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Allen in 1980

Lee Francis Allen[1] (July 2, 1927 – October 18, 1994) was an American tenor saxophone player. He was a key figure in New Orleans rock and roll of the 1950s and recorded with many leading performers of the early rock and roll era. He was semiretired from music by the late 1960s, but in the late 1970s returned to music intermittently until the end of his life.



Allen was born in Pittsburg, Kansas, and raised largely in Denver, Colorado.[1] He played saxophone from his childhood. A combined athletics and music scholarship from Xavier University led to his relocating to New Orleans in 1943.

He fell into the city's thriving music scene, performing or recording with dozens of musicians in the early days of rock and roll and rhythm and blues. In 1947, he joined the Paul Gayten Band and later, the Dave Bartholomew Band.[2] Notable are his recording with the singers Fats Domino and Lloyd Price; Allen also was the sax soloist on most of Little Richard's epochal hits from 1955 and 1956.[3] His own instrumental, "Walkin' with Mr. Lee", released by Ember Records, was a minor hit in 1958, partly because it was frequently played on the television program American Bandstand.

By the mid-1960s, Allen saw the city of New Orleans no longer the recording mecca it was for almost a decade so he soon followed drummer Earl Palmer's lead and moved to southern California in 1965, performing only occasionally on tours with Fats Domino. He found work at an aircraft manufacturing plant by day and also fell easily into the thriving R & B scene by night.

The rockabilly revival of the late 1970s found younger musicians seeking Allen's distinctive saxophone. He recorded with the Stray Cats and was a mentor to and eventually a member of the Blasters. Allen recorded with them on all of their albums (except their debut album, Rollin' Rock) from their second and all subsequent releases on Slash/Warner Bros. He also toured with them from the early 1980s until he died in 1994. He played three shows in October 1981 with the Rolling Stones: on October 1 at the Metro Centre, in Rockford, Illinois, and on October 3 and 4 at Folsom Field, in Boulder, Colorado.[4]

After Allen's death, Blasters member Dave Alvin dedicated the song "Mister Lee" to Allen.

Partial discographyEdit

  • "Chuggin'" b/w "Tic Toc", Lee Allen and His Band, Ember Records 7" E-1039X (Canada)


  1. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 354. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ Ward, Ed (2016). The History of Rock & Roll, volume one, 1920–1963. New York: Flatiron Books. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-250-07116-3.
  3. ^ Ward 2016, p. 107.
  4. ^ MacLagan, Ian (1998). All the Rage. Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 978-0283063343.

External linksEdit