the next three decades, Lowery Music would grow to be one of the largest music publishing houses in the US before being sold to Sony in 1999. Bill Lowery was named the # 1 music publisher in the US for 1969 by BMI.

With the income from the publishing, Lowery tried his hand at producing, issuing some primitive singles on his Fox and Stars labels in 1956-57. In March 1958, Lowery launched the NRC (National Recording Corporation) label, with the help of a group of businessmen. The first NRC release, Paul Peek's "The Rock-A-Round"/"Sweet Skinny Jenny" (NRC 001) was still recorded at WGST, but soon stock sales allowed NRC to set up its own recording studio, pressing plant and record distributorship. The basic studio staff band included Joe South and Jerry Reed on guitar, Ray Stevens on piano, Jimmy Estes on bass fiddle and Nelson Rogers on drums. Reed and Stevens, both discovered by Lowery, would eventually become NRC artists themselves when their Capitol contract expired.

NRC-affiliated labels included Judd (owned by Sam Phillips's brother Jud), Scottie, Jax, Royalty and Wonder. The only national hits by the NRC group of labels were "Robbin' the Cradle" by Tony Bellus (NRC 023, # 25 in 1959) and "Rockin' Little Angel" by Ray Smith (Judd 1016, # 22 in 1960). But from 1958 until 27 April 1961, the studio was filled with future stars and wannabees, including a number of singers who would go on to have major country hits : Sonny James, Dave Dudley, David Houston and Johnny Sea. Tommy Roe recorded an early version of "Sheila" for Judd in 1960.

And then, on April 27, 1961, NRC was suddenly declared bankrupt. The company would re-emerge from bankruptcy in 1962, under the ownership of Frederick Storey, but Lowery (and also Woodall) had left the company, preferring to protect his publishing firm. Lowery maintained a studio for recording (after his old studio was destroyed by a fire), which is known today as Southern Tracks. Though NRC was history, Lowery continued to manage Ray Stevens and Joe South, who scored big hits in the 1960s and in the next decade he was still sufficiently motivated to establish the careers of Mac Davis, the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Alicia Bridges. Bill Lowery became "Mr Atlanta Music" and was the first inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1979. The second inductee was Ray Charles, who died two days after Lowery ...

Sources:
- NDT obituary by Stuart Colman (Now Dig This, issue 256, July 2004)
- The New Georgia Encyclopedia http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.com/nge/ArticlePrintable.jsp?id=h-1720
- Rob Finnis and Johnny Carter, Liner notes for the CD "The Rockin' South"
(Ace 1153, released 2007). Johnny Carter is the current owner of the NRC catalog. This CD includes 30 rocking tracks from the NRC group of labels and is recommended.

Dik

 
These pages were saved from "This Is My Story" for reference usage only. Please note that these pages were not originally published or written by BlackCat Rockabilly Europe. For comments or information please contact Dik de Heer at dik.de.heer@ziggo.nl

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