RICK ALLEN BIOGRAPHY
Born near Los Angeles in the mid-1940’s, Rick Allen began playing drums at age five, guitar at seven, piano at nine and Hammond Organ at age 11. “My parents couldn’t afford an organ, so I practiced in department stores and churches”, Allen says. If fact, Rick’s parents hated rhythm and blues music and would not allow him to play at home. He had to practice in empty churches during the week. “Once, I was arrested for playing blues on a pipe organ. It was at a church in Huntington Beach, California. I was placed in Juvenile Hall, and my father had to pick me up the next day!”
Rick’s only real interest in life, other than girls, was music. Blues and R&B were very popular in Los Angeles in the 1950’s, and most kids listened to the black stations to hear shows by deejays Hunter Hancock, Art Laboe, Johnny Otis and Huggy Boy. “I used to go to South Central L.A. and Watts to buy my records. Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and all the great blues artists”, he says.
At age eighteen, Rick went on the road with a band from Milwaukee called The Bonnevilles, led by guitarist Larry Lynne. With fake ID, he was able to play nightclubs all around the Midwestern States. There were many days of “payin’ dues” between jobs, living on crackers and cheese, hocking his instruments, and sometimes going to bed hungry. But, it never entered Rick’s mind to give up music.
The Bonnevilles backed up Jimmy Clanton in Milwaukee, and Johnny “Guitar” Watson in California. They also played with The Olympics, of “Hully Gully” Fame. During this time, Rick started to listen carefully to Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, "Groove" Holmes and Jimmy Smith.
In 1964, Rick and Larry Lynne formed a band called “The Skunks”. For a gimmick, the band members dyed their hair black, and bleached white “skunk- stripes” on the sides. The Skunks were signed with Chess Records in Chicago, where they cut two songs. Sonny Boy Williamson was at the session, and played harmonica on one of the tunes, “Fanny Mae”. The record was never released, and is a collectors item today.
In California, Rick hooked up with jazz tenor sax player Tom Fabre, and began playing organ trio gigs in Watts and South Central L.A. “I knew that was the place to learn”, says Rick. “We were playing the “off nights” in the same B3 jazz clubs that booked Jimmy Smith, “Groove” Holmes, Shirley Scott and Baby Face Willette. Sometimes, we would play weekends too. The pay was $10 per night, and sometimes even less. I would have done those gigs for free, but I needed to eat. Tom and I were the only white faces in those clubs, and if we didn’t play well, we wouldn’t last for long. But, the people really liked us, and were very kind.”
About a year later, Rick began playing in Hollywood on the Sunset Strip. The club was The Galaxy, and it was next door to the Whiskey a’ Go Go. The band was called Al and the Originals, a mixed-group with a phenomenal lead singer, Bobby Angelle and guitar genius Arthur Adams. With Angelle, Rick cut some songs on Liberty Records with Dr. John and former Raylettes’ Clydie King, Shirley Matthews and Vanetta Fields. He also worked with Etta James for several weeks at the Californian Club in L.A. Bobby Angelle, Arthur Adams and Rick also cut some songs on Money Records. It was during this time that Rick met actor Joey Vieira, who went on to become his manager and producer at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. “Joey helped me a lot, and always believed in me,” Rick says. “He is probably the best producer I ever worked with”. Joey Vieira recently played an important role in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Patriot”.
For about a year, Rick played with a band called Blue Rose, and got the chance to jam with Albert King. Albert wanted Blue Rose to be his band, but the group had plans of its’ own. Rick did some session work with singer Joanne Vent on A&M Records, and Genya Raven, (with famed guitarists Jerry McGee and Rick Vito, plus drummer Eddie Tuduri) on ABC Records. In 1973, Rick went on the road with Dalton and Dubarri. “Our managers were also the managers for Loggins and Messina, so we went on a national tour with them. We also toured and played concerts with Rod Stewart, The Doobie Brothers, The Beach Boys, Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, Dave Mason, Steve Miller and others”, Rick says, “We got to play the big rock concerts all over the USA. Places like Madison Square Garden in New York City and San Francisco’s Winterland. Really big crowds every night, between 10,000 and 20,000 people. With Rod Stewart, we played for a packed football stadium at the University of California, Santa Barbara.”
In 1974, Rick went on the road again, this time with Don Preston, guitarist for Leon Russell. They played show clubs from New York to California, and recorded an album in San Francisco for Shelter Records. Chris Stewart, (from Paul McCartney’s band), and Scottish soul singer Frankie Miller were on the session. “I went to high school with Don Preston, and it was fun working with him. Don was one of my childhood idols”, Rick states. While on tour with Preston in Detroit, Rick went for breakfast in a hotel café, and saw Howlin’ Wolf sitting at a table. Rick introduced himself, and was invited to sit down and dine with the blues legend. Howlin’ Wolf told him that his piano player had quit the band the night before, and he needed someone to play piano that night. “I said I’d be honored to play with him. I got to play all night with the man I consider to be the greatest of the Chicago blues gods. I was scared. I’m not really a piano player, and Wolf didn’t use organ. But, I remembered his songs from his records, and Wolf liked my playing. Somebody made a video of the three shows we did. I’d sure like to have a copy!”
Also in 1974, Rick began working with Delaney Bramlett. “I had known Delaney for several years, and began working with him shortly after he and Bonnie split up. Delaney taught me a lot about recording. We cut an album for MGM, and two albums for Motown. Plus, we cut a long demo album for him, and an album on Thumbs Carlisle’s daughter Kathy, plus a theme song for the Stockard Channing TV series. Drummer Stu Perry was on these sessions. When you cut over 50 songs with Delaney, you learn how to be a studio musician”, says Rick. “Delaney is like family to me. A really great artist, and a good person.”
In 1978, Rick went on tour with Bonnie Bramlett, for Capricorn Records. They played a live radio show at the Bottom Line in New York, as well as showcase clubs in over thirty states and Canada, from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, BC. “I liked playing with Bonnie. She is one of the best singers in the world, and I was honored to be in her band”, he says. While on tour with Bonnie, Rick made his first visit to New Orleans.
“I loved New Orleans! It was a blues town, and a party town, with great musicians all over”, Rick says. “My wife, Anne and I moved here in 1983, and have never missed California for a minute. I began working in blues clubs, with Mighty Sam McClain and drummer Kerry Brown. Later, I worked with the great Ernie K-Doe, (Mother In Law), as well as Jesse Hill, Bobby Mitchell, Johnny Adams, Jay Monque’D, King Floyd, C.P.Love, The Boogie Kings, and Guitar Slim Junior.” In 1991, Rick began doing studio work at Allen Toussaint’s Sea Saint Studios in New Orleans with producer/engineer Roger Branch. Rick did many albums at Sea Saint, including those of slide guitar bluesman Brint Anderson and Robert “Barefootin” Parker. He also has played on many albums for Orleans Records, owned by Grammy Nominated producer Carlo Ditta of New Orleans.
Rick has played on Orleans Records CD’s by artists like Cajun blues singer Coco Robicheaux, blues singers Rocky Charles, Little Freddie King, Mighty Sam McClain and others.
In the year 2000, Rick Allen was nominated for a Grammy Award with The Dukes of Dixieland and world-renown drummer Richard Taylor, for the album, “Gloryland”. Rick and his wife Anne live in the bayou country of south Louisiana.