Clinch Mountain Echo

Lee Allen - Songs Of Love And Tragedy

(Jalyn JLP 127) 1970

Songs Of Love And Tragedy
Rear Cover Front Cover (Reissue) Rear Cover (Reissue) Side One (Reissue)
Side Two (Reissue) Rear Cover

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This album was probably recorded at the end of 1969, just after Roy Lee Centers had joined the band, and released the following year.[1]

Leamon 'Lee' Allen was born in Jackson KY on 19 June 1949. A fan of The Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe, he started playing guitar aged 9 and in grade school became friends with Roy Lee Centers. Later having moved to Ohio to find work, Larry Sparks moved into the house next door... Ivan and Deanna Tribe interviewing Lee in Bluegrass Unlimited (April 1975) wrote: "They traded a few tunes and guitar licks and Lee soon began playing an occasional weekend with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.[2] After Larry quit, Lee continued to play on a part-time basis with Ralph filling in as lead singer a few times until Lee's good friend, the late Roy Lee Centers, joined the Clinch Mountain Boys on a full time basis. Even then he still played several shows...."

In December 2014, Ron Thomason recalled: "After I left the Clinch Mt. Boys, I performed off and on with Lee Allen for a couple of years....
Ironically I never heard Lee refer to being a friend of Roy Lee's at any time during the periods that I performed and travelled with his band. I do know that he admired Roy Lee very much as well as his other two "idols"; Larry Sparks and Ralph Stanley. I did indeed perform on the album that he made with Ralph's band, the Clinch Mountain Boys. It was Roy Lee who played the banjo on that album and did much of the tenor singing. Ralph, as I recall, did some tenor singing as well on a couple of trios where Roy Lee sang baritone.
I cannot remember if George Shuffler did any singing that day, but I do know that he contributed one of the most amazing displays of musical ability and endurance that I have ever seen or ever even heard of: George had played lead guitar on most of the cuts that day at Lee's request. When everything was done, the album had no bass on it. I suppose, though I never knew for certain, that Lee intended to have the bass dubbed in later. George, being the wonderful gentleman and very generous person that he always was, told the band to "hold up boys, I'm gonna finish this for Lee and save him a few bucks." He then put on the headsets, told the engineer to run the tape, and without stopping till the whole thing was done and without even listening on each cut to the few beats of the kick-off dubbed in all those bass tracks with his inimitable active, walking bass, changing keys and times as needed without the slightest glitch. When he was done, he was bent over in fatigue and dripping perspiration from his head and his clothing. I still love to listen to that LP occasionally knowing that it contained one of the greatest, and least known, performances in all of bluegrass history.
On another note, I have no reason to believe that we did that session for any other reason than that we were paid. That was a difficult time in the Clinch Mt. Boys' history for making money. We worked almost constantly at any job we could get to in the time we had to get there, and Lee himself told me that he had paid to have us on his session. I know that each of us band members was paid that day, and I can say without compunction that no matter how difficult times were, Ralph always paid his band."

The album contain a good selection of lonesome songs and the band back Allen admirably. Some will be pretty familiar to Stanley aficionados: the opening cut on the album, You're Going Away which Lee Allen wrote, was later cut by Ralph on his Sing Michigan Bluegrass LP; Little Joe was recorded by Ralph as A Little Boy Called Joe on Something Old, Something New; Dream Of A (Coal)miner's Child and (Wild &) Reckless Hobo had previously been recorded by The Stanley Brothers; and Hank Williams' Six More Miles was also later cut by Ralph for his 1971 Something Old, Something New album. I can't hear Ralph though - if he is there he's hardly noticeable.

One song, Come Back To The Valley, is a bit of an oddity. The songwriting is credited to Lee Allen, but the lyrics to it appeared in a 1951 Stanley Brothers songbook, shown as written by Carter Stanley. Neither Ralph or The Stanley Brothers recorded the song, which can be found on youtube. (Also see the Song & Memory Books page.)

Little Joe aka A Little Boy Called Joe was also credited on the album as "arranged by" Lee Allen, and on Something Old, Something New it was initially credited to "R. Stanley & L. Allen", with later pressings giving the full credit to "Lee Allen". The song is however identical to A Little Guy Called Joe composed by Nashville songwriters Marijohn Wilkin & Wayne P. Walker, and which had been a hit for Stonewall Jackson, peaking at #13 in the Billboard Country charts on 12 Dec 1960.

The other songs, include: Orphan Child about the effects of divorce; Story Of My Mother a song/part recitation about the death of Lee's mother; Tragedy Of Frozen Creek a 'true life' song about an accident caused by a drink driver; and Goodbye, Farewell And So Long, I Wait and Leaving Without Warning sharing themes about losing/leaving your partner.

The Stanley influence is self-evident in Lee Allen's style of singing and songwriting. As Ralph said on the liner notes:-"Friends, if you like good bluegrass and old-time mountain music, this album is a must for your collection."

Lee Allen recorded three more albums, Sacred Songs And Mountain Ballads (Old Homestead OHS 90006) 1972; Way Out Yonder, New Mountain Songs And Ballads (Old Homestead OHS 90025) 1973; and I'm Leaving You Darlin' (Jalyn JLP 153) 1974. All are worth checking out, particularly the two on Old Homestead.

After Roy Lee Centers was murdered, Lee also released a tribute single In Memory Of Roy Lee Centers/Bo Weevil (Old Homestead OHS 5045) c1974/5.

Lee Allen can also be heard on a couple of live various artists compilations that also feature Ralph:- Michigan Bluegrass Festival Vol. 1 1974 (Jessup MB 151) 1974 (with Roy Lee Centers' son Lennie on banjo) and Winterhawk Scholarship Album (Gordo 003) 1986.

He also played at several of Ralph's festivals in McClure in the early seventies. As of Nov. 2015 he was still playing live with performances every Friday night starting at 6pm at the Quicksand Fire Department in Jackson, KY.

Sometime after label boss Jack Lynch moved to Nashville, the album was reissued in a new B&W sleeve, which plays up Ralph's involvement in it, and erroneously credits Ralph on banjo. Later, sometime around 2007 the album was reissued on cassette... and this time it was just credited to Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys and omitted Tragedy At Frozen Creek.

Thanks to Todd Gracyk for the additional info!

Side One:
You're Going Away

Lee Allen / Jack Lynch
Goodbye, Farewell And So Long

Buck Howard
I Wait

Buck Howard
Leaving Without Warning

Lee Allen
Dream Of A Coalminer's Child

Robert Donnelly / Will Geddes
Come Back To The Valley

Lee Allen
Side Two:
Six More Miles

Hank Williams
Little Joe

Marijohn Wilkin / Wayne P. Walker
Orphan Child

Lee Allen
Reckless Hobo

Lee Allen
Story Of My Mother

Lee Allen
Tragedy Of Frozen Creek

Lee Allen

Go To Top Of Page [1] A single Leaving Without Warning/ Tragedy Of Frozen Creek (Jalyn 45-343) fom the sessions suggest 1969:
Also, as the album features George Shuffler rather than Jack Cooke, this again suggests 1969.
[2] A Show report from the Brown County Jamboree in Bean Blossom, Indiana on 20th July 1969, includes mention of Lee Allen 'Larry Sparks' neighbour' doing a fine job filling in for Melvin Goins, who had left the CMB's a couple of months earlier. (Report by Norman Carlson & included in the Dec. 1969 Ralph Stanley fan club journal - See: the Song & Memory Book page).