Lowell George

From Academic Kids

Lowell George (April 13, 1945 - June 29, 1979) was an American musician, singer and guitarist, with the pop rock and roll group Little Feat and as a solo artist. His first instrument was the harmonica: he appeared on a television talent show performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. At North Hollywood High School (Little Feat member Paul Barrere was a school-mate) Lowell took up the flute in the marching band and school orchestra. He started to play guitar at age 11, and as well as harmonica and flute, and would also learn to play the saxophone and sitar.

He is best known and remembered for his outstanding ability on the slide guitar. Although he experimented earlier with playing with a slide, an injury to his hand involving a model aeroplane propeller during the recording of Little Feat's first album prompted him to pursue the style. Rather than the traditional glass or steel slide, George employed a Sears & Roebuck 11/16ths spark-plug socket wrench. Although not the first - since 1965 Ry Cooder had been playing slide live and on albums - George was certainly amongst the pioneers of the use of slide guitar in rock music. Both Cooder and George are cited by The Rolling Stones as major influences on the sound of their Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed albums.

George's first band, The Factory, formed in 1965. Members included future Little Feat drummer Ritchie Hayward, and Martin Kibbee (a.k.a. Fred Martin) who would later co-write several Little Feat standards, including "Dixie Chicken" and "Rock & Roll Doctor". Frank Zappa produced two tracks for The Factory.

Following the demise of The Factory, George briefly joined established hit band The Standells, although by this time (1968) they were past their prime, and soon to split. There followed a few months in late 1968 / early 1969 where George was a member of Zappa's band, the Mothers of Invention. According to George's recollection, he was kicked out of Zappa's group after proposing the song "Willin'," ostensibly because it was about drugs. (The song about a truck driver contains references to drug and alcohol use.) "Willin'" and "Dixie Chicken" are his most well known and frequently recorded songs.

Little Feat enjoyed popularity throughout the 1970s, releasing a series of highly regarded studio albums: Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don't Fail Me Now, The Last Record Album, and Time Loves a Hero. The group's 1978 live album Waiting For Columbus, hailed by some as one of the best live recordings of all time, became their best-selling release.

In 1979, George released a solo album Thanks I'll Eat It Here

On June 15, 1979 he began a tour in support of the album. After playing what was reported to be a successful show, on 28th July at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington D.C., George returned to the Marriott Twin Bridges hotel in Arlington, Virginia. After falling ill in his room, Lowell George died in hospital on July 29, 1979. Although George was a long time drug user, the policeman who attended the scene found no evidence of drug paraphernalia, or of drugs having been removed from the scene. Overweight and a habitual heavy smoker, George's hard-working rock and roll lifestyle had apparently took its toll. An autopsy showed that he died of a massive heart attack. Lowell George's body was cremated in Washington D.C. on August 2. His ashes were flown back to Los Angeles, where they were scattered in the Pacific Ocean from his fishing boat.

Jackson Browne memorialized George in his 1980 song "Of Missing Persons".

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