Grandmother helps Homewood brothers strike a new chord

By David Pollard For Chronicle Media

Carlton McDowell (left) and his brother Peyton flank their grandmother Nancy Rice, who was instrumental in the two learning how to play music. (Photo by David Pollard/for Chronicle Media)

A tool used to provide a positive distraction for two young siblings over time has turned into a passion for playing music for the two Homewood teens.

And not any kind of music for Peyton and Carlton McDowell; the music they love to play is the Blues.

Peyton, 14, plays the bass guitar, while his brother, Carlton, 17, who prefers to be called “CJ,” plays the guitar and piano and perform under the name the McDowell Brothers.

Nancy Rice, grandmother of the two, said when they were young the two were always fighting with each other. So Rice, now a retired schoolteacher, decided that a good way to take her grandson’s mind off of tangling with each other was to introduce them to music, providing them both with a guitar and enrolling them in music school.

“They were always fighting,” she said. “I knew how to stop it and that was through music. It was one of the disciplinary tools I used.”

It was something she did for all of her grandchildren, but Peyton and Carlton took hold to playing music at a young age and have made a notable name for themselves performing at major events and venues like Chicago Blues Fest and House of Blues.

In March the McDowell brothers received Most Talented Teen (13-19) at the 36th Annual Chicago Music Awards.

Along with being their father, Carlton McDowell Sr., works as the group’s manager, promoter and motivator along with the help of his mother, Rice. McDowell said he wants his sons to know that positivity pays off in the end.

“I’m very proud of them and how they are growing up,” he said. “The most important thing is that they are doing something positive. There is so much negative stuff going on.”

The money the duo makes performing goes back into honing their craft. The McDowell family’s living room has turned into a makeshift studio where they practice. A piano and various kinds of electronic keyboards line one wall, while another is lined with various kinds of guitars.

Money from performances also went into the creating the McDowell Brothers’ first debut release called “Tribute to Inspiration” made up of mostly Blues, R&B and Jazz music.

Still the Blues it’s what Peyton loves to play.

Clayton McDowell (left) and his brother Peyton play a Blues song in their home in Homewood. (Photo by David Pollard/for Chronicle Media)

“I’ve been playing Blues for a while and that’s what we stick with,” he said. “I enjoy music and I enjoy playing bass a lot.”

Carlton said he enjoys playing guitar and is glad he stayed with the instrument.

“There was a lot of hard work put into, but now I have something to show for it,” he said.

Although both are skilled musicians there is still a bit of a sibling rivalry, but it is played out through their music. Both play in their high school bands and hope that their skills will lead them to receive college scholarships in music.

Both are looking at potentially teaching music one day with performing on the big stage taking second place, but it hasn’t been ruled out.

Still the push from their grandmother and father is to aspire toward greatness in their craft.

“I told them I was going to push them and now they know how talented they are,” McDowell Sr. said. “They’ve got it naturally and I want them to display their talents and that’s why I always push them.”

For information on future performances or to book a performance email the McDowell Brothers at




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