Terry Allen is a roots-rock- alt country music singer and songwriter, and
also a visual artist and a playwright. He was born in Wichita, Kansas, in
1943 and brought up in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy Holly's home town.
Terry's mother had been a barrelhouse pianist, of the last musical generation
to accompany silent films. She was kicked out of Southern Methodist
University in the 1920s. Terry's father, Sled, who was 60 when Terry was born, was the
promoter of musical performances in Lubbock. On Fridays he'd hold dances
for black people, and on Saturdays, he'd present country acts such as Ernest
Tubb, and Hank Williams. He also brought some of the greatest early rock 'n'
rollers and blues giants to Lubbock, such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats
Domino, and Ray Charles "These were the first cosmopolitan shows they ever
had in Lubbock where you'd find whites, blacks and Hispanics all at the same
place." says Terry.
There's a lot of pressure on Terry Allen. What can one possibly say when
forced to shoulder a legacy like that bestowed upon him in the All Music Guide:
- "There may be no greater maverick in all of late 20th-century music."
Not to worry, though- Allen delivers his official response in impeccable
- "Fuck you," he says. Then he bursts out in laughter.
This is the drier-than-Lubbock wit of a man who, in his music as much as in
person, always seems to be a couple of steps ahead of everyone else. But as
much as he's willing to poke fun at his own uncompromising image, that same
deadly sarcasm is exactly what keeps re-enforcing it in a music world that has been
absolutely baffled by Allen, who continues to release acclaimed album after
acclaimed album of Texas-brand Americana music while earning himself a
Guggenheim fellowship and three grants as a visual artist- all the while tossing
killer barbs at the record industry and Nashville pop-cowboys in songs like "Gone
Of course, if you really want to know how devastating Allen's wit can be,
just ask his friends. After one particular weekend of cutting comments at fellow
Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen's home, Keen printed a batch of
badgesthat proclaimed in bold letters "Fuck Terry". Could he take it as well as
he dishes it out? "Oh, I saved up a bunch of 'em," says Allen. "I pass 'em out
periodically -just wishful thinking."
Allen is just fine with the "maverick" tag, numbering as he does Lou Reed,
Dylan and Hank Williams among his top musical heroes, and having long been
associated with the school of Texas rebels that includes his Lubbock compatriots
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely.
Fans have little fear of Allen falling into any slot. While many have
discovered him through Keen's cover of "Amarillo Highway" or his collaborations with
David Byrne and Lucinda Williams on his 1996 album "Human Remains", those who
have spent a lot of time with his work, from the landmark 1979 album "Lubbock
(On Everything)" to 1999's "Salivation" have discovered that Allen's
roots-rock sound is nothing if not eclectic, while his story-songs about everything
from "a one-legged woman on the dance floor" ("Peggy Legg") to "The Wolfman of
Del Rio" are often as moving as they are hilarious, but always served up with
Jimmie Dale Gilmore calls Terry Allen, whom he first saw perform when both
were high-schoolers in Lubbock, "the impetus for me to become a songwriter . . .
It wasn't his style that affected me, just the pure fact that he was so
When drummer Davis McLarty of Joe Ely's band recently had the chance to
accompany Allen, he said he felt like bowing down and admitting, "We're not
worthy." McLarty calls Allen a "chicken-fried renaissance man . . . the world's
Terry Allen Discography
- Gonna California
(1968-Bole Creek Records-Single)
- Color Book
(1968-Bole Creek Records-Single)
- Lubbock (on Everything)
(1978- Fate Records-Double Album)
Whatever Happened to Jesus (and Mabilene)?
- Smokin The Dummy
- The Arizona Spiritual
(1983-High Performance- Single)
- Cocktail Desperado
(1987-Fate Records-Film Sound Track Album)
- Torso Hell (Radio Show)
- Pedal Steel/Rollback (Sound Tracks)
- The Silent Majority (Terry Allens Greatest Missed Hits)
- Human Remains
(1996-Sugar Hill Records-Album)
- Smokin The Dummy/Bloodlines (Re-Release On One CD)
(1997-Sugar Hill Records-Album)
(1999-Sugar Hill Records-Album)