Celebrating Senior Musicians of Santa Cruz County, CA



Robert Lowery


Photo by Jane Hancock

Robert Lowery, 2003







Robert Lowery
Blues Guitarist and Singer

Born in Shula, Arkansas, in 1931, Robert Lowery grew up in nearby El Dorado, close to the Arkansas-Louisiana border. He and his eight brothers and sisters worked on a farm raising cotton, corn, peas, potatoes, and other crops. He first heard music as a young boy lying in bed at night listening to his parents' weekend parties. By age 17 he was playing guitar, learning a bit from his uncle and neighbors. He'd also go into town to pick up whatever he could: "Every time I see someone with a guitar walking down the street I'd chase him down," recalls Bob.

Robert Lowery, 1970s

As a young man Robert moved to Oakland to find work, and he settled in Santa Cruz in 1957. He was a sideman for Big Mama Thornton when she played the Beachcomber club on Beach Street in the early 60s. The list of local clubs and coffeehouses he's played since then is long: the Catalyst, Poet and Patriot, Moe's Alley, Zelda's, Miramar, Ideal Bar and Grill, Emi, Gabriela's, Rosie McCann's, Red Room, and Cafe Pergolesi, just to name a few. His most colorful memories are of playing for hippies at the old Club Zayante: "It was like some old shack...when they started dancing in there, you could hardly walk, the whole building would be shaking!"

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

Robert has played frequently at UC Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Blues Festival, KPIG Fat Fry, Monterey Blues Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, and at clubs throughout the Bay area. He opened for B.B. King when he played the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

Bob Lowery and Virgil Thrasher at Lulu Carpenter's

In the last several years, Robert's reputation as an authentic country bluesman has taken him far beyond California. He's played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Philadelphia Blues Festival, Eureka Springs Festival back in Arkansas, the San Remo Blues Festival in Italy and the Northsea Jazz festival in the Netherlands, among other prestigious gigs. He recorded a television commercial for MCI, "singing about how my telephone bill was too high." He even played for the inauguration celebration of fellow Arkansas native President Clinton!

In Santa Cruz we're lucky to be able to hear Robert playing with his longtime musical partner, Virgil Thrasher, at Lulu Carpenter's every Saturday night.