The Ballad Of Curtis Loew

Album: Second Helping (1974)

Songfacts®:

  • Curtis Loew is not the name of an actual person from Ronnie Van Zant's life. Rather, Curtis Loew is a composite of different people, including Skynyrd lead guitarist Ricky Medlocke's grandfather, Shorty Medlocke. Contrary to the song's lyrics, Shorty was not black. In a 1997 interview on the Lyve From Steel Town album, the band was quoted as jokingly saying, "We needed to 'color' the song up." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Philly, PA
  • A dobro is a resonator guitar with a mechanical amplifier. It was originally released in 1927. Gibson now owns the rights to the dobro guitar. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Aaron - Twin Cities, MN
  • According to Ronnie Van Zant's widow Judy Van Zant Jenness, the unusual spelling of "Loew" was Skynyrd guitarist Ed King's idea. When he was writing the liner notes for the Second Helping album, he decided to name the character after Loew's Theater - thus giving an old bluesman a Jewish name.

Comments: 25

  • Joe from Plant City, Florida Ronnie was a huge fan of Son House (like quite a few other rock legends). That and the fact that he loved to spend time listening to Shorty Medlocke play on his front porch playing his dobro. That inspired Ronnie to create the person Cutis Loew of the song. All this was revealed by Ricky Medlocke in the 2018 documentary on the band.
  • Tony from San DiegoKelly in Jacksonville that is the coolest story I have ever heard !
  • Lemony from Ooltewah, TnThis is my favorite Skynyrd song. My second is "Simple Man". Both with lyrical down-to-earth commentary on variations of the human condition.
  • Joe from Mills River, Nc"The Ballad of Curtis Lowe" is alsome My brother named his kid Curtis from the song.
  • Kelly from Jacksonville, FlI grew up and still live in the same neighborhood as the Van Zant's childhood home..Even tho the Ballad of Curtis Lowe was probably an amalgam of several characters I am always reminded of a real person whom I think could have contributed to this song

    There was a store on Normandy Blvd in the same neighborhood called Pic 'N Save. Often outside the store sat an elderly African American blind man. He would sit there for hours playng his guitar and at his feet was his loyal friend, an ancient Bull Dog which was probably his guide dog.
    He had a container in which people would place their offerings. Everytime I put money into his cup he would stop , smile and always say "Thank you"

    The store, the man and his dog have long departed, but I still think of him everytime I hear the 'Ballad of Curtis Lowe'. I never knew the man's real name. Everyone who frequented the store during that time should remember him

    That was in the 70s and those memories seem surreal now, but remain some of the best of my life
  • Steve from Alexandria, VaThis song is a textbook example of art imitating life all over the South in the rebellious 60's when white teenagers put aside decades of racism because of their love for music. A classic example of this is Greg Allman's story of how he first heard the Blue's when he stumbled upon a 5 and dime market store owned by a black man that was quite literally on "the other side of the tracks".
  • Navarre from Akron, OhYes the song was indeed written about shorty medlocke although it wasnt rickeys father it was his grandfather.
  • Jessica from Ohsweken, OnThis song is mine and my uncles favorite song... I am naming my first son Curtis, a unique way of naming my son after my Uncle...
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InWhile it is true that Curtis Lowe was not a real person per se, I have long considered that the closest real person to him was none other than the legendary Son House.
    Son played a National Steel guitar that was an early type of dobro, and he certainly was known to imbibe on occasion.
    House also was already an established bluesman BEFORE Robert Johnson, and he knew him well.
    House then disappeared for over thirty years, until Alan Wilson of Canned Heat found him in Rochester, NY in the 1960s and he convinced him to perfom again, which he did, until the 1980s, when first Parkinson's, then Alzheimer's forever silenced both his hands and his field holler voice.
    House embodied all that anyone could ever dream about what the blues was REALLY all about.
    To me, he was the REAL Curtis Lowe.
  • Mad from Cincinnati, Ohthis is one of the best songs ever written! and its under rated! FREEBIRD!
  • Bradical from Indianapolis, InJust one comment about the name Curtis Lowe, sometimes spelled Leow. The Skynyrd boys went to high school at the Robert E. Lee high school. In March 2008 I saw a 1968 yearbook from that school for sale on eBay, and there was a kid in it with the name Curtis Lowe. Coincidence? I doubt it. The thing is, that kid is not black. I saw his picture.

    The text on eBay says:

    UP FOR SALE : 1968 ROBERT E LEE HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK. THE BLUE & GRAY, JACKSONVILLE FLORIDA. COACH SKINNER, THE ALLEN COLLINS BAND FRONTMAN JIMMY DAUGHERTY, AND A "KID" NAMED CURTIS LOWE. AND WHO KNOWS, WHO ELSE, YOU CAN FIND.

