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Blues guitarist Jay Owens dies at 58

Jay Owens, also a song writer, played with several major singers and recorded albums.

Published November 29, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Jay Owens learned to sing in the Pentecostal church in Lake City, where his mother was a minister. At 11, inspired by the Ink Spots' Jimmy McLin, who lived down the street, he got his first guitar.

By the time he was out of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, he was on the music road. As a blues guitarist and song writer, he played with Al Green, the late O.V. Wright, Donnie Hathaway, Little Milton, Stevie Wonder and Aaron Neville.

Mr. Owens, a blind musician who played at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa in 2001 with his trio, the Pocket, and earlier with local groups like the Barons, the Funk Bunch and the Dynamites, died Saturday (Nov. 26, 2005) at his home in Orlando.

He had lived there since 1997 after spending two decades in New York.

The cause was complications from diabetes, said his wife, Helen Doob Lazar. He was 58.

His original albums include the award-winning The Blues Soul of Jay Owens (1993) and Movin' On (1995). He played in Europe, appearing at festivals and on television. A third album will have a posthumous release.

"He has gone away too soon," his wife said Monday.

She recalled meeting him while she was on a writing assignment for Living Blues magazine. "He was the opening act. It took my breath away." Like many performers, he wore sunglasses, and "I didn't realize that he was blind until he came off the stage."

Survivors in addition to his wife include a sister, Vanessa Owens, two nieces and nephew, Motez, Chelita and Harold Young, and six grandnephews and grandnieces, all of St. Petersburg.

Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Zion Hill Mortuary, 1700 49th St. S. A funeral will be a t 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ Gospel Church, 2512 22nd Ave. S.

--Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

[Last modified November 29, 2005, 02:15:28]

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