Ray Lowry was born the son of a bricklayer in Cadishead, Salford, and attended Urmston Grammar School. He worked in Manchester and London, and, although he had no formal art education, he became known as a cartoonist during the 1970s and 80s. It was less well known that he was also a painter of urban landscapes, following in the footsteps of his unrelated namesake L. S. Lowry.
Ray drew cartoons for a wide range of publications. With the emergence of the underground press in the 1960s his work was published in Oz magazine and International Times, which led to a long and better paid relationship with the New Musical Express (better known as the NME), including a weekly cartoon strip, Only Rock’n’Roll. He also contributed cartoons to Mayfair, Punch magazines and a host of independent Manchester based journals. Lowry’s love of raw rock and roll was the perfect mirror to the new punk mentality that emerged in the late 1970s. He saw the Sex Pistols’ on their Anarchy tour at the Electric Circus in Manchester and there he met The Clash. He struck up a friendship with the members of the band, which led to an invitation to accompany them on their tour of the United States in 1979. From this he created the artwork for the sleeve of their album London Calling, using a photograph by Pennie Smith.
During the 1980s Lowry wrote a column in The Face magazine and was a regular contributor to The Guardian, Tatler magazine and Private Eye. He continued to create memorable art. and remained obsessed by rock and roll. Near the end of his life he produced a long series of colour images inspired by the tour of the UK by the American rockers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
Lowry eventually moved to Rossendale in Lancashire. Although he no longer worked for periodicals, he never stopped painting and drawing. Near the end of his life he was taken up by the See Gallery in Crawshawbooth, Rossendale. An exhibition at the See in 2008 proved very successful and he began to plan new schemes, including paintings inspired by the novel Under the Volcano, by another unrelated namesake, Malcolm Lowry.
After years of ill health Ray Lowry died suddenly at the age of 64 and was found at his home in Waterfoot, Lancashire, on the morning of 14 October 2008.