Who was/is Ricky Allen ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
On the shifting early '60s Windy City blues scene, Ricky Allen was a member in good standing of its younger generation. A fine soul-tinged vocalist, he was also a bit of a heartthrob and by far the most prolific artist on Mel London's Age Records, launched after Mel's other imprints Chief and Profile. Cut You A-Loose was one of many London compositions that Allen tackled and the only one that ever charted, peaking at #20 R&B and #126 pop during the summer of 1963.
Born January 6, 1937 in Nashville, Richard Allen started out like so many of his peers singing gospel. He arrived in Chicago in 1960, soon finding his way into London's orbit. "I met him through (Age house drummer) Bobby Little," said the late Allen. "Bobby was playing with Earl Hooker and them. Bobby told me, 'Ricky, get those songs together!'" Although Mel's Chief and Profile labels ventured into rock and roll and even indulged a taste of doo-wop in addition to issuing Chicago blues classics by Junior Wells, Magic Sam, Elmore James, and Lillian Offitt, Age didn't venture far from the blues root, albeit with a contemporary sensibility. Ricky had the second release on Age in 1961 with You'd Better Be Sure, which he and London collaborated on.
"That was the first record Mel cut on me," recalled Allen. "He said, 'Man, get that record together.' I was sitting over in the corner singing. And Mel came over and gave me the mike. Said, 'Now, we're gonna cut this!' Earl played guitar on that, Earl Hooker did." Hooker's nimble solos often graced Ricky's Age 45s. "He never played the same song twice, the same way," marveled Allen. "He never did, if you listen to each record he made. Anytime he played behind me on the bandstand, it never was the same. I mean, you'd recognize it, don't get me wrong!"
Ricky roared through London's rampaging Cut You A-Loose at a session that found the guitar chair occupied by Ivory Parkes instead of Hooker (the rest of the combo consisted of Allen's organist Sonny Lantz, bassist Earnest Johnson, and drummer Frank Swan). "We had a little office over on Drake, right off of Ogden Avenue. When he was writing the song, I didn't want it. I didn't even want to be bothered with it. Because the other song that he was writing sounded better to me. But I didn't listen until we started working. I went in, he was jumping up and down, laughing and giggling by himself. After we did it, I still didn't want it. I left town. I went home to visit my mother. He sent me a telegram telling me, 'Man, come on, 'cause "Cut You A-Loose" is hittin' it!' I got back, man, WLS, they didn't play no blues. Every time you turned on the station, it was on!"
Despite some fine Age follow-ups, the record's success was an isolated occurrence for Allen. He went on to record for U.S.A., Apogee, 4 Brothers, Tam-Boo, and Bright Star before fading from the local scene in the mid-'70s. "I just gave up," he said. "My wife had a miscarriage and lost the twins. I felt responsible for it. So I just went to work." Allen operated his own A-1 Livery Service during the '90s, when he briefly attempted a performing comeback. "I'm ready," he said at the time. "I'm still healthy, so I'm going to try to do something while I'm doing it." Allen's health deteriorated, and he died May 29, 2005.