October 3, 2000
During Bobby's last days at the hospital, he was given 1-3 weeks to live. The reps from Hospice came in to inform him of their program and to move him to a Lincoln Hospice room for his final days. Not wanting to go out in that manner, he instructed his friends in The Tribesmen Motorcycle Club to literally assist him in an "escape" from the hospital. Finding a wheelchair in the hall, Bobby literally escaped from the hospital to the comfort of his mobile home in North Lincoln. He instructed the club to arrange for a final party at Cowboy Bob Davis' recording studio (Palace Records) on north 48th street (where he had recorded all of his tunes since 1998). I was honored to be invited and both play and produce some cuts at the party. Bobby's sister, who was here to see him from El Paso, Texas wanted to record several songs for Bobby. Although never in a recording studio before, she was wonderful, and allowed me to produce several songs Bobby wanted her to sing for him. Being quite a bit younger than Bobby, she apparently had performed several "folk songs" for him in the early 60's. We proceeded to cut "Puff-The Magic Dragon" and "Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore" with his sister on vocals. They came off well...and Bobby was pleased with the final cuts. Hopefully, Bob Davis was able to dub them to cassette for Bobby to listen to in his final days.
Bobby left the party after about 2 hours as he wasn't feeling well. His exit from the studio to the waiting car - was something you only see in movies. Barely able to walk, the club placed him in his wheel chair and wheeled him to the waiting vehicle. All of the 50+ people at the party, joined him for this final exit. As one member wailed some blues on his harmonica, the rest of the group began a slow clap in his honor. As the blues harmonica player followed Bobby to the car, the applause began to increase in meter, breaking into full applause when he reached the car. Cheers began with fists raised in the air by many. As he was seated in the front seat, a processional began paying their last respects by filing past the open front seat door. All said their goodbyes all knowing this would be the last time we would see our Warrior. This was a mixed crowd ranging from hard core bikers in The Tribesman to executives - all of whom knew Bobby well over the years. There were many tears, as we all filed back into the studio - and started a wild blues and rockabilly jam that lasted for hours. This is a scene I will never forget and couldn't have been scripted better if planned.
This seemed to be a carbon copy of a not widely publicised party thrown by great Nebraska native blues shouter, Wynonie Harris days before he passed away in Los Angeles, CA (around 1969). I was told of this final party by several present, including the great Johnny Otis and Preston Love, both legends in rock, blues and RB. Wynonie planned his final party, also quite ill with cancer at a lounge in LA. Not telling anyone the purpose, many attended, not having seen Wynonie for years. He too, passed away just days after the final jam. (Wynonie was the top RB singer mostly on the Black charts from about 1947 through 1957) mostly on King and Federal Records. Mostly known for "Good Rockin' Tonite" and other "Spicy - sexually based recordings". We inducted Wynonie into The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame in 1998, presenting his plaque to his children - 2 of which live in Omaha.
-Mike Semrad (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LOWELL FUNERAL WAS A FOND REMEMBERANCE
The funeral was exactly as it should have been and as Bobby wanted it. He lied in state at the Wyucka Cemetary Chapel - and we all gathered an hour before the funeral. At least 4 biker clubs were represented (at least 30 Harley's were present) - including The Tribesmen, The Viet Nam Veterans Biker Club and Hell's Angels. The service was non-Christian, with no minister present. Mike "Zeke" Sieck presided. After a few words from Zeke, they played the original version of his first hit "Umm Baby Baby" - followed by "Cadillac Man" (45 released in Belgium several years ago, on which I played guitar). Bobby's children spoke, Janice K (The Lady Elvis) spoke and I said a few words - including "if there's a rock and roll heaven - then you know they have a hell of a band - and a new lead singer." I stated "Bobby would have said - "Elvis who - Helloooow". At the closing - they played "I Miss You" (the flip of Cadillac Man" and Bobby's great - "Running from the Reaper" - his psych 45 from the 80's - which was an appropriate closing. The club stayed around the grave site - until the casket was lowered into the ground. We all then shoveled dirt onto the casket - and the bikers all threw in their ID Cards with messages written on them to Bobby. When the grave was covered with dirt - Zeke said "It's done --- Let's ride".
