If it needed to be summed up in a sentence, this year’s Jimmy Lowry Tribute Concert would be described as a lively and laugh-filled celebration of the life of a man who devoted himself to music and serving others.
The concert got under way Friday evening at Blackmon Ampitheatre and featured Beach Music Hall of Fame Artist and Mount Airy native Steve Jarrell of the Sons of the Beach, Mount Airy native and former Donna Fargo band member John Rees and blues great Melva Houston.
The performers were joined on stage by other musicians and friends of Lowry.
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand to dance the night away as Lowry’s wife Sylvia lent her considerable vocal talents to keep the feet moving on the dance floor.
One member of the crowd said she tries her best to make as many Lowry tribute concerts as possible.
“This is all because of the memory of Jimmy Lowry,” said Mount Airy native Susan Childress-Gilbreath, who was visiting from her home in Atlanta, Georgia. “When I heard it was for him I just felt like I had to come.”
Gilbreath smiled as she looked over the crowd, some dancing and others tapping their feet as Sylvia Lowry sang the classic “Summertime.”
“I feel like I’m stepping back in time every time I come here,” she said. “This is always going to be home.”
Houston blew the crowd away when she took the stage, urging them onto their feet and keeping them there with favorites like “Black Drawers.”
“Come on everybody,” she told the crowd. “Get on up. You’re not going to be sitting down for a little while.”
She was right.
Before she took the stage, Houston said events like Friday’s concert are important not only to his family and music lovers, but the community at large.
“I knew Jimmy well,” she said as she sat and munched on cheese and fruit. “This is an chance to keep a wonderful legacy going, and I’m honored to be able to give my time.”
Lowry was a career musician from Mount Airy who was a member of The King Bees and The O’Kaysions (known for the hit “I’m a Girl Watcher”). He appeared with The O’Kaysions on the ABC-TV show “American Bandstand” in the early 1970s, according to previous reports, and he performed with Fargo and Steve Jarrell and the Sons of the Beach.
However, that ended when the veteran musician died unexpectedly in 2007 at age 62.
After his death, those who had been close to Lowry wanted to keep his memory alive in a way that would give something back to a profession that meant so much to him.
Proceeds from the concert support the Jimmy Lowry Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships through the Surry Arts Council for students who excel in music, drama or visual arts.
Between songs and as the audience applauded in appreciation, Lowry’s wife Sylvia beamed as she looked over the crowd.
“Thank you for letting me sing,” she said over the applause.”
Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.