For this blog post, I chose a somewhat unusual musician to discuss – Mr. Fred Lowery. What makes him unusual? Well, his main instrument is…whistling. Yes, that’s right—Mr. Lowery was one of the world’s preeminent whistlers!
Fred Lowery was born in Palestine, Texas in 1909 and became legally blind two years later after contracting scarlet fever. While attending the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, TX, he met Ernest Nichols who instructed him in bird calls. While there, he also took piano lessons with Peggy Richter. By 1929, Lowery was showcasing his whistling talent on the radio, as he worked with and performed on a Dallas variety radio show called “Early Birds.” From there, Fred Lowery moved to New York City, hoping to make it big. It took a few years, but in the late 1930s he was hired by band leader and composer Victor Lopez. From there, he worked with numerous other band and orchestra leaders in the 1940s and 50s, including Horace Heidt, Paul Weston, Leroy Holmes, and Norman Luboff. Although he was a featured soloists with many musicians and band leaders, he recorded 10 albums of his own. From the mid-1960s on, his recordings were mostly gospel tunes and church hymns. He passed away in 1984 in Jacksonville, Texas—close to where he was born.
Fred Lowery’s most famous album is 1957’s Walking Along Kicking the Leaves. It is an album of popular music, with Fred whistling all the while! Here are some of the tunes included on that album that are available in the NLS Music Collection:
“Indian Love Call” (BRM18153)
“Tennessee Waltz” in (BRM28811) and DBM02619 (piano)
“Far Away Places” in BRM32335
“The Moon of Manakoora” and “Sleepy Lagoon” in LPM00405
“Pagan Love Song” in LPM00779
“Moon Love” in BRM24360
“Sentimental Journey” in BRM19142 and LPM00341
The general NLS collection also has Fred Lowery’s autobiography Whistling in the Dark (DB 19749) available from your local Talking Book Library, and on BARD if you are interested in learning more about this very unique individual!
If you would like to order any of the music mentioned in this post, please contact the NLS Music Section by email ([email protected]), phone (1-800-424-8567, ext. 2), or comment below!