Ronald Ray “Ronnie” Allen, the bass-playing eldest son of Harley ‘Red’ Allen, passed away on February 21, 2017. He was 67 years of age.
Ronnie Allen was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1949.
He started his involvement in music as a rock artist, but changed over to bluegrass at the urging of his brothers when they started their band, the Allen Brothers.
The Allen Brothers band was formed in the early 1970s. Initially, Ronnie Allen played the drums until they found a drummer, at which point Ronnie switched to playing the bass guitar.
At the time the Allen Brothers were working independently, and with their father Red, during which time the combination spent some time working at Red’s old stamping ground on the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia.
They released two albums on the King Bluegrass label and one for Lemco.
In 1973 the family suffered a tragic loss when Ronnie’s brother Neal died of pneumonia. As Red’s health waned, the remaining brothers recorded two LPs for Rounder Records; Sweet Rumors and Clara’s Boys (Clara was their mother).
The trio continued playing together into the early 1980s.
After brother Harley moved to Nashville in 1989, Ronnie and Greg invariably played music just for their own enjoyment.
Debbie Nims, Ronnie’s sister-in-law, remembers him as much for his personal qualities as for his musical skills.
“After the brothers broke up, Ronnie and Greg played music on and off until he passed. They would also have jam sessions with friends quite a bit. Ronnie had a beautiful voice. I loved hearing the three brothers sing songs from Sweet Rumors and Allengrass… The harmonies were beautiful and intricate. The blend was effortless, which only siblings can achieve. I found Ronnie to be a bit shy with his music, and seemed to be most at home with the harmony parts. He had a wonderful sense of humor.
Ronnie was a very gentle soul and the brothers loved each other fiercely.”
While Greg, the only surviving Allen brother, has special regard for Ronnie’s singing, he shares his grief with his sister …
“Ronnie had the best voice of all of us, but he was just shy. So he talked when he wanted to. He was not just my brother, but my best friend. My sister, Dolores, and I miss him.
When I think of Ronnie singing I would put him up with the Hag and Jones anytime.”