Deborah Allen is one of those rare multi-talented artists who forged their own path to world wide success in the music industry including as an extraordinarily talented singer, performing artist, songwriter and producer. Deborah‟s unique abilities as an artist may be matched only by her enthusiasm and creativity as an individual.
Born in Memphis Tennessee her mother prayed as she was looking for a name and to her amazement she saw a rainbow in her mind wherein the name "Deborah" appeared with twinkles of light like little stars surrounding it. She gave thanks to the Lord for the name and was not surprised that her daughter at a very young age asked her mother while she was driving, if she thought she could become a singer. Her mother encouraged her daughter that he could be whatever she chose and thought back to the prophetic sight she had seen of the stars twinkling around her given name.
Deborah grew up listening to Country music and particularly remembers watching the Wilburn Brothers’ TV show and the Porter Wagoner Show. Growing up where she did, Deborah was also influenced by Memphis R&B, Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll, too. "What I heard was a mish-mash of different styles, and it all went to make up my style. So many of those songs that Porter and Dolly and the Wilburns’ guests sang had so much substance. I learned so much from them," remarked Deborah.
Deborah's parents ran an upholstery shop and George Kleil, a good friend of both her family and Elvis had secured the job of reupholstering Elvis' first touring bus. When it became impossible for the task to be completed with the circus that surrounded Elvis at his residence the bus was brought home to Deborah's parents' home for the job to be completed. Although only approximately three years old at the time she vividly recalls being allowed to sleep and camp in the bus while the job wae happening. She also recalls the beautiful royal blue and gold upholstery with her family's crest included in the finished product. "What a privilege and surely every girl’s dream at the time! But I loved it all," laughs Deborah.
It seems as if even Deborah shakes her head in wonder when she thinks back on her amazing, multi-faceted career, starting in Memphis, working with Elvis’s pal, George Klein, as a WHBQ-Cutie on his television show. It was the same George Kleil who recommended Deborah move to Nashville at the young age of 18 , so that I could "Stick my toe in showbiz." “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.
Once there another person that really changed her life in Nashville was Shel Silverstein, who wrote “Boy Named Sue,” and many other hits. Silverstien came down to hear Deborah sing in downtown Nashville at her invitation. Although Silverstein thought Deborah had a great voice, he advised her, “There’s a lot of great singers. Have you ever thought about writing songs? Remember, the sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s back every day.” Perhaps he recognized that Deborah was multi-talented before she even recognized it, but he was certainly telling her to make sure she could do more than one thing, advice Deborah very wisely heeded. Later after writing two simple little songs she was able to perform them for Silverstein and asked him if he still thought she should pursue writing and was amazed by his response of "Absolutely."
By that time she had already been to Russia with Tennessee Ernie Ford and had a large role working in musicals at Opryland theme park. Interestingly enough Deborah was concerned that she would get too comfortable with the money she earned in the theme park, thinking she wouldn't push herself forward to her dream, so she left.
One night, off duty as a waitress at the IHOP, where she felt comfortable eating alone as she knew all the staff, she took note of a strange looking pair of guys in another booth. Thinking to herself, “They have GOT to be in the music business.” she approached their booth, and said, “Excuse me, you must be in the insurance business.” Joe Melson answers, “We’re in the music business,” and Deborah retorted quickly, “That’s great. I’m a singer!” as she slid into the booth with Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. "I was so innocent, so naïve in many ways. They opened up and were so supportive. I didn’t have a phone but I later heard from the union hall that Joe was trying to get in touch with me. They wanted me to sing back-up on one of Roy’s sessions. I’d have done it just for the experience, but I got eighty-seven dollars per song." stated Deborah. So vivid is her memory of that day that she was able to recall the exact dark red dress, red fingernails and shoes she was wearing.
As a solo act in her own right, Allen went on to open for Jim Stafford. In 1979 Deborah was handpicked by the late Jim Reeves' wife to dub duet vocals onto three unfinished Reeves tracks, "Don't Let Me Cross Over," "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight," and the top ten hit "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me." "It was such an honor to be chosen to do those duets," recalls Deborah. The one that really moved Deborah though wasn’t one of the hits. It was “When Two Worlds Collide.” As Deborah recalls "We did the recording with all the lights down except one over the music stand. When I heard the playback and heard Jim and me singing together, I got chills all over. I could feel Jim’s spirit there. I knew I was singing with a legend."
