Hugo was born in Nara Visa, New Mexico March 22, 1923 to Mildred Henderson Loewenstern and Hugo H. Loewenstern. His family included a brother Morris Loewenstern and sister Julia Loewenstern Glick. The family moved to Amarillo in 1929.
Hugo was given his first saxophone at the age of six. He became a child prodigy, and at the age of nine was featured in Ripley’s BELIEVE IT OR NOT as having memorized 76 classical compositions. He won first honors and medals in state and national competitions. While attending Amarillo High School, he played in the band and at age fourteen and fifteen, spent summers at the Interlochen music camp in Michigan. When he was sixteen, Lloyd Snyder’s band appeared in Amarillo and needed a lead saxophonist to join the band. Hugo got the job and went on his first road trip that summer.
After graduating from high school, Hugo was classically trained at Eastman School of Music in Rochester New York, majoring in clarinet and saxophone. After Eastman, he went to New York City. Upon Benny Goodman’s recommendation, he joined the Jack Teagarden Band and set off for a tour of the South.
Hugo then went to Hollywood and heard that Harry James had an opening for a baritone sax player who could play clarinet. Never having played a baritone sax, Hugo rented one, practiced for two days and got the job. From west to east coast, they played all the major ballrooms and theatres. In New York, at the Paramount Theatre, alternating with movie showings starting at 8:30 in the morning, the orchestra played all day to fans that had camped out in line, for tickets from as early as 3am. When the band came on the crowds went wild and danced in the aisles. It was WWII, and the audience included service men and their partners who sought respite from reality.
In 1943 Hugo joined the Armed Services and was in the Air Force Band, and then later transferred to the Infantry until his honorable discharge in 1946. He then returned to Hollywood and rejoined Harry James, playing lead saxophone, again appearing at major ballrooms such as The Aragon and Chicago’s famous Trianon.
In 1947 Hugo returned to Amarillo to form his own big band. He played to large crowds at the Nat, the Avalon, and the Aviatrix until 1948 when an offer came from Tommy Dorsey. He joined the Dorsey band in San Francisco and toured the US, Canada and Cuba. He also appeared with the band in Universal Studio films. In between Dorsey gigs, Hugo returned to Amarillo to lead his own band, during which time he met and married Mary Lou Parr. In the past, as a teenager attending dances at the Nat, where locals lined up to see Hugo and his band, Mary Lou danced to the music of the bandleader on stage who would eventually be her future husband of sixty five years and the father of their six children. But in 1951, the newlyweds rejoined Dorsey to set off on a national tour, final destination the west coast. When Dorsey once again was to start up a cross country one-night-stand tour, the newlyweds decided to settle in Hollywood where Hugo would join the Sonny Burke Orchestra.
Eventually, the Loewensterns settled in Amarillo where Hugo joined his father and brother in the family business, Hugo H. Loewenstern Co. Inc.
He continued to be active in his music career contributing to the community, playing for Amarillo Senior Citizens, nursing homes and the Veteran’s Hospital with singer wife Mary Lou. Also, he volunteered his band for 14 years for the Lake Tanglewood Fourth of July Celebrations. He furthered his professional music career by recording a solo album for Capitol Records, Who Said Good Music Is Dead, with the late composer and arranger, Johnny Richards. Richards also wrote original compositions for Hugo including The Magic of Arabis, which he performed as guest artist with the Amarillo Symphony in 1966. Other noted musical accomplishments include associations with artists such as trumpeter, Doc Severinsen and a recording with guitarist Laurindo Almeida.
Amarillo engagements saw performances with the Amarillo Woodwind Quintet of which he was a founding member, and with his newly formed jazz group of friends and local musicians that played at various venues around town. A big part of Hugo’s music world was working with family members Dana Isaac and her husband Deke, and Tina Marie Lionstar.
A longtime collaboration with fellow musician and arranger Jack Kimmel created the recording Music for Art, which features songs by daughter, Tara Hugo and the artwork on the album sleeve by Mary Lou.
Many of the engagements with Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Sonny Burke were recorded live. Current interest in the Big Band Era has seen the re-releasing of these recordings on digital format in which “Hugo Lowenstern” appears countless times as a noted soloist, such as the Sonny Burke Orchestra’s recording of Ella Fitzgerald 1951.
In 2001 Ellen Green of KACV public television produced the notable documentary That Alto Man celebrating the life and career of Hugo Loewenstern.
As an Amarillo businessman, Hugo became an active member of the Board of Realtors in 1951 and garnered a respected entrepreneurial career that spanned sixty years, developing shopping centers, motels, warehouses and housing districts. He was instrumental in developing the Tascosa Country Club home sites and the ensuing expansion of the eighteen hole golf course. Son, Keith Loewenstern, an Amarillo pharmacist, worked as a young apprentice at the Loewenstern Real Estate Co, and at the completion of the project and witnessed Hugo’s fourth hole-in-one, on hole number four of the new golf course now known as La Paloma.
He enjoyed fishing and golfing with his sons, David, Keith and the late Kevin Loewenstern. An avid golfer in a sport he loved, he used his innovative skills to invent the first remote golf cart of which the US patent is still held in his name. Mary Lou and Hugo enjoyed travelling the world. Whether at home, in New Orleans or on a jazz cruise, Hugo always had his horn and played wherever they went.
Hugo served as Chairman of Industrial Development in 1973, and as director in 1975. He was secretary for the Amarillo Board of Realtors in 1976. He was on the MLS committee 1974-1976. He served on the State Long Range Committee in 1976-1977. He was elected President of Tascosa Country Club in 1969, and served as President of the Amarillo Symphony Inc. 1972-1973.
Hugo will always be remembered for his quick wit and dry sense of humor. Family and friends could always count on a good joke.
A loving husband and father, Hugo is preceded in death by son Kevin Walter Loewenstern. He is survived by his loving wife Mary Lou, and daughter Tara Hugo and husband Steven Crossley, son David Loewenstern, daughter-in-law Becky Loewenstern, daughter Dana Isaac and husband Deke, daughter Tina Marie Lionstar, son Keith Loewenstern and wife Melanie, niece Marci Ellison and nephew Jerry Glick. Eight grandchildren: Thane and Evan Isaac, Sam Quattlebaum, Jake Loewenstern, Ryan Loewenstern, Clista, Sarah and Nick Loewenstern.
Memorial service will be at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, July 13, 2016, in Boxwell Brothers Ivy Chapel with David Green officiating. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.