Allen Damron

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1968
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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Allen Damron may be the most influential male folk performer in Austin, Texas, during the '60s and '70s. Sonobeat co-founders Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) meet Allen through KAZZ-FM live remote broadcasts that the Joseys host from Austin's seminal folk club of the era, The 11th Door, where Allen regularly performs. Notably, The 11th Door helps launch the careers of Janis Joplin and Jerry Jeff Walker. In 1967, about the same time the Joseys are forming Sonobeat Recording Company, Allen begins managing Austin's most famous folk music venue, The Checquered Flag, owned by Kerrville Folk Festival founder Rod Kennedy, who also serves as the first station manager of KAZZ-FM when it goes on-air in 1958. By October 1970, Allen buys The Checquered Flag from Rod and begins to program rock and cross-over acts, including Austin's Genesee and country-boogie trio Cross Country (formerly Whistler, that records with Sonobeat in summer 1970).

The Allen Damron master tapes we find in the Sonobeat archives don't ring a bell; that is, we don't remember these sessions. The master tape box is dated in late April 1968 and features Allen's signature tunes Nancy Whiskey and Requiem for a Balloon (The Balloon Song). The recordings are simple and intimate – just Allen singing, accompanied by acoustic guitars – but, sadly, all are distorted, leading us to believe the recordings are made as tests, most likely in the living room of the Josey family home in northeast Austin, and not intended for commercial release. Indeed, none are ever released by Sonobeat. Notably, Allen is the first act to perform when The Chequered Flag first opens its doors on September 22, 1967, where his performance of Jerry Jeff Walker's now-classic Mr. Bojangles is recorded live; this is the first known recording of the song that goes on to make Jerry Jeff a legend (Mr. Bojangles is covered for a top 10 Billboard hit in 1971 by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).

Allen's a native Texan, growing up near Raymondville, close to the Texas Gulf Coast and Texas-Mexico border, but he comes to Austin to attend the University of Texas, taking a degree in philosophy. He's among a handful of performers inaugurating the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1972, and he continues to perform at that annual event for 30 years. He records commercial releases for several record labels, both before and after recording with Sonobeat, makes a local hit of Nancy Whiskey in a 1966 duet with popular Texas folk singer Carolyn Hester, and attracts well-deserved national attention when he tours the U.S. as part of the 1968 Celebrate Texas Concert Tour. Allen passes away at age 66 in August 2005. The 2006 Kerrville Folk Festival celebrates Allen's memory and legacy. We're happy to have two of Allen's classic songs in the Sonobeat archives.

Allen Damron personnel

Allen Damron: guitar and vocals
Mike Williams: guitar (on Requiem for a Balloon)

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Requiem for a Balloon (The Balloon Song)
Nancy Whiskey

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded in the living room of the Josey family home in northeast Austin, Texas, on April 22, 1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track tape deck, custom 10-channel portable stereo mixer, Ampex 202 tape stock
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The Allen Damron master tape is a 2-track stereo mix