Lee Allen was a “first call” session player for many years and played solos and background sax lines for many artists. These recording are just a sampling of some of the solos that he played on Top 40 hits.
The following links cover a lot of his life story, interviews and recording credits;
Born in Pittsburg, Kansas, on July 2, 1926, and schooled in New Orleans, Lee Allen’s tenor style was a major factor in the sound of the New Orleans R&B hits of the 1950s. His solos were etched in the 78 and 45 rpm records of Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Little Richard, Professor Longhair, Huey “Piano” Smith, Smiley Lewis, Shirley & Lee, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Amos Milburn, Charles Brown, Etta James, and many more.
Allen was a very important member of the studio band at Cosimo’s. His solos appeared on hundreds of Crescent City classics. In 1958, Allen also recorded his own instrumental record on Ember titled “Walking With Mr. Lee” which charted at #54. However, it was his hard-driving solos on the Little Richard and Fats Domino hits that inspired a new generation of sax players in the 1950s and 1960s. His unique and distinctive tone is still respected and often copied to this day.
In 1965 he left the road touring with Fats Domino and moved to the West Coast to take a job in an aeronautics factory; however, in 1975 Lee Allen was back with Fats Domino. Allen performed until his death from lung cancer in 1994. He was a member of The Blasters, a Los Angeles-based band of rockers.
Remembering Lee Allen by Billy Vera
"It would be difficult to find anyone else besides Lee Allen who deserves the title of “The quintessential rock ‘n’ roll tenor sax soloist.” In pure terms of hundreds of rock ‘n’ roll classics he played on, Lee outshined even the likes of King Curtis, Plas Johnson, Sam “the Man” Taylor and Big Al Sears.
Born on July 2, 1926, in Pittsburgh, Kansas, and raised in New Orleans, Lee came up at a time when any black musician who aspired to the tenor saxophone had to perform, verbatim, Illinois Jacquet’s solo from the Lionel Hampton 1942 hit “Flying Home.” That one record changed forever the way the instrument was approached.
Unlike many of the “honkers & screamers,” such as Big Jay McNeely, Red Prysock and Joe Houston, Lee developed a more melodic version of Jacquet’s basic style. Perhaps this was due to the highly developed sense of melody inherent in New Orleans music. Allen could honk with the best, but his own style was filled with sexy cajoling, teasing slides and barks.
While a student at Xavier University, he was discovered by local bandleader Paul Gayten, who had been responsible, in 1947, for the first hit recordings of the R&B era by a New Orleans artist, “True (You Don’t Love Me).” Paul introduced Lee to the burgeoning recording scene and ultimately Lee became part of the house band at the famed Cosimo’s recording studio. Other members included baritone saxist Alvin “Red” Tyler and drummer Earl Palmer. This ensemble was the rhythmic force behind such New Orleans rock ‘n’ roll classics as Shirley & Lee’s “Let The Good Times Roll,” Smiley Lewis’s “I Hear You Knockin’”, Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “Ain’t Got No Home” and Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu.” Lee and the crew also played on some great-yet-little-known items of the period by Etta James, Amos Milburn, Richard Berry and Charles Brown.
Although Lee had long played with Fats Domino and many have believed that Lee took the solos on Domino’s records, Fats actually used his road band on most of his recordings and the solos were usually by Herb Hardesty rather than Lee.
Lee Allen’s greatest legacy may be the wonderful solos he took on Little Richard’s greatest hits, “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Good Golly Miss Molly” and many more. Those tenor sax breaks contributed as much to the mayhem of those recordings as did the psychotic vocalizing of Richard himself.
Earl Palmer defected to Los Angeles in 1957 to become the most successful studio drummer of his generation, but Lee stuck around New Orleans a little longer, cutting a hit of his own in 1958, “Walking With Mr. Lee,” a great dance favorite on American Bandstand.
Unable to produce a follow-up hit, Lee took to the road with Fats until 1965, then following Palmer to LA. Not the greatest sight-reader, Lee did not find the success in the studios that Earl had, so he went to work in one of the many airplane factories in Southern California while performing at night with one of the organ/sax combos so popular at the time. In the seventies, he returned to Fats’ touring band full-time and, in the next decade, was rediscovered by local roots bands, such as The Blasters and The Stray Cats. He occasionally sat in with my band, The Beaters.
The last time I saw him in good health was at the funeral of our mutual friend Paul Gayten. When Lee was dying of cancer, I went to visit him at the rest home where he was staying. It was heartbreaking to see this once-vital man wasting away and going in-and-out of lucidity. I was glad, however, to be able to pay my last respects to a man who was both a hero and a friend".
1956 Honkers and Screamers—Savoy
1958 Walkin' with Mr. Lee—Collectables
In the 1950s, J and M Studio in New Orleans put together one of the finest session bands in the history of Rock & Roll and R&B. Although various musicians were involved over the years, the main band consisted of: Lee Allen on tenor sax, Alvin “Red” Tyler on baritone sax, Earl Palmer on drums, Edgar Blanchard on guitar, Justin Adams on guitar, Huey “Piano” Smith on piano, James Booker on piano, and Frank Fields on bass. Regulars also included; Doctor John, Salvador Doucette, Wendell Duconge, Clarence Ford, Edward Frank, Herb Hardesty, Ernest McLean and Allen Toussaint.
Lee Allen played a Buescher 400 “Top Hat & Cane” tenor with a Brilhart HR m/p (white bite plate) on the Little Richard and Fats Domino sessions. Alvin “Red” Tyler (played baritone sax on most of the sessions with Lee Allen) told me that Lee used plastic reeds on the early sessions and that Lee’s lower lip would bleed once in a while if the session went on for hours. Lee Allen subsequently used a Berg Larsen 120/0 after his Buescher was stolen. A 1982 photo shows Allen playing a Selmer MKVI with a Brilhart m/p again. He also used a Selmer “D” hard rubber according to an interview. He did not care for metal m/p’s.
1. LONG TALL SALLY-LITTLE RICHARD
2. ALL AROUND THE WORLD—LITTLE RICHARD
3. I’M IN LOVE AGAIN-FATS DOMINO
4. POOR ME-FATS DOMINO
5. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL-SHIRLEY AND LEE
6. READY TEDDY-LITTLE RICHARD
7. RIP IT UP-LITTLE RICHARD
8. SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’-LITTLE RICHARD
9. THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT-LITTLE RICHARD
10. TUTTI-FRUTTI-LITTLE RICHARD
11. BABY FACE-LITTLE RICHARD
12. IT’S YOU I LOVE-FATS DOMINO
13. I WANT YOU TO KNOW-FATS DOMINO
14. JENNY, JENNY-LITTLE RICHARD
15. LUCILLE-LITTLE RICHARD
16. MISS ANN-LITTLE RICHARD
17. SEND ME SOME LOVIN’-LITTLE RICHARD
18. VALLEY OF TEARS-FATS DOMINO
19. WAIT AND SEE-FATS DOMINO
20. GOOD GOLLY MISS MOLLY-LITTLE RICHARD
21. THE BIG BEAT-FATS DOMINO
22. BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON-LITTLE RICHARD
23. NATURAL BORN LOVER-FATS DOMINO
24. TELLING LIES-FATS DOMINO
25. WALKIN' WITH MR. LEE (Pop Chart Peaks: Cash Box 46, Music Vendor 52, Billboard 54)
There are many more solo recordings (45rpm's) by Lee Allen and other recordings by artists that feature his solos. Feel free to post them here so we can trace more of his recording history. Thanks.