I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #185

From October 1, 2010 through to the end of September 2011, we will, each day, celebrate the life of Bill Monroe by sharing information about him and those people who are associated with his life and music career. This information will include births and deaths; recording sessions; single, LP and CD release dates; and other interesting tidbits. Richard F. Thompson is responsible for the research and compilation of this information. We invite readers to share any tidbits, photos or memories you would like us to include.

  • April 3, 1993 Harley ‘Red’ Allen died, age 63.  *
  • April 3, 2001 Many former Blue Grass Boys gathered together for a Reunion in the Ozarks at the Cross Country Trail Ride Arena, Eminence, Missouri. **

* ‘Red’ Allen was the first singer / guitarist to fill-in after Peter Rowan’s departure from the Blue Grass Boys in the spring of 1967.

Later he filled in for Lester Flatt after Flatt suffered a heart attack.

Allen was a member – with Bobby and Sonny Osborne – of the trio that conceived and first recorded in the ‘high lead’ vocal harmony format as typified by their 1956 recording of Once More.

Born near Hazard, Kentucky, Allen began his professional solo career from Dayton, Ohio, in 1952 when he formed the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys with Noah Crase and Frank Wakefield.

After his stint with the Osborne brothers, Allen formed the Kentuckians, again with Frank Wakefield, and Bill Emerson and Tom Morgan, among others, in an ever-changing line-up.

‘Red’ Allen recorded for Starday, Rebel, Folkways, Melodeon, County, Lemco and King Bluegrass, collaborating with Frank Wakefield, J.D. Crowe, Porter Church, Bill Keith, Scotty Stoneman, the Yates Brothers and David Grisman, not forgetting his four musically talented sons, Neal, Harley, Ronnie and Greg.

An excellent rhythm guitarist, his plaintive lead and tenor voice, influenced by the blues, is viewed by many as one of the music’s purest.

After years of semi-retirement, debilitated by a heart condition, that he had since he was a child, and lung cancer, he died on April 3, 1993.

Sadly, he never achieved the acclaim of other first-generation pickers and singers. However, in 2005, he was inducted into the IBMA’s Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

** Among the Blue Grass Boys who gathered to perform and reminisce about Bill Monroe were Sonny Osborne, Melvin Goins, Kenny Baker, Charlie Cline, Gary Thurmond, Tom Ewing, Art Stamper, Lonnie Hoppers, Guy Stevenson, Billy Joe Foster, Wayne Jerrold, Blake Williams, Tater Tate and Billy Rose.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.

  • I HIGHLY recommend Dennis Satterlee’s book “Teardrops in My Eyes – The Music of Harley ‘Red’ Allen”. It’s full of stories, interviews, and a discography. It’s especially appropriate with the recent passing of Red’s son Harley.
    It’s available from the International Bluegrass Music Museum at http://www.bluegrassmuseum.org/store/product9.html