Joe Allison, one of the most influential figures in the rise of modern country music, died Friday (Aug. 2) in Nashville following a long illness. He was 77. Born Oct. 3, 1924, in McKinney, Texas, Joe Marion Allison began his career as a disc jockey and went on to become a songwriter, recording and music publishing executive, record producer and television producer. He was a founder of both the Country Music Association and the Country Music Foundation.
Allison, who worked for the Liberty, Dot and Capitol labels during the 1960s, produced records for Tex Ritter , Willie Nelson , Hank Thompson , Roy Clark and Hank Cochran , among others. He made his name as a radio personality at such stations as KPLT (Paris, TX), KMAC (San Antonio), WMAK and WSM (Nashville), KXLA (Pasadena, CA) and KFOX (Long Beach, CA).
In 1945, Allison joined Ritter’s touring troupe as an announcer. The following year, Ritter recorded Allison’s song, “When You Leave, Don’t Slam the Door,” which subsequently reached No. 3 on the country charts. In the 1950s, Allison wrote such other hits as “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young” and “It’s a Great Life” (for Faron Young) and “Teen Age Crush” (for Tommy Sands).
However, it was Allison’s “He’ll Have to Go,” which he co-wrote with his former wife, Audrey, that earned him his most enduring songwriting distinction. Jim Reeves’ 1959 recording of the song topped the country charts for 14 weeks and inspired cover versions by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Eddy Arnold , Guy Lombardo, the Mills Brothers and many others. “It’s a lost love song,” Allison told author Dorothy Horstmann for her book, Sing Your Heart Out Country Boy, “but it’s a positive approach to the problem.”
Allison retired from the music business in 1970, afterward working as a dealer in antiques. He was elected to the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1976 and to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978. He is survived by his wife, Rita, three sons and a brother.