Hello, this is Tony Allen. I was born Anthony Penia [pronounced Pan-yay] Allan in New Orleans on August 13, 1932, the son of Oscar and Johnie [Jo-nay] Allan. My mother was a Geechie, which is a French Creole, and my father was a mix of Indian and black. Music came from my mother's side of the family. She once played saxophone in The Sweethearts of Rhythm. Her brother was Frank Penia, who owned the Dew-Drop Inn, one of New Orleans's top R&B clubs in the '40s and '50s.
I learned to play piano in church when I was six. My friends used to call me sissy when they'd see me practicing, but I was determined to find my way in music someday. My father, who was a butcher, resented my musical ambitions--even after I started making records. I grew up in the Ninth Ward, not too far from Fats Domino's house, so I'd often go over and watch him play, and naturally he was an inspiration for me.
I came to Los Angeles for the first time in 1941 and went back home because I didn't like it. But my Uncle Frank sent me back out here to live with my Aunt Nila Love, who I came to call Mother because she was a great love of my life. I lost her during the Watts riots in 1965. I attended George Washington Carver High with Arthur Lee Maye and Eugene Church. Later I went to Jefferson High, where I knew Cornel Gunter and Bobby Freeman. Arthur introduced me to Jesse Belvin, who only lived a block away from me, on 41st Place and Long Beach Boulevard. We all became good friends.
I recorded my first record when I was 14. It was called "Angel Child." [According to other sources, it was called "Strange One."] I recorded that song at Austin McCoy's backyard studio for a man named Emmett Jose, who released it on his label, Aries. If you can find that record today, I'd sure like to see it. Then I wrote "I'm Your Mojo Man" for Larry Brice [Tide Records] and "No One" for The Furys. I also sang with Big Jay McNeely's vocal group, Three Dots & a Dash.
Jesse Belvin is the one who took me out to Specialty Records and introduced me to Bumps Blackwell. While Jesse was taking care of business, I started playing around with the piano there, and Bumps came over and asked me if I was under contract. I said I wasn't, so he called me back not too long after that when he was having trouble with Jesse.
Nite owl was a name my 'mother" Nila had for me because I was always staying out late at night. I turned that phrase into a little song and recorded it on July 4, 1955, at Master Recorders in Hollywood, with The Chimes singing behind me, even though they were billed on the record as The Champs. The Chimes backed everybody on Specialty. They were Charles Jackson, David Cobb, Pookie Whooten and John Talbert.
The labels for that record got mixed up at Al Levine's pressing plant. I know this because I was working there at the time."I" was supposed to be the A-side, but when jocks played "I," they heard "Nite Owl" instead, and liked it. By the time [Specialty owner] Art Rupe caught the error, "Nite Owl" was already a hit around town. I was pressing my own record at Levine's when Art called me up to say that it was a hit.
I went on the road with a lot of Specialty's top acts, like Little Richard, Eugene Church, Larry Williams, Wynona Carr, Lloyd Price and Clifton Chenier.
When I left Specialty I recorded for everybody. My cousin Buelah Mae and me recorded as The Cupids for Aladdin Records. I sang with The Jayos for Johnny Otis on his Dig label, and they backed me on my single there. I did a lot of stuff with Vernon Green's brother Jimmy; he was in my group at Bethlehem and Original Sound. Charles Wright was also in The Twilighters [Bethlehem]. I kept making records right into the 1960s, but then other things kind of took me away from music.
But I've never stopped performing. Thanks to "Nite Owl" being such a big hit around Southern California and other parts of the country, I'm always singing somewhere these days. I've sung at five or six Doo-Wop Society shows. My favorite was the time Gaynel Hodge, Richard Berry, Eugene Church and I formed a vocal group together, a one-time-only group, and sang our asses off. We sang "Pretty Girls Everywhere," "Louie Louie," "Earth Angel," "Emily," some of Jesse Belvin's songs, and "Nite Owl" of course. Man, that was a night I'll never forget.
CLICK TO SEE FULL-SIZE PHOTO
Tony Allen, Richard Berry, Gaynel Hodge and Eugene Church harmonize at Show #12 at the Lakewood Hop on February 23, 1992. Photo by Judy Ann Blake.
(Note: There is another popular recording artist named Tony Allen, a drummer for African artist Fela Kuti and an Afro-beat pioneer. When looking for Tony Allen records, make sure you've got the right one.)
|Aries xx||Angel Child(?)/Check Yourself||1952|
|Specialty 560*||Night Owl/I||1955|
|Specialty 570**||Check Yourself, Baby/Especially||1956|
|Ultra 104***||It Hurts Me So/Check Yourself||1955|
|Dig 109||I Found an Angel/I'm Dreamin'||1956|
|Ebb 115||Why in the World/Come Back||1957|
|Aladdin 3403||Holy Smoke Baby/Time Won't Wait on You||1957|
|Aladdin 340****||Lillie Mae/Now You Tell Me||1957|
|Imperial 5523||Call My Name/Strange Talk||1958|
|Imperial 5547||Forgive Me/Rockin' Shoes||1958|
|Dot 15722||Chills/Skinny Minnie||1958|
|Forward 601*****||Be My Love Be My Love/Tell Me||1958|
|Radio 120+||Please Give Me a Chance/Sweet Man||1959|
|Jamie 1119++||Loving You/Lookin' For My Baby||1959|
|Jamie 1143||God Gave Me You/Train of Love||1959|
|Kent 356+++||Everybody's Somebody's Fool/If Love Was Money||1961|
|Kent 364||Dreamin'/Be My Love Be My Love||1961|
|Bethlehem 3002++++||Just Like Before/Come-a, Come-a, Baby||1961|
|Bethlehem 3004++++||It Hurts Me So/The Trakey-Do||1962|
|Original Sound 01+++++||Wishing Star/Let Me Hear You Say Yeah||1959|
|Original Sound 12*+||Thinking Of You/(not on the flipside)||1959|
|Original Sound 13+++++||Little Lonely Girl/I Still Love You||1960|
|Everest 19388*++||No One (No One But You)/Giggles||1960|
|Mach IV 2*++||No One (No One But You)/Giggles||1960|
|Mach IV 104*++||Till the Thirteenth Month/Girl of the World||1962|
|Mach IV 112*+++||Zing Went the Strings of My Heart/Never More||1962|
|United Artists 50190||No Is Forever/Triple Cross||1967|
|Classic Artists 103||No One/The Back Door||1988|
|Crown 5231||Rock & Roll With Tony Allen & The Night Owls||1960|
|Original Sound 1000||The Best of Original Sound (bootleg)
(Contains the 4 Original Sound sides with The Originals)
|Specialty 7049-2||Hardcore Doo-Wop: In the Hallway....
(Contains all four of Tony's Specialty sides)
|Ace 603||The Ebb Story, Vol. 2
(Contains "Why in the World")
|Ace 759||The Legendary Dig Masters, Vol. 5
(Contains Tony's Dig single plus 2 unreleased songs)
|Specialty 7072||The Ebb Records Story, Vol. 1
(Contains previously unreleased song, "It Hurts to Be Hurt")
|Specialty 7073||The Ebb Records Story, Vol 2
(Contains "Come Back" and unreleased song, "Don't You Know")
|Original Sound xx||Rare But Well Done, Vol. 2
(Will contain a couple of the Originals sides)
|Ace ee||Rock & Roll With Tony Allen
(Will contain Tony's Crown album, plus his Kent, Dig
and unissued Recorded in Hollywood recordings)
Thanks to Steve Propes for his help with Tony Allen's discography
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Discography © Copyright 2001 Jim Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
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