Blackmon Amphitheatre boasts many concerts at this time of year, but one Friday night will include an added dimension of remembering an acclaimed musician while helping young people pursue their own performing careers.
The venue on Spring Street in Mount Airy once again will host the Jimmy Lowry Tribute Concert, an annual event now in its 10th year. It is scheduled from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
It honors the memory of Lowry, who died unexpectedly in 2007 at age 63, and provides financial support for the Jimmy Lowry Memorial Scholarship Fund for Surry County students who excel in music, drama or visual arts.
The veteran musician from Mount Airy had been a member of groups including The King Bees, a locally based rock band. The guitarist/vocalist known as “Big Jim” Lowry also was with The O’Kaysions (known for the hit “I’m a Girl Watcher”), and appeared with it on the ABC-TV show “American Bandstand” in the early 1970s, hosted by Dick Clark.
In addition, Lowry performed with Donna Fargo — a country singer from Mount Airy who gained fame in the 1970s with her hit “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” — and was a member of Steve Jarrell and the Sons of the Beach. Later in his career, he headed The Jimmy Lowry Gang.
Though he is no longer here, a group of musicians, some who played with Lowry, get together each summer for the tribute concert in his honor.
“It’s kind of like a reunion,” said Jennie Lowry, Jimmy’s daughter, a musician herself who owns Olde Mill Music in downtown Mount Airy and helps organize the tribute concert. “I meet people I don’t know, but they know me” through her dad.
“It’s really special — people will tell me that The King Bees played at their prom,” Jennie Lowry said of those who remember him from his days at local venues.
Among those scheduled to appear Friday night are rhythm and blues singer Melva Houston and keyboardist John Rees, another Mount Airy native and Donna Fargo Band member who has played with numerous Nashville recording artists.
The list of performers also includes Craig Southern, Grayson Collins, Tommy Hill, Dale Riddle, Jonathan Jones (the band director of Mount Airy High School), Alan Nichols, Buddy Langley, Mike Corder, Tim Callaway, Tommy Nelson, Donald Galyean and George Smith.
Jennie Lowry also will lend her musical skills to the concert, performing with her mother Sylvia; husband, Rick Caudill; and their children, Rickie and James, and indicated that other “special guests” might sit in during the evening.
“We’ll be performing a lot of the music that we played with my dad,” she said of Friday’s ensemble-type event, which despite its billing as a memorial concert will not be melancholy — but a celebration of his legacy.
“It’s absolutely a fun event.”
The fact that proceeds from the concert supply scholarships for local students reflects Jimmy Lowry’s appreciation for education along with music, his daughter says. It aids students who are aspiring performers in seeking degrees.
This year’s Jimmy Lowry Scholarship recipients were Abigail Lambert, attending Surry Community College, and Will Nichols, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Jennie Lowry is proud that the concert series has been so successful it has allowed the scholarship to achieve endowment status. This means it is now a permanent fund in which the principal remains intact and invested at all times to provide continuous awards for students.
The daughter of the late musician is grateful to the Surry Arts Council for staging the concert each year and providing the use of its amphitheater. Lowry credits Tanya Jones, the arts group’s executive director, with conceiving the idea for the event to help keep Jimmy Lowry’s memory alive.
Jones pointed out Tuesday afternoon that the scholarship fund “easily” has exceeded $15,000 during the history of the concert series.
Admission to the tribute concert will cost $15, which also is accessible with a Surry Arts Council annual pass. Children 12 and under will be admitted free.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.