We followed the bike procession to The Silver Spoke, a downtown Biker bar. We had a jam consisting of: Dave Robel (Shithook and recorded with Bobby in the 80's and recently) and Roger Volk (Smoke Ring) on drums. I played guitar along with Jeff Travis (The Cruisers, The Coachmen, Professor Morrison's Lollipop), on bass we had Jack Hagerman (J. Harrison B. & The Modds), Bob Letheby (HOF Trustee) and Dave Wagner (Travis-Wagner Band). Sean Benjamin played keys. Vocals by Sean, me, Toni Bastian and Janice K (The Lady Elvis). Between songs we auctioned off Bobby Lowell CD's (played at the service), and HOF T-Shirts from Bobby's induction. With the door cover, selected checks from friends, and the auction, we were able to raise the $1500 they were short for his headstone. Bobby had paid for the plot and the VA came through for the burial. The jam lasted about 4 hours, then broke up when the scheduled band showed up at 9:00 PM. It was a classic day - fitting - proper - and just exactly what Bobby would have wanted.
-Mike Semrad ("Pinky")
Click to see:
Bobby Lowell Featured In "Goldmine" Magazine
Bobby pictured with Senator Bob Kerrey
Also see Bobby's PHOTO PAGE
BOBBY LOWELL: IN HIS OWN WORDS
I was born May 11, 1937, the day after Mothers' day. The war was just starting to get into full swing and my father joined the Army Air force as an officer. In 1943 he was shot down over Germany. At that time the government stopped all pay until they knew whether a person was either dead, or a prisoner. My dad was missing for 18 months which meant no check for mom during that time. After about 6 months with no money coming in, things were getting bad at home and to make it even worse mom got real sick, little brother Stan was just over 2 years old, and mom's mother, Grandma Dean was doing all the house work, taking care of all of us including mom,. and took on a night job scrubbing floors in a bank. Grandma was already in her late 40's which in those days was considered old - so at seven I, (already big for my age) went downtown in the late evenings to sell newspapers, on the streets and bar rooms of Lincoln, Nebraska.
In those days you had to hustle to sell papers as there were a lot of seven and eight year olds doing the same thing, however, most of them were black. I got along real good with them because the grade school I had started at was about half black students, and I had known most of them for a couple of years - back during the time, of World War II, when poor was poor and color didn't matter much because we were all in the same boat just trying to stay alive and hope for the best.
By the age of 8 years old, I had seen some of the black kids doing a ham bone slapping, harmonica playing song and dance on the streets at night and people would give them some spare change - I liked the spare change part and gave it a try, well the dance part didn't work at all as a matter of fact he made a fool of myself, but the singing worked. I did songs like "Paper Doll", "Buffalo Gal", "Sue City Sue", "Bye Bye Black Bird" and "Sonny Boy" and was taking home the change in 1943 and 1944. On my tenth birthday, my father's mother gave me a large, costly cromatic harmonica which I didn't like at all. I traded it at a local music store, Dietze Music House for a black uke. The four strings were tuned like four of the strings on the guitars the blacks were playing ham bone blues on using the small round ham bones as a slide.
I made it work by putting steal "E" strings on the bass uke and learned some Delta blues songs I could belt out on the streets at night. Now I was getting much more than just change dropped in the hat, and at least half of the tips were coming from black ladies, who thought this young white boy singing the blues was cute. By 1949 at the age of 12, I was already 6'1" and 198 pounds. In a single row button suit, black suede shoes and a "Mr. B" shirt I looked much older than my age. With my long hair combed in a "Pachuco duck tail", I landed a Wednesday and Sunday night gig singing R&B in a black key club called "The Railroad Man's Black Only Club" on North 9th in Lincoln, NE. During that time I worked and hung out at the club I met and learned from black musicians such as Little Walter, Mouth Brown, Count Davis and Charlie Bonds.
