While a career as a player in a country & western rhythm section might lead to the right person's phone ringing off the hook, the musical activities of this Tennessee native don't seem to have maintained his interest. A decision to attack country music from another angle, that of a journalist, turned out to be the right thing to do. Although certainly not the entrance to a gold mine, the door leading to this noble profession is one that upon occasion can be found to have at least a bit more ready cash on hand than the life of a player. In early pictures from his career, Bob Allen can be seen expressing all the enthusiasms of a younger player, whether draped over a rockabilly stand-up bass in a prototype Elvis Presley-influenced combo, wielding a threatening looking washtub bass with a string that looks like it might be used to truss up trespassers, or playing drums in a civilized manner with the countrypolitan guitarist Chet Atkins. On his own, Allen was responsible for two sessions and two resulting singles; in 1957, a Buddy Holly cover and two years a later, the troubled combination of "After Shock" and "Oh Lonely Night" released by the Class label.
As a player, Allen was associated not only with Atkins, with whom he played drums, but with the rockabilly and country duo of Alton Lott and Jimmy Harrell. Enjoying their company, he played as a member of the Jim-Bobs in the mid-'50s, too early to cash in on the later public's love of this name as some kind of redneck symbol. He continued playing in several other combos with the Lott and Harrell front line, getting plenty of perspective on country and early rock music history in the process. Unlike many journalists writing about this style of music, Allen actually worked as a player at Sun Studios during the heyday. Since the '60s, he has been as reliable as a lighthouse in terms of his relation to the Nashville country scene, turning out a stream of liner notes, articles, and full length biographies as well as editing, taking photographs, and producing the odd reissue here and there. Allen is closely associated with the Nashville office of Billboard magazine. He also is a scribe on he topics of easy listening and vocal music, but country is his real forte and his allegiance is hardcore mainstream, including at least a half a dozen Johnny Cash liner notes and a biography of George Jones. That isn't to say he wasn't on the side of the outlaws: in the mid-'70s, he was an early and vocal supporter of the rowdy David Allan Coe, and is one of the very few journalists who can claim to have written liner notes to an album with "rhinestone" in the title. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi