Having been born the 3rd child, on the 3rd day, on the 3rd month, may have had characteristics of divine intervention, or perhaps astrological connotations; but it had to be beyond his parents, or even Mr. Allen’s wildest expectations, of the success he would experience as a professional bassist.
Coming from humble origins, Mr. Allen and his family migrated to Oakland, California around 1955, from Monroe, Louisiana. Moving into a community called Sobrante Park, further toward East Oakland, would be the place that his passion for music would begin to blossom.
Ironically, it was in this small community that Mr. Allen noticed a tall, dark figure, caring a long suitcase( that’s what he thought it was!). Little did he know that this figure would be totally influential, and inspiring to his musical development. His name was Larry Graham. His girlfriend of the time, live directly across the street!
Traveling across town via AC Transit, (carrying a St. George piggyback bass amplifier, along with the bass!), Mr.Allen connected with friends in West Oakland. Playing various talent shows and high school assemblies, would lead him to his first professional musical situation.
Driving around on a Sunday afternoon, he noticed a man getting his shoes shined at a shoe shine stand. They were located outside for the most part! Mr. Allen shouted out “stop the car!”. He jumped out, ran up to the man, and immediately asked him if he would let him play in his band! The man was Mr. Johnny Talbot. Mr. Allen was 17 years old at the time.
It was with Mr. Talbot, Mr. Allen will receive musical nurturing in the blues, funk, and jazz idioms. Mr. Talbot was a Texas born, blues and funk guitarist, who himself, was trained and schooled under the tutelage of Mr. T-Bone Walker. Mr. Talbot would become a dominant force in the bay area music scene.
It would be with Mr. Talbot, that Mr. Allen would get experience playing the premiere clubs in Oakland. This would include The Showcase, The Sportsman Club, The Continental Club, The Reno Club, and The Club Triangle. It would further gain him experience on hallowed stages, like The Fillmore West, Winterland,and other iconic musical establishment.
Primarily self-taught, his musical training would come in spurts. Taking classical double bass lessons at Sherman and Clay in Oakland, the instructor saw great potential as a classical bassist. Unfortunately, the call of the road, adventure and excitement, would cause him to drop out of school! This would happen twice! Growing musically at Laney College, under Elvo Diamanté, and Jay Lehman, Mr. Allen would find the road irresistible! His influences would lean heavily towards the great James Jamerson, and the Motown sound, and later Chuck Rainey. Jaco Pastorius would alter the whole musical landscape.
Prior to this, Mr. Allen would get road experience with Mr. Talbot, and cut his first records. Johnny Talbot and De Thangs were a local favorite, and the records “Git Sum”, and “ Take it Off” would receive major local airplay. Bearing in mind that Sly and The Family Stone albums had been released( A Whole New Thing, Life, and Stand), Mr. Allen was leaning heavily towards that concept.
Being an avid listener of Sly Stone on KSOL radio, it wouldn’t be long before Mr. Allen would be introduced to Larry Graham, and Freddie Stone. Larry was writing, and used vocalists like Lenny Williams , and Freddie was overseeing The Little Sister Project. Mr. Allen would soon find himself backing Little Sister on bass, and opening shows for Sly and the Family Stone. He would later become the first choice by Sly, to replace Larry Graham. Continued success would come by way of Rose Stone, Robin Trower, and the late great Bobby Womack.
It’s been a wonderful journey, and his newest journey is about to begin. With the release of the “Simple Rules” EP, here’s hoping that Mr. Allen enjoys continued success at this juncture of his life.