Photos by Glenda S. Paradee
Deborah Allen is one of those rare artists who forged their own path to success and ended up building a world-class career in the process. An extraordinarily talented singer, songwriter, producer and performer, Deborah's unique abilities as an artist may be matched only by her enthusiasm and creativity as an individual. It is that formidable combination of spirit and talent that keeps the Grammy-nominated entertainer in demand. With her latest album, Hear Me Now, Deborah Allen's music remains as smart, witty and sexy as ever.
“I was born singing,” Allen asserts. “I guess it would be hard to pinpoint exactly when my career in music became a full-on pursuit, but I'd say by the time I was eighteen I was sure that music was what I wanted, and I just forged ahead. There was no Plan B in sight.”
Fortunately, after moving to Nashville, Plan A worked out in grand fashion. Although most often associated with her signature smash, “Baby I Lied,” the true measure of Deborah's influence in contemporary music is underscored by the hit singer's diverse radio success. Songs like “I've Been Wrong Before,” “I Hurt For You,” “Rock Me,” “If You're Not Gonna Love Me,” “Wrong Side Of Love,” and “Break These Chains” are just a few of the singles that made their way up the Country, Pop or AC charts during her career.
In some ways, “Baby I Lied” confirmed the idea that an artist could have success in different formats with the same song – a precedent that would prove to be years ahead of the crossover trends of today. “Baby I Lied” not only appealed to Country and Pop radio listeners, earning multiple Million Air-Play Awards in the process, but it also resulted in a pair of Grammy nominations for the Delta songstress – one as a vocalist and one as a songwriter.
Ironically, songwriting has often been the most overlooked aspect of Deborah's career, yet literally hundreds of artists have benefited from her abundant catalog of material. With more than 1,600 compositions published, Deborah's songs have been recorded by a laundry list of acts, including LeAnn Rimes, Brooks & Dunn, Patty Loveless, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, John Conlee, Isaac Hayes, Diana Ross, Sheena
Easton, Fleetwood Mac and more. In addition, her songs have been featured on several major motion picture soundtracks, such as Coyote Ugly, River Rat, Clinton and Nadine, as well as in River Phoenix's final film, The Thing Called Love. For Allen, songwriting remains one of the most consistent aspects of her career and one that she insists is just as satisfying as the performance element.
“Waking up in the morning with a blank piece of paper and by sundown having a song written on it is an amazing feeling,” Allen reveals. “For me, that's definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my career.”
And though Deborah Allen might have taught herself to become an award-winning songwriter, she was simply born a natural entertainer. The charismatic artist has toured the world numerous times and continues today to deliver engaging performances that incorporate Deborah's inimitable sense of theater, showmanship and energy.
For her 2011 release, Hear Me Now, Deborah got to experience the best of all worlds, contributing in the songwriting, recording and production process. Allen wrote or co-wrote every song on the project, including the album's first single, “Anything Other Than Love.” Written with award-winning BMI songwriter of the year, Gary Burr, the track came together as a traditional, yet funky country shuffle, with Deborah's trademark vocals as vibrant as ever.
“Deborah is singing better than ever, which is saying a lot!” says Allen's close friend, legendary CMA Hall of Fame songwriter Bobby Braddock, who produced three tracks on the album. “‘Anything Other Than Love' is one of the best Country singles in years. It just keeps rockin' my brain!”
As expected, Hear Me Now draws from the deep well of Deborah's Delta influences: Memphis Soul, Graceland Gospel, Delta Blues and of course, Nashville Country. As Deborah explains, Hear Me Now is an album that fits “somewhere between Memphis and Nashville.”
Throughout her phenomenal journey of hits and accomplishments in every facet of her career, Deborah Allen remains true to her vision. From her discovery by Roy Orbison, to her friendship with Shel Silverstein, her work with Prince, and her current release, Hear Me Now, Deborah creates art entirely on her own terms. With a distinguished career built on success after success as a performer, songwriter and producer, the dynamic Delta singer from Memphis, Tennessee, has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. That's simply not Deborah Allen's style.
More on Deborah
Allen was born Deborah Lynn Thurmond in Memphis, Tennessee and was strongly influenced by Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Ray Charles, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the current music which was being played in Memphis on WHBQ and WDIA, as well as country greats such as Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. At 18, Allen moved to Nashville to begin pursuing her career in music. She worked a short stint as a waitress at the local Music Row IHOP restaurant. While there one day, Deborah met Roy Orbison and songwriter Joe Melson. Two weeks later, Orbison and Melson, who admired her spunk, decided to hire Allen as to sing background on a couple of Orbison tracks.
Allen also auditioned for and landed a job at the Opryland USA theme park. She was soon chosen by Opryland as a featured soloist and dancer for a state department exchange tour of Russia starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Upon her return from Russia, Deborah gravitated to the Nashville offices of Waylon Jennings, the Tompall & the Glaser Brothers and John Hartford where her close friend, Marie Barrett, worked as a secretary. There she met her soon-to-be songwriting mentor, poet, playwright, artist and songwriter Shel Silverstein. After watching her perform during a happy hour show at the Spence Manor on Nashville's famed Music Row, Shel advised Deborah to pursue songwriting as an extension of her creativity and career path.
Allen also began to pursue a singing career in her own right when she was chosen to be a regular on Jim Stafford's ABC summer replacement series. She went on to serve as an opening act for many of Stafford's personal appearances. Jim and producer Phil Gernhard brought Deborah back to Nashville to record a CB radionovelty record called "Do You Copy". It was recorded live and was released as a single on Warner Bros. Records. Although she appreciated the opportunity to record with Stafford and Gernhard, Deborah was disheartened that after waiting patiently for two years to record her first record, it was a novelty tune. She decided to move back to Nashville to follow her true musical direction.
