'I Hear A Voice Calling' by GENE LOWINGER
I HEAR A VOICE CALLING by Gene Lowinger (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009) 84 pp, softbound. The University of Illinois Press has been the leader in publishing books on various types of music, and here they have added another work that will be of interest to Bill Monroe fans, among others. Lowinger was a teenager from New York City when he fell in love with Bluegrass music, got together with a precocious band that included David Grisman, Jody Stecher and Winnie Winston, and actually won the band prize at the prestigious Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention as the New York Ramblers. Inspired by the path taken by banjo picker Bill Keith, Lowinger tried out for a place in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and won it, becoming Monroe’s fiddler for the next year or so (it’s hard to believe this all goes back that far, but Lowinger was Monroe’s fiddler at the legendary first Roanoke Bluegrass Festival at Fincastle, Va. In 1965). After his stint with Monroe, Lowinger went on to pursue a training in classical violin (1966-1992) but in the early 1990s he made a number of guest appearances and road trips with Bill, and took a large number of photographs of Monroe and other Bluegrass personalities, which take up about 20% of the book. Lowinger’s recollections make for fascinating reading, not only for the facts pertaining to Monroe’s personality and the music, but for gaining insight into Lowinger’s own search for a successful, happy life. Gene was not only a northerner, but was Jewish to boot, and throughout the book there is a sort of sad undertone of his quest to please his father, who was always disappointed that his son did not become a doctor or lawyer. This is the 2nd book about Monroe from an ex-Blue Grass Boys (see Bob Black’s Come Hither To Go Yonder) and gives us another good look at the father of Bluegrass Music, who inspired and changed so many of our lives.