Life Story for William Lee Dowdy
William “Bill” Dowdy passed away peacefully at home with his family on May 12, 2017. Bill was born on August 15, 1932 in Osceola, Arkansas. He attended and graduated from Benton Harbor Public Schools in 1950. He then became a traveling musician playing with the Rupert Harris Band after a stint with the US Army, where he received an honorable discharge; he studied music at Roosevelt University in Chicago. His first big gig at the age of 22 was house drummer at the cotton club. While in Chicago, he played session work for the Chess Record label working with such artist as Muddy Waters and the Flamingos. He was later recommended for a job at the Bee Hive Club, where he accompanied such greats as Sonny Stit and JJ Johnson. He backed up other groups who were recording such as the Moon Glows, Memphis Slim and Howling Wolf, and playing with jazz greats like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. In 1956 he formed the Three Sounds with Andy Simpkins and Gene Harris, the group played major clubs and college campuses throughout United States and Canada. The Three Sounds recorded for Riverside Record before signing an exclusive contract with the Blue Note Label. Over a Ten year period the Three Sounds recorded 24 albums, all considered classics. Tired of the Road, Bill returned to Battle Creek and worked management in two local music Stores before opening his own store “Bill Dowdy Music Enterprises” in 1970. Bill’s legacy lives on in books such as “Leonard Feather’s Encyclopedia of Jazz”, “Elegant Soul: The Life of Gene Harris” and “Here I Stand”. During the 70’s he was active in the community serving as President of the Downtown Development Association, served on the board of the Battle Creek Area Chamber of Commerce, Battle Creek Symphony, Battle Creek Unlimited, Calhoun County Black Business and Professional Association. Bill was a member of the Second Missionary Baptist Church, where he served as a musician. Bill taught private music lessons and conducted master classes at Western Michigan University, Kellogg Community College and Michigan State University. He organized “Bill Dowdy’s Trio Plus”, which performed for various community and private events. Although he could earn a living teaching, it was the free lessons he would give to local and neighborhood kids that were priceless. In 1994 he recieved a grant to start the “Drumming for Life” program. Bill’s bobbies included bike riding , bowling, and practicing drums, piano and various instruments and spending time with his grandkids. He leaves to cherish his legacy and memories, daughters, Beverly Dowdy, Billyne Dowdy, Renee Dowdy all of Battle Creek, a son, James Foster, of Chicago, Illinois, sisters, Vivian Robbins, Della Roberts, Cecelia Taggart all of Battle Creek, Ora Rhodes, Abbie Gray of Benton Harbor, brothers, Walter (Roberta) Dowdy , of Huntington, TN, Joe (Mattie) Dowdy of Elkton, Maryland, special brother, Duane Griffin of Battle Creek, grandchildren , Jamayl Dowdy, Khiry Dowdy, Brittney Dowdy, Savannah, Jasmine and James Foster Jr. all of Chicago, IL. Great grandson, Bentley Dowdy. Bill was preceded in death by his former wife Beatrice Dowdy, a son, William DowdyJr. a sister, Rosie Wright, and his parents Walter L and Ora Lee Dowdy. The Dowdy family would like to thank the Grammys, Musicares, the Jazz Foundation, the Actors Fund and everyone for their kind words, thoughts, cards, flowers and contributions. The family will receive friends from 12:00 PM noon, to 1:00 PM on Saturday, May 27th at the Bachman Hebble Funeral Service, 223 N. Bedford Rd. Funeral services will be held at 1:00 PM Saturday at the funeral home, Bishop Tino Smith officiating. Following the services on Saturday, there will be a Bill Dowdy tribute jazz session at the “Saints Club” 517 E. Michigan Ave, Battle Creek. Interment with military honors will be held 1:30 Tuesday, May 30th at Fort Custer National Cemetery. Visit Bill’s webpage at www.bachmanhebble.com.