Allen Damron

Austin, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1968
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
Listen to more below

Allen Wayne 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 meet Allen through KAZZ-FM live remote broadcasts that that KAZZ presents from Austin's seminal folk club of the era, The 11th Door. Allen's a regular fixture at The 11th Door during the mid '60s, playing 12-string and 6-string guitars and 5-string banjo and wise-cracking his way through night after night of sold-out performances. In addition to launching Allen's career, The 11th Door helps ignite the careers of Janis Joplin and Jerry Jeff Walker.

In 1967, about the same time Bill Josey Sr. and Rim Kelley are forming Sonobeat Recording Company, Allen begins managing Austin's most famous folk music venue, The Chequered 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 1957. In fact, Allen is the first act to perform at The Chequered Flag when it opens its doors on September 22, 1967. KAZZ broadcasts a live remote from The Chequered Flag on its opening night, during which Allen performs Jerry Jeff Walker's now-classic Mr. Bojangles; KAZZ records the performance, which is the first known recording of the song that goes on to make Jerry Jeff a legend (Mr. Bojangles is covered in 1971 by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and becomes a top 10 Billboard hit). By October 1970, Allen buys The Chequered Flag from Rod and begins to book rock and cross-over acts into the venue, including Austin's Genesee and country-boogie trio Cross Country (a reincarnation of Whistler, a folk-rock act 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). Nancy Whiskey is an Irish folk tune and Requiem For A Balloon is Allen's original that's sometimes referred to as Is There A Heaven For Balloons. 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.

A Texan is a cross between a hippie and a hick – a hickey.
A typical Allen Damron quip, one of dozens that he sprinkles throughout his performances

Allen's a native Texan, born the son of a ranch foreman in Raymondville, close to the Texas Gulf Coast and Texas-Mexico border, where he spends his childhood. Allen comes to Austin to attend The University of Texas, taking a degree in philosophy. Austin remains his home base through much of his adult life. 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 Irish folk song Nancy Whiskey in a 1966 duet with popular Texas folk singer Carol Hedin and attracts well-deserved national attention when he tours the U.S. as part of the 1968 Celebrate Texas Concert Tour promoting the Texas sesquicentennial. In August 2005, Allen passes away at age 66. The Kerrville Folk Festival celebrates Allen's memory and legacy in 2006. We're happy to have two classic songs from Allen's repertoire in the Sonobeat archives.

Allen Damron personnel

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

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Nancy Whiskey
Requiem For A Balloon (The Balloon Song)

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
Allen Damron performing at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas (hometown of Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin) in January 1978 (Lamar's University Press student newspaper)