By 17 I had met Carl Perkins and Luther and they became good enough friends that when Carl was playing in Lincoln or Omaha, I was always invited to hang out with the band and always on the guest list. At age 18 in December of 1955, I was asked to do a few tunes on a T.V. special fund raiser for M.S. I joined with a country band called "Tex Lindamon's Band" and sang a few songs they asked me to do and in turn played a tune I wrote called "Um Baby Baby" that was the first time I combined country and R&B into a sound we now call Rockabilly.
LEFT: Bobby and his buddy Joe Ramirez (bunk mate).
RIGHT: Bobby makes "the big change" trying to dump that "Lincoln's Own Elvis,"
with a hair cut, back to singing R&B and blues.
May 11, 1988 - Taken at the Zoo Blues Bar on Bobby's 51st birthday. He thought that was going to be his last gig - and a lot of his friends with other bands showed up to jam with him "one more time!" Bobby is on stage with Chris Sieckes, a great harmonica player.
The M.S. Fund Raiser was a national TV fund raiser, featuring Ferlin Husky, Sonny James and other singers. This was a real break for me and when I sang my song "Um Baby Baby" the phone lights went nuts and I was asked to sing it four or five times before leaving the stage. As I walked off stage, a very heavy set man with long black wavy hair and a big smile grabbed my arm and said "Hi I'm Lee Ash Williams," I own Ash Williams recording studio. I don't have any money, and I'll bet you don't have much either, but I've got a recording studio and you have a song and a voice - let's do it. I said why not? As time went by, I learned Ash Williams was a real fine man and a true friend.
The studio turned out to be a kind of a shabby little place where Ash cranked out a living recording things for a "Back to the Bible Broadcast" and now and then for the University of Nebraska. I moved into the studio and formed a band "Bobby Lowell and the Rock-A-Boogie Boys in order to get the studio up to par we all had to work. We put the corrugated dividers in egg cases on the walls for sound. It took us weeks, but we came up with a studio about like the first Sun Recording Studio. The only pay we got was a lot of 15c hamburgers and a chance.
By May of 1956, the studio was ready. We put down the first tracks to "Um-Baby Baby" and the back side was "What You Do To Me". The lead guitar was 16 year old Jimmy Akin, Vern Boosinger on bass and Willie Vanover on drums and myself on rhythm. For the time, it was hot. Sample cuts were passed on to local stations. This got everybody worked up and we got enough financing for the first 100 45s to be cut and pressed. About 10 days after the master had been sent off for pressing, there was not much to do other than hang out at the studio. I became very bored and wanting a malt walked five doors down the street to Lincoln's biggest malt shop of the 50's, called "Smittys", I went in and sat at the long marble counter - and noted that there were advertising signs over the back bar. Right over all the ice cream containers was a large sign advertising ROTO-ROOTER PLUMBING SERVICE. I thought, Wow, what a sign to hang over the ice cream, let alone have in a malt shop. I said "Hey Smitty, why Roto? Smitty replied "because it goes round and round."
About that time a guy from the recording studio stuck his head in the door and said, "there is a guy on the phone from where they are pressing the records, they need a name for the label NOW." "There's also a guy from 'Back to the Bible Broadcast' in the office picking up some tapes who says if Ash uses his label name on your record, they will drop their account." "We need a name now," and I said "ROTO! We will call it ROTO." "Why Roto?" "Because it goes round and round." This was the birth of Nebraska's first rock label "ROTO" - not only a start for me, but a few years later it also became the starting place for "Box Car Willie" who says until he did his Roto release, was known by the name Marty Martin. Roto changed it all for him and gave him a boost and a fresh start.
