Mundell Lowe

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Mundell Lowe
Lowe in 2000
Lowe in 2000
Background information
Birth nameJames Mundell Lowe
Born(1922-04-21)April 21, 1922
Shady Grove, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 2, 2017(2017-12-02) (aged 95)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, conductor
Years active1946–2017
LabelsRCA Victor, Riverside, RCA Camden, Fresh Sound, Nagel-Heyer

James Mundell Lowe (April 21, 1922 – December 2, 2017) was an American jazz guitarist who worked often in radio, television, and film, and as a session musician.

He produced film and TV scores in the 1970s, such as the Billy Jack soundtrack and music for Starsky and Hutch, and worked with André Previn's Trio in the 1990s.

Early life, family and education[edit]

The son of a Baptist minister, Lowe grew up on a farm in Shady Grove, Smith County, Mississippi (near Laurel).[citation needed]

He started playing guitar when he was eight years old, with his father and sister acting as his first teachers.[citation needed]


When he was thirteen years old, he began running away from home to play in bands.[1][2][3] Occasionally his father would find him, bring him home, and warn him about the dangers of whiskey. At sixteen, Lowe worked in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry radio program.[1][4] He was a member of the Jan Savitt orchestra before serving in the military during World War II.[2]

At basic training, he became friends with John Hammond, who organized weekend jam sessions. He performed in an Army dance band while in Guadalcanal. After his discharge, he called Hammond, looking for work, and Hammond sent him to Ray McKinley.[1] He spent two years with McKinley's big band in New York City.[2] He joined the Benny Goodman orchestra, then worked intermittently for the next few years at Café Society and other clubs in New York.[1]

In 1950, he was hired by NBC as a staff musician.[2] He and Ed Shaughnessy were members of the Today Show band for over ten years. Lowe acted in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theatre television show that included Walter Matthau and live music by Doc Severinsen.[1]

On the weekends he played jazz, sometimes getting permission from NBC to leave for six-month periods. In the jazz world he played with Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, Red Norvo, Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, and Lester Young. He composed and arranged for NBC.[1][2] He was responsible for introducing pianist Bill Evans to record producer Orrin Keepnews, resulting in Evans's first recordings as a leader.[5]

In 1965 he moved to Los Angeles and worked for NBC as a staff guitarist, composer, and arranger.[6] He wrote music for the TV shows Hawaii Five-O, Starsky & Hutch, and The Wild Wild West, and the movies Satan in High Heels (1962), A Time for Killing (1967), Billy Jack (1971), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972), Sidewinder 1 (1977) and Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977).[4] He recorded with Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. During the 1980s, he worked with André Previn, Tete Montoliu, and the Great Guitars.[2] He was a teacher at the Guitar Institute of Technology and the Grove School of Music. For several years, he was music director of the Monterey Jazz Festival.[6]

During his career, he worked with Benny Carter, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Hodges, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Fats Navarro, Shirley Scott, Dinah Washington, and Ben Webster.[4] In the later decades of his life he collaborated often with flautist Holly Hoffmann. At the age of 93, he released the album Poor Butterfly.[citation needed]

Lowe was married to singer Betty Bennett, his third wife, for 42 years. In his last years, the couple lived in San Diego. He died on December 2, 2017, at the age of 95.[6]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Ruby Braff

  • Holiday in Braff (Bethlehem, 1955)
  • Easy Now (RCA Victor, 1959)
  • You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me (Stere-o-Craft, 1959)

With Chris Connor

  • Chris Connor Sings the George Gershwin Almanac of Song (Atlantic, 1957)
  • I Miss You So (Atlantic, 1957)
  • Chris Craft (Atlantic, 1958)
  • Witchcraft (Atlantic, 1959)
  • At the Village Gate (FM, 1963)

With Carmen McRae

With André Previn

With Felicia Sanders

  • That Certain Feeling (Decca, 1958)
  • I Wish You Love (Time, 1960)
  • Felicia Sanders (Time, 1964)

With Tony Scott

  • Both Sides of Tony Scott (RCA Victor, 1956)
  • The Touch of Tony Scott (RCA Victor, 1956)
  • Gypsy (Fresh Sound, 1987)

With others


  1. ^ a b c d e f Carlton, Jim (2009). Conversations with Great Jazz and Studio Guitarists. Pacific, Missouri: Bill's Music Shelf. pp. 240–259. ISBN 9780786651238.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Yanow, Scott (2013). The Great Jazz Guitarists. San Francisco: Backbeat. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-61713-023-6.
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Mundell Lowe". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Varga, George (1 December 2008). "Mundell Lowe: Man of Few Notes, Many Stories". Retrieved 23 November 2017.
  5. ^ Myers, Marc (14 January 2008). "Mundel Lowe Interview". Jazzwax.
  6. ^ a b c Varga, George (2 December 2017). "Mundell Lowe dead at 95. Guitar great played with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Everly Brothers and more". San Diego Union Tribune.

External links[edit]