Photo courtesy of David and Anne Allison.
Types of Artistry
Storyteller and leatherworker
Mount Airy, NC (Surry County)
Mike Lowe grew up in a sawmilling family in Mount Airy hearing labor stories from his father and grandfather and other tales from his grandmother, many of which helped shape his repertoire that he uses as a professional storyteller. His daughter, Maggie, grew up hearing stories from her father, and she has won awards for her own storytelling as a young teenager.
Mike's first storytelling performance came as a result of technical difficulties during a New Americans choir performance at a beauty pageant. When the difficulties arose, the director said they needed ten "filler" minutes of entertainment while the problem was solved. Mike took the stage and delivered a monologue that was inspired by a Bill Cosby routine.
Many of the stories in Mike's repertoire come from sawmilling work stories from his father and grandfather. He also remembers his grandmother telling him stories, including "The Golden Arm," a story he continues to tell today. Mike works family names and anecdotes into most of his stories.
Mike has been doing school programs since the mid-1980s, and he loves to make kids laugh. He also incorporates some electric blues into his performance, which he says the kids love. He grew up listening to the old-time traditional music of Surry County, but he preferred to tune into the radio after local stations went off air so he could hear WLS out of Chicago and the blues. Mike also does some traditional leatherwork. He learned on his own, and later found out that his grandfather was a leatherworker. Now he uses some of his grandfather's tools.
Mike's teenage daughter, Maggie, has also taken up storytelling. She won an award at the National Youth Storytelling Championship in Jonesboro, Tennessee, and last year she was invited to tell a story at the National Storytelling Festival also in Jonesboro. She hopes to major in English as an undergraduate student, earn a masters degree in storytelling from Eastern Tennessee State University, and teach storytelling.
For years Mike has made his living doing heritage programs in schools that focus on Colonial America, Native Americans, and Celtic cultures. He travels in the North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia region. His program usually combines storytelling, some music, and lots of laughter. Occasionally, his wife, Carol, will accompany him with lap dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, and bowed psaltry.
Mike is available for storytelling performances. Maggie is also available for some performances while she is not in school.
Mount Airy, NC 27030