For a brief strange amount of time, I opened the doors
to the Salvation Army and Goodwill to find my music.
This is always a fallback into years of wear, from the
clothes that hang and give the air its ghost, to the very
back wall where the records are tipped stacks in a bin.
I became familiar with the usual cast: Percy Faith,
everything with strings, cowboys, swingers, preachers,
patriots, dance crazes, and every once in a while the
true oddity. Something that had the power to stand up
out of its pit of time and grab like a shaggy, ice-age
creature. Something named ‘Whistlin Joe’, on a pink
Decca Records label, by someone named Fred Lowery.
For 25 cents, the 45 single was given a whole new life,
played over and over for days until its eerie warbling
and spooky chorus became too much for one listener.
He ran across the room, ripped it from the turntable
and smashed it against the gray speckled wall.
That fit, that terrible wax demise, seemed to have ended
a life. Even my joy of searching the musty world where
‘Whistlin Joe’ once lay entombed passed. As a last wish,
to serve eulogy to the person who had created such a stir
in my life, I felt duty bound to know what I could about
Fred Lowery. This was years before the computer
captured the logging of all human details, and the only
information on him I uncovered came from the few
lines in a thick reference book: “Blind whistling virtuoso
active in the late 30’s and 40’s. Attended Texas School
for the Blind in Austin…worked clubs and theatres;
some recording. Faded by the late 40’s; a few records
I kept the intact pink round record label, the very center,
the heart, all the remained of Fred Lowery’s 45 and have
carried it forever as a sort of holy relic.
How strange that I would rediscover Fred Lowery
some five years later at the other edge of the continent,
in a retro-store dedicated to the hip and cool culture of
Filed in with the pristine Capitol recordings of Sinatra
was an entire album by Fred Lowery entitled, ‘Walking
Along Kicking The Leaves…’ Surprise! He has risen again,
wrapped in a Technicolor sleeve, whistling with orchestra,
a bona-fide cult member of those who only seem to fade.