When you wrapped up “Baby, I Lied,” did you walk out to the car thinking, “Now THAT’s a hit”?That record was more an evolution. I really wanted a big hit and I knew I was going to have to write it. Rafe and I knew Rory Bourke, and Rory said, “I’ve got an idea. It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t like it.” A little later, he said, “You know when I said earlier if you didn’t like my idea, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Well, I lied.” I said, “Now THAT’s a great idea for a song.” We took the tape out to California and the arranger out there wanted a half-step modulation and bridge, so we wrote those and redid it. But yeah, when we finally finished we knew we had a winner. But it was a long process.
This proved to be Deborah's big break, and she signed with Capitol for her debut album the 1980's "Trouble in Paradise". It produced a few hits, including "Nobody's Fool" and the top 20 "You (Make Me Wonder Why)." The 1983 mini-album "Cheat the Night" that proved to be Allen's breakthrough; "Baby I Lied" and "I've Been Wrong Before" both made the Country top five, and "I Hurt for You" went top ten; all were co-written by Allen and her husband at that time, Rafe Van Hoy. Their collaboration continued on the 1984 full length Let Me Be the First, which began to employ electronic instrumentation.
1987's Telepathy went even further afield, with a title track written by Prince under the pseudonym Joey CoCo. Deborah became aware that Prince was recording at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles at the same time she was. They talked and she wrote him a letter, and he just presented her with a song and said he wanted to produce it. The record label was dubious. How much will he charge? "He’d just made $60 million off Purple Rain. It wasn’t like he was desperate for the money. He just wanted to produce my record and he didn’t charge very much at all. He’s was a great guy. Truly, a great guy," Deborah fondly recalls. After the stylistic experimentation she and her husband at the time, Rafe Van Hoy, continued to make their living as songwriters, penning "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" which ended up being sung by Janie Fricke and "Can I See You Tonight" for Tanya Tucker, among others.
Deborah had every intention of recording the song “Don’t Worry ‘bout Me Baby”herself to begin with but when she sang the song for the head of Capitol Records, her label at the time, he said, “You know, artists don’t really do their own songs anymore.” I thought “Wh-a-a-a-t? Then I played it for genius producer Don Gant and he said, “Janie Fricke’s doing a session right now.” We drove over and Don said, “I got you a hit!” They cut it that day. That doesn’t happen anymore. I got in right at the tail end of Old School Nashville, when you could do that. We’ve lost that personal aspect," commented Deborah.
In the meantime, she worked on a new album using her own time and money, and eventually made an agreement with Warner Bros. to release it. The result, Delta Dreamland, appeared in 1993 and showcased a new bluesy, sexy style that was supported with a corresponding video image for the hit "Rock Me (In the Cradle of Love)." The follow-up, 1994's "All That I Am", continued in a similar vein.
With the release of her alblum "Hear Me Now", Deborah Allen‟s music remained as smart, witty and sexy as ever. 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,” Deborah 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 as her mother predicted, a natural entertainer.
Deborah also for a time had her own show on Sirius/XM. It was on the Prime Country channel and she got to invite friends to sit down and talk with them for an hour and play music. It was an incredible experience, and she loved how it broadened her skills, before she moved on. 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!” said Deborah‟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" drew from 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 fit “somewhere between Memphis and Nashville.”
Deborah has been greatly involved with a special musical project for TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Taps cares for survivors through peer-based emotional support, community-based care, casework assistance and a 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline. "TAPS is there for the everlasting mourning and grief, for the days that take you to your knees."
This Memorial Day, stories of love and honor will came to life with the release of the music album, 'Love Lives On". Through heartfelt lyrics co-written, each song was written through collaboration with Nashville songwriters, including Deborah and 10 TAPS families. Personal stories of their loved ones honor all those who have served and sacrificed and preserves their legacy. The title track was inspired by Bonnie Carroll’s (founder, President and CEO) own story and the phrase she had inscribed on her husband Tom’s headstone. Deborah was honored to work as a contributing songwriter with Preston's family on a song “Press On Preston,” included in this moving memorable tribute album.
Celebrating her 40th anniversary as a music performer and hit songwriter, Allen is also re-releasing her catalog for streaming and download, furnishing one new EP every month. Each volume will contain six songs, titled The Best You’ve Never Heard, with Volume 1 released.
This charismatic artist, Deborah Allen has toured the world numerous times and continues today to deliver engaging performances that incorporate all of her inimitable sense of theater, showmanship and energy.
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 TAPAS and her current release, "Best you Never Heard, Volume 1", 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.