Yes, you can come home again — China Grove’s Gary Lowder bringing beach music to Kannapolis, Faith

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

Gary Lowder knew that he enjoyed music from a very early age. He sang in the China Grove’s First Baptist Church choir and for the student body at South Rowan High School. With help from South Rowan Glee Club instructor Diane Wike, Lowder honed his talents. As lead singer for the Twilights, a band mostly comprised of South Rowan High’s band musicians, he experienced life on the road. The Twilights traveled as far away as Hollywood, Florida and Washington, D.C., and eventually opened for Wilson Pickett and the Righteous Brothers. Lowder said, “We were a southern redneck version of the Bee Gees, with almost a perfect blend of voices.” All this while having to maintain their high school requirements.

Lowder said, “I was 18 when I knew that I wanted to be an entertainer and singer, but it has been quite a journey since.” After 10 years as an insurance salesman, Lowder moved to Minneapolis in 1982 and fronted a showband called “Trademark.” He formed his own band but soon lost his keyboard man and bass player to Prince.

After moving back to the Carolinas, Lowder settled in North Myrtle Beach in 2005. He formed a beach music band, “Gary Lowder and Smokin’ Hot,” and has found growing success since. Known as a high energy R&B Soul Party Band, they have had a No. 1 song each year since 2005 and was awarded Group CD of the Year in 2020. Lowder was awarded Solo CD of the Year in 2021 and Male Vocalist of the Year from the Carolina Beach Music Association in 2021.

The band stays busy, with Lowder handling bookings and logistics. He said, “Life on the road is not glamorous and it wears us out. We don’t perform very often at the beach other than the SOS events, and a few major concerts here in town. Mostly, we’re out of state performing for festivals and corporate events, sometimes as often as 4-5 times a week. But I am living my dream! I’ve met so many wonderful fans and someone is always asking us where we will play next. All this is humbling for me because I’m just a guy that God blessed with a voice and a gift to write music. Whether I am performing in a small room, an outdoor venue or singing in front of eight to ten thousand people, it’s an adrenaline rush and then I can’t wait to do it all over again!”

“There is a market here for beach music like no other. Shaggers and youth shaggers with their dance competitions are just part of the beach music phenomena that is uniquely specialized to Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas,” Lowder continued.


Gospel music has always been Lowder’s greatest love. He said, “Nothing hits my soul to the core like it. The love of gospel started in China Grove, North Carolina, at First Baptist Church and at the Landis Baptist Church where my grandmother attended. In 2017, I was awarded ‘Song of the Year’ for a gospel song, ‘Should Have Been Lovin’ You.’ That’s special when competing with all of the bands that record secular, beach and R&B music to have a gospel song be recognized as the best of them all!” Lowder also took home CD of the year for his gospel CD “Just Believe it” in 2020.

Lowder added, “And yes there are more gospel songs and videos to write and produce. One day, after this is all over, I want to focus on singing contemporary gospel music,” he said. “These songs are all about the message, and you can really touch someone’s heart with a song. When you can support yourself by doing what you love, nothing can be better.”

Just ahead, Gary Lowder and Smokin’ Hot will perform at the Swanee Theatre in Kannapolis on Saturday, May 19, from 8-10 p.m. and at the Faith Fourth of July Celebration on June 30 at 8 p.m.

Lowder and Smokin’ Hot had huge turnouts at Veterans Park and Village Park in Kannapolis in past outdoor performances, but he’s looking forward to the indoor venue at the Swanee Theatre. Lowder said, “I remember coming to the Swanee as a kid when it was still a movie theatre. I saw Godzilla there! We are excited to return home to perform indoors! Outside shows are fun, but attendees when inside can get the full impact of sound in a tight room or theater and our audiences feel closer to the performance.”

The Swanee, originally built in 1940, has been restored to its original dimensions with state of the art lighting and sound. It’s located at 200 West Avenue. Tickets are available at