Lowbrows, April 1965, rehearsing vocals: L-R Walter Shimkiw, Rick Gilbert, Sterling Smith
The Lowbrows formed when four students at University High School (a part of Ohio State University's college of Education) started rehearsing in late 1964. Rick Gilbert (guitar) and Walter Shymkiw (bass) had sung in a vocal group in the school called "The Abstracts." Sterling Smith accompanied on piano, and also played piano for a "girl group" in the school called "the Dynamics" who did original material, but never took their music outside of school appearances.
Gilbert and Smith ran into each other when The Dave Clark Five arrived in Columbus for a concert, and with their shared enthusiasm decided to start a band. Joining on drums was Skip Anderson. The band's first gig was at the Ohio National Guard Armory, just north of the fairgrounds in Columbus. Some summer street parties, a couple of talent shows, and a gig at The Columbus Jewish Center followed.
The Lowbrows were good friends of the Morganstern brothers, whose Cincinnati band "Little Don & The Contentions," staged weekly dances in North College Hill. Smith purchased his first portable keyboard (a modified Electro Voice organ) from them, and Smith and Gilbert frequently went to their shows.
Eventually, Mike McConnell from North High School took over the drum chair and the band played a few parties in the north and east side before Gilbert and Shymkiw went to college. Gilbert and Smith played for a summer with guitarist Karl Valentine, drummer Don Gorman, and guitarist and electronics innovator Walter "Skip" McElfresh in an incarnation of The Lowbrows called "Scum Of The Earth," but before that band could play any gigs, McElfresh brought The Grayps to a rehearsal and they invited Smith to join them, with their first gig together being the 1966 Northland Battle Of The Bands, which they won.
A friend of The Lowbrows passed along the name to some friends who were starting a band near the Ohio State campus. That band called themselves The Lowbrows for a while before changing their name to "1984."
Drummer Skip Anderson (also an accomplished jazz keyboardist) continued in music and was Luther VanDross' musical director for many years.