ALLEN, ARLEY “RED” (1930-1993)

Born near Hazard in Harlan County, Kentucky, Red Allen (reportedly christened “Arley” and later known as “Harley”) came to Dayton around 1949 or 1950, and with Frank Wakefield and others began playing the West Third Street bars. He had a driving, raw, lonesome-sounding voice that fit well with bluegrass music, and his rhythm guitar playing was on the money. After recording three singles for Cincinnati’s Kentucky Records, he hooked up with the Osborne Brothers. Through Dayton DEEJAY Tommy Sutton, they secured a recording contract with MGM Records and became members of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia. While working there, they developed the high lead style of bluegrass harmony, in which two parts are sung below the melody. After Allen and the Osbornes split in 1958, Red returned to Dayton and cut a single on Les Bodine’s BMC label with Frank Wakefield and Red Spurlock as the Red Heads. He and Frank then moved to the Washington, D.C. area and began performing as Red Allen and the Kentuckians. During this period, he recorded on Starday, Rebel, Melodeon, County, and Folkways. In 1967, he worked several months with Earl Scruggs as a Foggy Mountain Boy, filling in after Lester Flatt’s heart attack. After the Kentuckians broke up, he went to Lexington, Kentucky and worked with J.D. Crowe and the Kentucky Mountain Boys. Still later, he recorded with his sons, the Allen Brothers, on Lemco, King Bluegrass, and Folkways. After Red’s death in 1993, many of the musicians Red knew or had played with got together at Memorial Hall in Dayton for A Tribute To Red Allen. In 2005, he was inducted into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame. In 2007, Dennis Satterlee authored a book on the musical career of Red Allen titled Teardrops In My Eyes and published by Plucked String Foundation, Inc.

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