Rifftides reader Bob Walsh writes:
What ever happened to guitarist Mundell Lowe? I saw him often in the studio band of Merv Griffin in New York. I met him at Monterey when he was a fixture in backup groups. He later took over after Monterey impresario Jimmy Lyons’ s forced retirement. I recall that he was married to vocalist Betty Bradley, who vastly improved as a singer after she wed Mundell. As a very young man, he was a guitarist with the Sons of the Pioneers, along with Ohio-born Leonard Sly (later known as Roy Rogers). He fit into any setting but never seemed to have an identifiable style or “voice.” Reminds me that Marian McPartland was passed over many times for Monterey until John Lewis finally concluded she was no longer playing back others’ voices and had found what was distinctively her own.
The last I heard, Mundell Lowe, at eighty-four, was working as much as he cared to. I think the Betty you have in mind is Bennett, who was a terrific singer long before she met Lowe. They live in southern California. Earlier, she was married to Andre Previn and in the early fifties dated Paul Desmond (Take Five, pages 205 and 206). I didn’t know about Lowe’s being with the Sons of the Pioneers, but that doesn’t surprise me. Many fine jazz guitarists are from the Southwest or deep South—Lowe is from Mississippi—and many played country music, among them Jimmy Raney, Herb Ellis, Charlie Christian and Hank Garland, not to overlook the amazing Thumbs Carllile. As for the question of Lowe’s style and voice, he gets by on thorough musicianship, taste, intense swing and the undiluted admiration of his fellow musicians. All of his attributes, plus the lift of his rhythm guitar, are on this CD, a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Previn playing piano.
In case you are skeptical that there is a Thumbs Carllile, go here, scroll down and sample “Me and Memphis.”
Roy Rogers was a good singer, better than Gene Autry. I wish that I still had a 78 rpm record of him singing a song called, I think, “Moaning Low.” It seems to be missing from all of the Rogers CD reissues. Rogers recorded near misses like “Cleanin’ My Rifle (and Thinkin’ of You)” and lightweight novelties (“Gay Ranchero,” “Pistol Packin’ Mama). ” But “Everything Changes,” “Green Green Grass of Home,” “Blue Shadows on the Trail” and his skilled yodeling on “My Little Lady” compensate for a lot of dross. Country music today could use a stiff shot of Rogers’ unpretentious, straightforward approach. This album has generous samples of Rogers from all phases of his career.
Bill Crow says
Mundell did some nice playing on some of Carmen McRae’s studio albums.