In 1979, while singing at a private party, Deborah was discovered by producer Bud Logan, who invited her to sing on five unfinished duet tracks by the late country legend Jim Reeves. Three of these songs were "Don't Let Me Cross Over," "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight" and "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me." All three duets were released as singles, and made the Top 10 on the country charts for Reeves' longtime label, RCA Records. Deborah was billed as "The Mystery Singer" on the first release, an innovative promotion by label head, Joe Galante.
In 1980, Allen signed with Capitol Records. Her debut album for the label was 1980's Trouble in Paradise. The album produced her initial solo hit "Nobody's Fool" peaking at No. 24 on Billboard country chart. Subsequent chart singles included "You Make Me Wonder Why," "You Look Like the One I Love" (a song she had co-written) and "After Tonight," co-written by Troy Seals. At the same time, Deborah had written a song called "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" with Bruce Channel and Kieran Kane. Although she pleaded with her record label, Capitol, to let her record it and release it as a single, they refused. With the encouragement of music publisher Don Gant, Janie Fricke's producer, Jim Ed Norman, heard "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" and recorded it with Fricke. The single became Deborah's first No. 1 single on the Billboard charts as a songwriter, affirming Allen's belief that songwriting was the way to create a successful future for herself.
In 1983, Deborah moved to RCA Records, where she achieved her greatest success, releasing the album Cheat the Night. The first single from the album became Allen's signature song and only crossover hit: "Baby I Lied" peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard country chart and crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 26 in January 1984. The song also climbed into the Top 10 of the Adult Contemporary chart. Allen followed the crossover hit with the country single "I've Been Wrong Before", which went to No. 1 on the Cashbox country chart in the spring of 1984. Later that year, "I Hurt For You", also from Allen's breakthrough album, became a Top 10 country hit. In 1984, she recorded Let Me Be the First, the first album to be digitally recorded in—and released from—Nashville. In 1984, Allen made the charts once again with "Heartache and a Half" (written by Allen with Rafe VanHoy and legendary Muscle Shoals songwriter Eddie Struzick).
In 1987, Allen released a single penned by Prince, under the alias Joey Coco, called Telepathy. An album of the same name was also issued and was considered more pop oriented. In 1987, Allen released her last single for RCA, "You're the Kind of Trouble".
Without the constraints of a major label, Allen was free to be independently creative, nurturing her success as a songwriter. After the No. 1 co-written hit, "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" and the Tanya Tucker hit "Can I See You Tonight", Allen won another No. 1 for Janie Frickie, "Let's Stop Talking About It", as well as the No. 1 John Conlee release, "I'm Only in It for the Love", which she co-wrote with Kix Brooks and VanHoy.
During this time, Allen began to explore the songwriting influences in her deep Southern roots, recording the album Delta Dreamland which she co-produced and financed on her own. She received rave reviews from the Nashville music industry for its raw honest emotion and earthy production.
Soon, Allen was able to make a deal with Giant Records to release the album under their label in 1993. That same year, she had the single "Rock Me (In the Cradle of Love)". Although it charted at No. 29 on the country chart, the record seemed to reach a much larger audience and status by virtue of the hit video that accompanied its release. The video of "Rock Me" was filmed on Allen's own 16mm Ariflex SR film camera and edited on her own Sony editing machine. Allen won the Music City Summit Award for her co-producing and co-directing skills. Her hands-on approach to her music and career was her salvation in a business that can be so easily swayed by the ever-changing flavor of the month.
Allen also had one other charting single from the Delta Dreamland album with, "If You're Not Gonna Love Me". This landmark album served to show Allen as a new person, with more depth as a writer, as well as a more sensual image and a bluesy new style.
Allen's 1994 album, All That I Am, which was co-produced by Deborah and label head, James Stroud, was also well received with her single release "Break These Chains". Since the release of her two Giant Records albums, Allen has remained a popular songwriter and one of the most revered vocalists in Nashville.
In addition to Allen's personal albums, Deborah contributed to the soundtrack of the 1993 film "The Thing Called Love" performing "Blame It on Your Heart" (also covered by Patty Loveless) and the Don Schlitz ballad "Ready and Waiting".
Once again, it was time to regroup and start anew, which Allen did with her new co-publishing deal and record deal with Curb music publishing and Curb Records. She released one album with Curb Records in 2000, titled The Best Of, that included a new version of her 1983 hit "Baby I Lied". Through her connection with LeAnn Rimes who was intent on meeting Allen when she came to Nashville at age 13 to pursue a record deal of her own, five of Allen's songs were recorded by Rimes. Two of Allen's songs appeared on the multi-platinum "Blue" album and three songs on her "Sittin' On Top of the World" album.
Shortly after Allen's success with Rimes, her song "We Can Get There", performed by Mary Griffin, appeared in the film "Coyote Ugly".
Allen continues to perform worldwide and is extremely active today in her songwriting and producing. The album is Hear Me Now was released through Delta Rock Records and GMV Nashville on August 16, 2011. The first single was "Anything Other Than Love", co-written by Gary Burr. The album also contains Allen's song "Amazing Graceland", a tribute to Elvis Presley.
Allen's publishing companies, Delta Queen Music and Delta Rose Music are currently co-published with partner, Delta Rock Music. She is represented by Raymond Hicks of Rolling Thunder Management.
Allen co-wrote "Your Loss" with Savannah Maddison in 2012, which was the 11-year-old's first song.
In 2013, she released her first Christmas album, Rockin' Little Christmas, through Weblast Records, and done Christmas shows at the Fontanel Mansion in Nashville, TN, that same year.
For more information on Deborah, go to her website: http://www.deborahallen.com
Thanks For The Music Deborah!
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