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Red Allen
Birth name Harley Allen
Also known as Red Allen
Born February 12, 1930
Origin Pigeon Roost Hollow, Kentucky, USA
Died April 15, 1993 (aged 63)
Genres bluegrass
Occupations bluegrass musician
Instruments guitar
Years active 1950s–1980s
Labels Folkways, County, King

Harley Allen (February 12, 1930–April 15, 1993), better known as Red Allen, was an American bluegrass singer and guitarist known for his powerful tenor voice.



Allen, born in Pigeon Roost Hollow, near Hazard, Kentucky, grew up in the music-rich hills of eastern Kentucky, and in the early 1950s began performing in and around Dayton, Ohio. He first came to broad public attention in 1956, when he signed on with the Osborne Brothers to fill out one of the most influential vocal trios in the history of country music. Allen made his first recordings with the Osborne Brothers on July 1, 1956 when they recorded four songs.

Allen left the Osborne Brothers in 1958 and resettled in the Washington, D.C. area, which had a thriving bluegrass scene including the Country Gentlemen. There, with the innovative mandolin player Frank Wakefield, he formed the Kentuckians. During this period he and Wakefield made a much-admired record for Folkways, entitled simply "Bluegrass", which showed a larger public that he was a true disciple of "the high lonesome sound" associated with Bill Monroe. At his best, Allen drenched his material in emotion, each song propelled by his surging rhythm guitar playing. As he later said, "Bluegrass is sad music. It's always been sad and the people that's never lived it, it'll take them a long time to know what it is."

He later recorded for County Records and King Records with noted banjo player J.D. Crowe. Among his protégés was mandolinist David Grisman, the inventor of "dawg music," who said that by hiring him for the Kentuckians, Allen gave the younger man "a college education in bluegrass music."

Allen's sons Ronnie, Greg, Neal, and Harley performed and recorded as the Allen Brothers, both with and without their father, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vocal arrangements

Until the Osbornes' 1958 hit "Once More", the typical arrangement called for a "lead" singer to provide the melody with a tenor singing a higher part, and a baritone below. "Once More", which reached number 13 on the charts, had the lead sung by the band's highest voice, mandolinist Bobby Osborne. Allen sang the baritone just below the melody and banjo player Sonny Osborne provided the tenor a full octave below its place in a traditional arrangement. The result, as the Osbornes themselves observed, allowed singers to mimic the sliding tonal effects of the pedal-steel guitar. Contemporary singers using this device include Rhonda Vincent.

Selected discography



Year Title Label Number Notes
1959 Country Pickin' And Hillside Singin' MGM E-3734 With the Osborne Brothers, also MGM SL 5069 (Japan)
1964 bluegrass Folkways FTS-02408 With Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians[1]
1965 Solid Bluegrass Sound Of The Kentuckians Melodeon MLP-7325
1966 Bluegrass Country, Vol. 1 County 704
1967 Bluegrass Country, Vol. 2 County 710
1972 Allengrass Lemco LLP-612 also on King Bluegrass
1973 My Old Kentucky Home King Bluegrass 523 With the Allen Brothers
1973 Favorites King Bluegrass 542 With the Allen Brothers
1976 Red Allen & Frank Wakefield Red Clay RC-104 With the Allen Brothers (Japan)
1979 Live and Let Live Folkways FTS-31065 [2]
197? Red Allen Live Storyville SRYP-1211 1960s radio transcriptions (Denmark/Japan)
1980 In Memory of the Man: Dedicated to Lester Flatt Folkways FTS-31073 [3]
1981 Red Allen and Friends Folkways FTS-31088 [4]
1983 The Red Allen Tradition Folkways FTS-31097 [5]
198? Bluegrass & County Fundamental SAVE 29 (UK)
1992 Bluegrass Reunion Acoustic Disc ACD-4
1994 The Kitchen Tapes Acoustic Disc ACD-11 Recorded 1963[6]

[7] [8] [9]


Year Title Label Number Notes
1984 Classic Recordings, 1954-69 Collector's Classics CC LP 21 (Germany)
2001 The Folkways Years, 1964-1983 Smithsonian Folkways SFW-40127 Compilation plus 6 unreleased tracks[10]
2004 Keep On Going: The Rebel & Melodeon Recordings Rebel 1127
2004 Lonesome and Blue: The Complete County Recordings Rebel 1128

See also


  1. ^ "Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  2. ^ "Live and Let Live". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  3. ^ "In Memory of the Man: Dedicated to Lester Flatt". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  4. ^ "Red Allen and Friends". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  5. ^ "The Red Allen Tradition". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  6. ^ "The Kitchen Tapes". Allmusic. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  
  7. ^ "Red Allen". Praguefrank's Country Music Discographies. Retrieved January 7, 2010.  
  8. ^ "Red Allen". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  9. ^ "Red Allen" (in French). Discographie Rock 'N' Country. Gerard 'Rocky' Lambert. June 27, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2010.  
  10. ^ "The Folkways Years, 1964–1983". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 6, 2010.  

External links


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