By this time I was on a roll, my record just seemed to keep going. Roto had sold over 1,500 copies and was going for another 1,000 copies. "Um Baby, Baby" had reached #10 on the bill board charts and was still selling and the gigs were building up. Then a Lincoln newspaper compared me to Elvis and they started calling me Lincoln's own Elvis. I was more than a little bit upset, since I had spent most of my life working on my music, and now I was called an "Elvis wanna be", no way. In an attempt to stop the Lincoln's own Elvis thing, I changed my hair style, and clothes style, and went back to my roots and sang more Blues and R&B, but this time it was not the same. The black power movement was starting to get underway and the black support he once had was not there and the whites were not that much into R&B or the Blues at that time. Things were starting to lean more toward the Mod look. I decided to stop fighting it and volunteered for the draft.
After doing two years in the Army, I bought an old W.W. II Harley 45 motorcycle, and spent the next 22 years roaming around west Texas and Mexico. During that time I got married and fathered 5 children. in 1981, my mother passed away and my wife split, I got custody of four of my kids and came back to Lincoln. After three years back in Lincoln I was talked into singing again. Upon my return I had made some real good friends of a motorcycle club called The Tribesmen M.C. They were and still are true and loyal friends and supported me 100% on his return to music. I put out several songs on Roto 45's; "Ice Cold Heart," "Take Me Back," "Iron Pony", "It's Been So Long," "I'm So In Love With You," "I'm The Fool," a remake of "Um Baby Baby" and "Sixteen Chicks. Then after picking up 4 awards in 1986 I stopped again, then for the next 12 years, I didn't sing a note.
In mid August 1998, I received a letter from the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame saying I was to be inducted on August 29, 1998 at the "Nebraska Rocks Concert" held at the Royal Grove in Lincoln, NE. I performed two songs for the first time since 1986 backed by the Hall of Fame All Star Band. The songs were my first and Nebraska's first taste of Rockabilly and Rock and Roll - "Um Baby-Baby and "Sixteen Chicks." The performance was recorded on video and I sent a copy to my long time friend Mac Bouvrie who owns Mac Records in Belgium. Mac has been producing the best roots Rockabilly records in Europe since 1971. After viewing the video, Mac called me and we put a record deal together for Mac Records and what a deal it was. Mac wanted original songs recorded in mono using only 50s equipment and instruments. It had to be clean, clear, 100% Rockin' 50's music - and hay, he came to the right rocker because Rockabilly is my main love (next to Janice K that is).
It took me only a week or so to reform the Rock-A-Boogie Boys. I put my long time faithful friends Bo Rose on drums, Larry (cocktail Shorty) Boehmer on bass, Mike (Pinky) Semrad on rhythm/lead guitar trading leads with George Bryan on guitar/piano and the big boost came when my long time friend and soul brother, the original 1956 leader of the Rock-A-Boogie Boys, the legendary Jimmy Akin came to the studio and helped put it all together and played lead piano on "Cadillac Man" and "I'm Cryin,'" and we really rocked the studio. It was the best sounds we ever put down. These records will be available on Mac Records soon. Check us out- Bobby Lowell and the Rock-A-Boogie Boys LIVE - and we're Still Rockin'.
You can't talk about rock'n'roll in Nebraska without bringing up the name of Bobby Lowell.
Bobby was one of Nebraska's first true "Rockers", and his Roto recording of "Um-Baby", "Baby What You Want Me To Do" is considered by some as the first rock record in the Midwest. Bobby and his band, the Rock-A-Boogie Boys were a hot item and toured the Midwest extensively during the mid-50s. After a stint in the Army, Bobby moved to the southwest where he lived before returning to Lincoln in the early 80's. He continued to record with some of the area's best musicians and his recordings are till very much in demand today. Bobby is currently retired and living in Lincoln.
BOBBY LOWELL - Nebraska's First Rock & Roll Singer has announced the signing of a record deal with Mac Records from Belgium. Mac Records is a 20-year plus record label specializing in Rockabilly and Roots Rock records...all released on vinyl.
Bobby Lowell & The Rock-A-Boogie Boys on Lincoln, Nebraska's Roto Records released Nebraska's first rock records in 1955. The original Rock-A-Boogie Boys consisted of Bobby Lowell and Jim Akin. They were "Umm Baby Baby" and "Sixteen Chicks." These regional rock hits are highly sought after today by collectors throughout the world, especially in Europe, where Rockabilly never died. (Another early Roto Record performer was Marty Martin - now known as Branson, Missouri Star "Boxcar Willie").
