Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page

Erbie BowserLongtime Austin pianist and Blues Specialists co-founder Erbie Bowser (1918-1995) was one of the last local progenitors of the jazz-tinged Boogie-woogie blues piano-style initially popularized in World War II-era roadhouses and refined during the Fifties and Sixties on the "Chitlin' Circuit." Born May 5, 1918, in the tiny Milam County hamlet of Davilla, Bowser's musically inclined family moved to Palestine when he was 5. After honing his chops in church, he began touring professionally with Tyler's Sunset Royal Entertainers while still in high school. During World War II, Bowser played in the Special Services Band for USO shows in Europe and North Africa. After the war, the pianist married and left East Texas for Odessa in 1949. There he met future Blues Specialists guitarist T.D. Bell. The two musicians supplemented their oilfield money with gigs throughout West Texas. Bowser moved to Austin in the early Fifties, playing jam sessions at Huston-Tillotson College while working at the National Cash Register Company. He also played piano in the Commodore Perry Hotel's sixth floor nightclub at the corner of Brazos and Eighth Street. Bowser continued to work with Bell, often sharing the stage at East Austin R&B nightspots like Charlie's Playhouse and the Victory Grill. As the Seventies dawned, the economic drain of desegregation spelled ruin for the once-vibrant Eastside club scene and diminished gig opportunities for Bowser. He rejoined Bell for the 1987 Victory Grill reunion, which led to a residency at the Continental Club as the Blues Specialists and invitations to perform at the Smithsonian and Carnegie Hall. In 1991, Bowser and Bell released It's About Time (Spindletop), a solid, 71-minute set of Texas-style electric blues. Although Bowser died of cancer at St. David's Hospital on August 15, 1995, the Blues Specialists continue to perform in 2007. Greg Beets