Allison performing at the 1996 Riverwalk
August 17, 1939|
Widener, Arkansas, United States
|Died||August 12, 1997
Madison, Wisconsin, United States
|Genres||Blues, Chicago blues|
|Labels||Delmark Records, Motown Records, Ruf Records, Alligator Records Rumble Records|
|Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton|
Luther Allison (August 17, 1939 - August 12, 1997) was an American blues guitarist. He was born in Widener, Arkansas, and moved with his family to Chicago in 1951. He taught himself guitar and began listening to blues extensively. Three years later he began hanging around outside blues nightclubs with the hopes of being invited to perform. He played with Howlin' Wolf's band and backed James Cotton.
Allison's big break came in 1957, when Howlin' Wolf invited him to the stage. Freddie King took Allison under his wing, and after King got a record deal, Allison took over his gig in the house band of a club on Chicago's West Side. He worked the club circuit in the late 1950s and early 1960s and recorded his first single in 1965. He signed a recording contract with Delmark Records in 1967 and released his debut album, Love Me Mama, the following year. He performed a well-received set at the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival and as a result was asked to perform there in each of the next three years. He toured nationwide. In 1972, he signed with Motown Records, one of the few blues artists on that label. In the mid-1970s he toured Europe. He moved to France in 1977.
Allison was known for his powerful concert performances, lengthy soulful guitar solos and crowd walking with his Gibson Les Paul. He lived briefly during this period in Peoria, Illinois, where he signed with Rumble Records, releasing two live recordings, "Gonna Be a Live One in Here Tonight", produced by Bill Knight, and "Power Wire Blues", produced by George Faber and Jeffrey P. Hess. Allison played the bar circuit in the United States during this period and spent eight months of the year in Europe at high-profile venues, including the Montreux Jazz Festival. In 1992, he performed with the French rock and roll star Johnny Hallyday in 18 shows in Paris, also playing during the intermission.
Allison's manager and European agent, Thomas Ruf, founded Ruf Records in 1994. Signing with Ruf Records, Allison launched a comeback in association with Alligator Records. Alligator founder Bruce Iglauer convinced Allison to return to the United States. The album Soul Fixin' Man was recorded and released in 1994, and Allison toured the United States and Canada. He won four W. C. Handy Awards in 1994. With the James Solberg Band backing him, nonstop touring and the release of Blue Streak (featuring the song "Cherry Red Wine"), Allison earned more Handy Awards and gained wider recognition. He won several Living Blues Awards and was featured on the covers of blues publications.
During his tour in the summer of 1997, Allison checked into a hospital for dizziness and loss of coordination. It was discovered that he had a tumor on his lung that had metastasized to his brain. In and out of a coma, Allison died on August 12, 1997, five days before his 58th birthday, in Madison, Wisconsin. His album Reckless had just been released.
His son Bernard Allison, at one time a member of his band, is now a solo recording artist. Bernard, the youngest of nine siblings, was exposed to all kinds of music by his father. The younger Allison made his first venture into the music business at age 13, when he performed on a live album with his father.
Allison was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times called him "the Bruce Springsteen of the blues". He was a strong influence on many young blues guitarists, such as Chris Beard and Reggie Sears.
Allison is buried at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.
|1969||Love Me Mama||Delmark||625|
|1972||Bad News Is Coming||Motown/Gordy||964|
|1977||Love Me Papa||Black & Blue||33.524||Reissued as Estudio Eldorado 524 (Brazil) and Evidence CD 26015 (U.S.)|
|1979||Gonna Be a Live One in Here Tonight!||Rumble||1001||Recorded live in Peoria, Illinois, on April 18-19, 1979; reissued as South Side Safari, Red Lightnin' 0036|
|1979||Power Wire Blues||Rumble||1004||Part 2 of the Peoria concert; reissued 1985 as Charly 1105|
|1979||Live in Paris||Paris Album/Buda||2-28501||Recorded in Paris, La Chapelle Des Lombards, 1979; also issued as Ruf 1354, Free Bird 209/FLY06, Plne 88295, Platinum 161354|
|1979||Live||Blue Silver||3001/3321||Part 2 of the 1979 Paris concert; also on Blue Sky/Buda|
|1984||Lets Have a Natural Ball||JSP||1077|
|1984||Life Is a Bitch||Encore!/Melodie||131||Blind Pig 2287 (1987) in the U.S., retitled Serious|
|1985||Here I Come||Encore!/Melodie||133|
|1987||Rich Man||Ruf||8001||Also RFR 1005, Charly CRB 1227, Orbis BLU NC 044 (plus 3 bonus tracks)|
|1991||More from Berlin||East West||LACD 1991-2||Live, 1989|
|1992||Hand Me Down My Moonshine||Inak/Ruf||1047||Acoustic|
|1992||Bercy 92 (Johnny Hallyday)||Philips||514 400||Electric guitar on one title; recorded live at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy|
|1994||Soul Fixin' Man||Alligator||4820||Ruf 1021 in Europe, retitled Bad Love|
|1995||Blue Streak||Alligator||4834||Ruf 7712 in Europe|
|1996||Live '89: Let's Try It Again||Ruf||1028||Recorded in Berlin, May 1989|
|1996||Live in Montreux: Where Have You Been?||Ruf||1008||Recorded 1976-1994|
|1997||Reckless||Alligator||4849||Ruf 1012 in Europe|
|1999||Live in Chicago||Alligator||4869||Ruf 1042 in Europe, recorded 1995-1997, 2-disc set|
|1999||Standing at the Crossroad||Black & Blue||421.1||Recorded 1977 in Paris; also Night & Day 210, Blues Reference|
|2002||Pay It Forward||Ruf||1060||Recorded 1984-1994|
|2007||Underground||Ruf||1132||Recorded c. 1958|
|2009||Songs from the Road||Ruf||1157||CD and DVD recorded in Montreal, 1997|