Tampa Bay Garage Bands


Ronny Lowe and the Dominoes

"Ronny Lowe and the Dominoes got their start in the early '60s playing what Ronny called "gut-bucket" 12-bar blues in landmark spots in the black community, such as the Roseland Ballroom and the Robert James Hotel.

In 1962, the band broke the unofficial color barrier on the beaches, becoming the first racially mixed band to perform for an integrated audience when the Dominoes were hired as the house band at the Peppermint Lounge on Maderia Beach, Fla.

The band got it's name from local deejay "Tiger Tom" Hankerson of black radio station WTMP". He said our music was like dominoes: white in spots, but mostly black," Mr. Lowe said in 1993.

The group was formed when Mr. Lowe met Sterling "Five fingers" Magee, who played at the Manhattan Casino on 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg, where Ronny spent much of his spare time. They rounded up a few friends, including Mr. Lowe's brother, Nick, who played drums.

Through his band, Mr. Lowe befriended Beat generation writer Jack Kerouac, who occasionally sat in with the group on ukulele and harmonica. Their friendship lasted until Kerouac's death in 1969.

Over the course of four decades some notable musicians passed through the band, including Jim Stafford and Dicky Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, who joined in the summer of 1969.

Mr. Lowe also played a part in local politics and was outspoken on civil rights and race relations.

"In the African-American community, Ron was a known commodity and could walk in any arena and gain acceptance," said Watson L. Haynes, whose City Council campaigns Mr. Lowe managed in 1978 and 1988.

In 1982, Mr. Lowe made an unsuccessful bid as a Democrat for the District 57 seat in the Florida House of Representatives.

Ronny is giving the "thumbs up" with brother Nick on the left of Linda LeBlanc-Walker, who passed away June 17th, 2003. Linda also sang for The Impacs when she moved to Tampa Bay in 1960... the guitar player in the picture is Bob Hohmann.

Ronald "Ronny" David Lowe 59, of St. Petersburg, died on Thursday (Dec. 27, 2001) at Northside Hospital and Heart Institute.

Update 4/1/04:

Sad News -- Tedd, I just found your website today while looking for some information on someone I discovered was a friend of yours, Bob Hohmann. You may have heard already, but Bob passed away. I read about it in the Times this morning. CLICK HERE for a final letter from Bob Hohmann...

I knew Bob and went to school with him in the '60s when he was playing with the Emotions. Reading of Bob's death took me back some 38 years and made me recall Emotions lead singer, Charlie Beauchamp killed in a freak baseball accident in a game between Boca Ciega and Bishop Barry.

    -- Tom Shelley • St. Pete, FL

Update 10/27/05:

I was an original and founding member of the “Dominoes”. I played with Ronny Lowe from 1961 thru 1965. We played the Roseland Ballroom, Robert James Hotel, and the Tangebar with Sterling McGee.

Some of the other players I remember were Wally Dow-guitar (62-63), Kenny Shelton-guitar (64-65), and Nick Lowe-drums.

Places we played in the area: (St. Pete)-Captains Lounge, Pat’s Supper Club (where we met Jack Kerouak), (Tampa)-The Starlite Lounge, (Maderia Beach)- Peppermint Lounge, (Treasure Island)- The Toy Reef, (Lakeland)- The Green Door, (Winter Haven)- Cloud Nine,

These were some very good times for me. I learned a lot from Sterling on guitar, and started playing organ at the Toy Reef. I considered Ronny like a brother and kept up with him until his death. I really miss getting together with him and talking about the Old Days, (gone, but not forgotten).

   -- Guy Page -- Pagemail1@comcast.net

Copyright © 2009 By TEDD WEBB • All Rights Reserved