    AS YOU KNOW, JACKSONVILLE IS WHERE IT ALL STARTED,THE CITY GAVE US SOME OF THE BEST MUSIC AROUND, SKYNYRD, .38 SPECIAL, GRINDERSWITCH, BLACKFOOT, SOME OF THE ROAD CREW FOR THE ALLMAN BROTHERS (for awhile), GRAM PARSONS, MOLLY HATCHET. RACINGS YARBOROUGH FAMILY.

    THE YEARBOOK HAS THE SIGNATURES YOU WOULD EXPECT IN A USED YEARBOOK, IN GOOD CONDITION.

    CHECK MY STORE FOR MORE SKYNYRD MEMROBILIA
    WINNING BIDDER HAS 7 DAYS TA PUT FOLDIN MONEY IN MY POCKET

    BOOK WILL SHIP WITHIN 4 DAYS OF PAYMENT RECEIVED

    The item number on e-bay was Z110195026387
  • Stevie from Earth, CaThis song eminates from ronnie's voice like his heart is about to rush up and and block his beautifully empathetical tone for love of a "simple man".When I play it on my guitar and sing the words it makes me feel like few other songs can.I have connections to the south ,I have lived there and my mom was from alabama.Most of the time I have lived in northern Ca.,however I do not belive that you have to live in a specific relm m.o. to appriciate the human condition around us all.Wake up and shed your fears so you do not become to stupid to see precious life in front of you.Ronnie seemed to understand that and a fine example would be this masterpiece.
  • Travis from Clayton, NcThis is probably the most requested song we get on Sat night jams, even though we are playing mostly old Bluegrass, country and Blues. Maybe it has something to do with our location?
  • Jenna Madsen from Eureka!, CaThe lyrics, and overall story is absolutely amazing. Im not sure this song got all the attention it deserved.
  • Oliver from Hamburg, Germanythere is any reason to argue about south or not. it's about human influences despite of colors and location after all. lynyrd skynyrd is a far cry from cut and dried opinions. therefor i love em
  • John from San Francisco, CaWhaddya know about the south, bri-guy, you live in Texas...I may be from SF but I know the difference.
  • Jenna Madsen from Eureka!, CaGreat song, tells a good story. Has a nice flow to it that i can listen to all day.
  • Dalton from Moore, OkThis song is a little unappreciated for how good it really is!
  • Brian from Grand Forks, NdThis is taken from the Website www.skynyrd.Com

    The inspiration for Curtis Loew was loosely based around the characters that lived near Ronnie's home on Jacksonville's Westside. The corner store in the song is based on Claude's Midway Grocery on the corner of Plymouth and Lakeshore in Jacksonville. While there wasn't a "real" Curtis Loew, there were many Curtis Loews in the neighborhood. The actual spelling of the name came when Ed was writing the liner notes for the Second Helping album in 1974. He thought it would be funny to name this old Florida black bluesman after the Jewish Loew's Theatre.
  • Alan from London, Englandshe never said she knew anything about the south, she said "southern guitar riffs" you don't have to be from the south to know southern riffs. I try to fit eveyrhting into my music
  • Sam Warren from Morristown, Inthis is a bad ass song and it is one of my favorites..
  • Brian from Corpus Christi, Txjessa, what do you know about the south? you live in canada
  • Jessa from Brampton, On, Canadathis song is so awesome, tells such a great story. its dripping with dirty southern guitar riffs i just love it.
  • Rick from Parts UnknownThis is by far my favorite Skynyrd song ever ...
  • Brian from Corpus Christi, TxLynyrd Skynyrd actually has the name of the song spelled "The Ballad of Curtis Lowe" on their "All Time Greatest Hits CD, not Curtis Loew.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Bass Player Scott EdwardsSong Writing

Scott was Stevie Wonder's bass player before becoming a top session player. Hits he played on include "I Will Survive," "Being With You" and "Sara Smile."

Gilby ClarkeSongwriter Interviews

The Guns N' Roses rhythm guitarist in the early '90s, Gilby talks about the band's implosion and the side projects it spawned.

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.

Who Did It First?Music Quiz

Do you know who recorded the original versions of these ten hit songs?

Def Leppard QuizMusic Quiz

Can you name Def Leppard's only #1 hit in America? Get rocked with this adrenalized quiz.

Kim Thayil of SoundgardenSongwriter Interviews

Their frontman (Chris Cornell) started out as their drummer, so Soundgarden takes a linear approach when it comes to songwriting. Kim explains how they do it.