Vintage Guitar - February 2018 - 81
Lowe in 2000, playing
at a Guitar Night event
hosted by John Pisano.
the guitar. If you lay your finger across the
fretboard, you have a root and a fifth on the
bottom, then almost anything will work on
top. That supplies the overtones that make
everything else work.
"Finding a good guitar is like finding the
right woman - you can't keep your hands off.
Right now, I'm playing one that Jim Mapson
and I designed - a hollowbody electric [that]
does not feed back. It does what I want it to."
Photo: Bob Barry.
"When Charlie came out in 1939 or '40, I
was living in Jackson, Mississippi, where they
had a couple of his tunes on the jukebox -
'Sheik of Araby' and 'Rose Room' - and he
had the sound I wanted. John Hammond was
also responsible for Charlie Christian coming
to Beverly Hills to join Benny Goodman's
band. Time goes by, Charlie dies, and his
mother comes in from St. Louis to clean out
his hotel room. He had four or five guitars
including one ES-150 he'd brought to New
York. Through John, I was able to buy it from
her, along with his little round-shouldered
amplifier. You can see it in many pictures
of me with Goodman and, later, with Nick
Grido at the Commodore Hotel.
"A couple of years later, I asked John
D'Angelico to take the black paint off and put
one of his wonderful new necks on it, and he
did a beautiful job; it was a gorgeous-playing
Alden in '04.
guitar. I played it for a while, including with
my quintet in the Embers on the East Side. As
the story unfolds, my daughter, Debbie, was
being born while I was on the gig, so before I
left, I put the guitar in the liquor room, under
lock and key. I came in the next night and
it was not there. I looked and looked. Fastforward to after (alto saxophonist) Richie
Kamuca died and we were playing a tribute
to him at the Palladium. A bass player approached me and said, 'Mundy, I have to tell
you something... I took your guitar.' I asked
where it was and he said, 'I don't know... I
was a stoned-out junkie in those days and
gave it to somebody for a fix.'
"That was a sad situation. It's probably still
out there somewhere."
Lowe helped create the score for the film
Billy Jack, but didn't write its theme, "One
"A couple of guys from Canada did, but
I created the arrangement. Peggy Lee and I
had composed a song we thought captured
the story line, and made a demo. Then, one
day on my way to a meeting with Laughlin,
I heard 'One Tin Soldier' on the radio. I
headed straight for Tower Records, got the
single, and went to my meeting with Tom. I
said, 'This is the perfect song for the movie's
main and end titles.'
"I found the group, Coven, living in the
Hollywood Hills. I don't think they had any
idea we were doing a motion picture when we
re-recorded the thing. But we got through it
and it stayed [high on the charts] for about
"Tom and I listened to 20 or 30 groups who
just didn't have the right feeling, and Coven
really didn't have good musicians - couldn't
read and it was a mess. But the girl who sang
was interesting. It was tricky; I put her in a
booth away from the group, then brought
in an orchestra and scored the thing with
Lowe also spoke about working for Woody
"He was a strange little dude. I used to see
him when I was on 'The Merv Griffin Show'
and he was doing standup. He and Richard
Pryor and George Carlin would come on
- Merv could get them for scale and they
needed the exposure. I worked with Allen
on Everything You Wanted to Know About
Sex. They shot part of it in Agoura Hills, just
outside L.A., and I remember that while we
tried to arrange one of the shots, he took his
clarinet and walked a hundred yards to sit in
the grass and play. All you could see was this
little hat with clarinet music coming from it.
"I remember recording the soundtrack
at A&R in New York, and I was using Toots
Thielemans to play harmonica, guitar, and to