Even if you’ve never heard of Bill Lowery, I’d bet my money and yours you’ve heard his music.
For over 50 years, award-winning Bill Lowery Music published hundreds of songs, covering rock, country, pop, gospel, rhythm & blues, comedy, and more… selling millions, and millions of records.
“Mr. Bill” had the first music-publishing company in Georgia. It began in 1952. Later, he operated Southern Tracks Studio and the Southern Tracks Records label. Over the years, he was connected to artists such as Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal, Jerry Reed, The Tams, Ray Stevens, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Alicia Bridges, Dennis Yost and the Classics IV, BJ Thomas, Lynn Anderson and Joe South … just to name a few.
The Ed Sullivan Show
When I was a child and then, later, as a teen, I heard many Lowery hits on my transistor radio, 45s, albums, 8-track and cassette tapes. I saw his artists on the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand and other TV variety shows.
Little did I know that I’d get to hang with such greatness. My experiences with this legendary family are because of a longtime friendship with Butch Lowery … Bill and his wife Billie’s only son.
Over the last 45 years, we’ve been to concerts together, enjoyed countless lunches and dinners and played many racquetball matches in the ‘80s. Butch taught me darts at the Rusty Nail on Buford Highway. We’re still in close contact today. It’s certainly nice to be writing about a close friend who is still alive. We don’t often get to do that.
The annual Lowery Music BBQ event was like a family reunion. You never knew who you’d see there: friends from the radio and music industry; the Lowery family and staff; recording stars, athletes and people from all over the region.
Mr. Bill was, of course, the ultimate host. One year at the party I was having a beverage, and chatting with a gentleman, and realized it was Billy Joe Royal. Ray Stevens came walking by. The party was held outdoors in the parking lot of the Lowery Music offices on Clairmont Road. There would be a huge tent with seating. Great Q and beverages. Live entertainment from a Lowery artist. A lot of old friends hugging and high-fiving.
A couple of quick stories
Mike Clark was one of the main engineers at Southern Tracks and was quite secretive on who was recording in “his” studio. One particular year, Butch was leaving the office and saw some gentlemen shooting hoops at a basketball goal in the parking lot of the studio. He greeted them and asked who they’d been working with. They replied, “Bruce.”
Butch asks, “Bruce who?”
With “duh” expressions on their faces they answered, “Springsteen!”
Of course Butch was surprised, and pleased that one of the biggest superstars in the country was in their studios making music.
Mike was a man of few words, and it took a lot to impress him. He’d played with and recorded with many big stars in his time and was a “star” himself. He told me one evening he walked into a common area of the studio, and there was Bruce writing a song on a legal pad. He stopped, paused, and thought, “that’s pretty cool…Bruce Springsteen is writing a song on my sofa in my room…how ‘bout that.”
Unfortunately, Bruce never showed up at any of the picnics.
If you travel Clairmont Road these, you’ll see the Bill Lowery Parkway sign. I was traveling by the studio one day, and a Lowery song came on the radio. I called Butch to say, “I’m on Billy Lowery Parkway, in front of your office listening to a Lowery record…how cool is this?”
It just so happened that his mother was in the car with him. What were the odds of that happening? Definitely a Lowery Music moment. It was the last time I spoke with Miss Billie.
Gifts of music
Great people with great souls who gave Georgia, America, and the world great songs and music that has endured the test of time, and will continue to do so.
BJ Thomas died from lung cancer while I was working on this article. He was 78…not ancient, but no spring chicken.
It’s a reminder that these greats in every genre are aging out but their songs will be here and musical memories passed along the way to fit in that golden oldies/classic songs category. Quite a few are “still kickin’,” but not performing. I was in an establishment in Athens recently and heard an Atlanta Rhythm Section song, and it made me smile.
Do a little research on Lowery Music. You’ll be quite impressed. I’m going to go call Butch.