After living in Mexico for many years, Lowell returned to Lincoln, NE in 1985 to release a series of 45's, an EP and an LP. They are listed below in his discography. Lowell was named The Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist by the Lincoln Star (NE) Newspaper in 1986 and was featured on the cover of their Focus Magazine. In 1988, he was named the Budweiser/Miller Beer Peoples Choice winner of the Best Variety Band (Bobby Lowell & Company) in Omaha, Nebraska's Fast Lane Magazine.
In 1998, Bobby Lowell was inducted into both The Nebraska Rock & Roll Hall and The International Rockabilly Hall of Fame on the Internet. After performing his hits "Umm Baby Baby" and "Sixteen Chicks" at The Nebraska Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concert held in Lincoln, NE...Lowell's career has been rejuvenated by signing with Mac Records who also claims Johnny Olenn and Joe Clay (who also recorded "Sixteen Chicks" on "The Rock-A-Boogie Boys" who will be going into the studio soon to recreate the 1950s rockabilly sounds still hot in Europe.
Called "The Dinosaur of Nebraska Rock & Roll," Lowell will again take his imposing 6'2", 300 lb. frame back into the studio and to the stages of the Midwest again. Stalking the stage with his shoulder length white hair and 12" beard, Lowell will "growl his way back into the roots of rock & roll." The rockin' soul of Bobby Lowell has been reborn, re-energized by the reckless spirit of adrenaline-charged rock & roll. Look out....here comes "Bobby Lowell & The Rock-A-Boogie Boys.<
AT ROTO RECORDS, May, 1956, less than 20 minutes after "Umm Baby Baby" (Nebraska's first rock record) was recorded. Bobby Lowell and Dick Ude, who wrote the words to "What You Do To Me" the flipside of "Umm Baby Baby," haming it up while listening to the playback of the master recording.
In the '80s ...Bobby was on the Billboard Charts with FOUR songs: "Ice Cold" - Pop Charts
"Iron Pony" - Hard Rock
"It's Been So Long" - R&B
"Take Me Back" - Country
BOBBY LOWELL DISCOGRAPHY:1955 - "Umm Baby Baby" - Roto Records (45 rpm)
1955 - "Sixteen Chicks" - Roto Records (45 rpm)
1985 - "Bobby Lowell & Company" - EP - Mighty Midwest Music (45 rpm), "Umm Baby" - "So In Love With You", "Sixteen Chicks", "I'm A Fool"
1985 - "Independence Day," "It's Been So Long" - (Bobby Lowell & Jay Fremont) (45 rpm) - Roto Records
1985 - "Be-Bop-A-Lula" - "Ice Cold Heart" - Bobby Lowell & Jay Fremont) (45 rpm) - Roto Records
1985 - "Iron Pony", "Take Me Back" - Mighty Midwest (45 rpm) - (bootleg version) 1985 - "Iron Pony", "Take Me Back" - Roto Records (45 rpm) - (original release - different backup musicians - same vocal track) 1985 - "Bobby Lowell - Then & Now (33 1/3 lp)
For additional information: You are welcome to contact
or write to:
2833 Torchlight Lane
Lincoln, NE 68521 (USA)
OR, contact the Nebraska Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Web Site (a subsidiary of The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Foundation): www.nebrocks.org
Mike "Pinky" Semrad
Advisor - Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Foundation
PO Box 228, Fremont, NE 68026-0228 (USA)
BOBBY LOWELL and MIKE SEMRAD receive their Nebraska Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Awards, August 29, 1998. The event was the Nebraska Rock Concert held at Royal Grove, NE. Speaker: Jim Casey from Nashville. Also present, but off-camera, was Jerry Phillips (Sun & Philips).
Visit the Janice K Site
God Bless You, Bobby! (Bob Timmers) - © Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®