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Tue, 01.07.1908

One of Louisiana’s finest, “Red” Allen

Red Allen

*Red Allen was born on this date in 1908. He was a Black Trumpet player and singer.

Henry "Red" Allen Jr. was the only child of Henry and Juretta Allen. The Elder Allen was the leader of the Allen Brass Band of Algiers, Louisiana, found directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.  As a teenager he played in his father's band, with George Lewis, the Excelsior Band and with the Sam Morgan Band.  In 1926 he left New Orleans to play with Sidney Desvigne's Southern Syncopaters on the riverboat Island Queen which ran between St. Louis and Cincinnati.

In 1927 he toured with King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators; the work didn't go well for Oliver, the band broke up in New York though Allen made his first recordings during that time with Clarence Williams. Allen returned to New Orleans and played with Fats Pichon and then joined Fate Marable on the Strekfus riverboat Capitol until 1928. After a contract offer from Victor records and jobs by both Duke Ellington and Luis Russell, he returned to New York. The next year, he made several recordings under his own name for Victor until 1933. He then joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, replacing Rex Stewart as the group's featured soloist. During this time period Allen made several popular recordings with Coleman Hawkins, where he sang and played trumpet.

Starting in 1934 he joined Mills Blue Rhythm Band until he left them in 1937 to rejoin Luis Russell's band which was fronted by Louis Armstrong at that time. He stayed with them until 1940 when he began leading small groups in New York nightclubs and played on records by Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet. He continued to record his own records, as well as tour with Billie Holiday, and others throughout the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s Allen remained active recording with his old friends George Lewis, Coleman Hawkins, and with Kid Ory. Red continued playing up until his death on April 17, 1967 from pancreatic cancer.

Reference:
Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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