Born John Allan Guillot, 10 March 1938, Rayne, Louisiana
Johnnie Allan has often been hailed as the "Ambassador of Swamp Pop", a musical genre indigenous to the Acadiana region of south Louisiana and an adjoining section of southeast Texas. Created in the late 1950s, it combines New Orleans-style rhythm and blues, country and western, and traditional French Louisiana musical influences (Cajun, black creole music). The first hits in this genre were "Sea of Love" by Phil Phillips and "This Should Go On Forever" by Rod Bernard, both in 1959.
John Allan Guillot was born to sharecropper parents who spoke only the Cajun French dialect. He grew up in a musically rich family and acquired his first guitar around age eleven. In 1951 Allan and his schoolmate Walter Mouton - a skilled accordeonist - formed a Cajun band, Walter Mouton and the Scott Playboys. Some two years later, Allan was invited to join Lawrence Walker and the Wandering Aces, a renowned Cajun group. By 1957-58, Allan noticed that Cajun music declined in popularity, due to the rise of rock n roll and rhythm & blues. Breaking with Lawrence Walker, Allan and the rest of the Wandering Aces became the Rhythm Rockers, soon renamed the Krazy Kats. A change of instruments accompanied the group's reorganization. Allan gave up steel guitar to sing and play rhythm guitar, rhythm guitarist Al Foreman switched to electric lead, fiddler U.J. Meaux switched to upright piano and while Bhuel Hoffpauir remained on drums, the group hired Leroy Castille on sax.
After a few additional personnel changes, the group was outfitted to play the music later called swamp pop. In the autumn of 1958 Allan recorded his first swamp pop record, "Lonely Days and Lonely Nights", his own composition. Released on Floyd Soileau's fledgling Jin label, it sold exceptionally well along the Gulf Coast, enticing MGM to lease the single for nationwide distribution in early 1959. After two less successful follow-ups on Jin, Allan defected to Dago Redlich's Viking label, for which he cut eight singles (1960-62). Among these was "South To Louisiana" (sung to the melody of Johnny Horton's "North To Alaska"), a title that John Broven would later borrow for his excellent book about swamp pop music. But in 1963 Viking filed for bankruptcy and Allan returned to Jin, where - apart from a brief sojourn with Huey Meaux's Pic-One label - he would stay for the next 25 years, releasing some 35 singles. The most successful of these was Allan's version of Chuck Berry's "Promised Land" (1971). In 1974 Charlie Gillett released the record in the UK on his Oval label and it might have charted there if there hadn't been competition from Elvis Presley, who recorded the song in the same year. Nevertheless, "Promised Land" made Johnnie a popular name in the UK and several other European countries and eventually prompted his first European performance in 1978. That year Gillett reissued "Promised Land" on the Stiff label and this time it sold better than the first time around. Overwhelmed by the reception of European audiences, Allan would return some sixteen times over the next two decades. According to John Broven, "Promised Land" has been awarded a gold record for attaining one million sales on single, LP and CD.
Allan is well educated, with a master's degree in education. Jin released eight Johnnie Allan albums between 1964 and 1983 ; he was the best selling artist on the label. Apparently he did not record after 1991, but he continued to perform and promote swamp pop and Cajun music.
Allan is the author of the book "Born To Be A Loser : The Jimmy Donley Story" (1992) and he edited and compiled "Memories : A Pictorial History Of South Louisiana Music" (1988, revised and expanded edition 1995). Both were published by own Jadfel Publishing Company in Lafayette, LA, where he still resides.
Some people will tell you that all swamp pop music sounds the same and to a certain extent I can understand why. The four Jin CD's mentioned below, however, have plenty of variety to offer. My personal favourite is "Let's Do It", a great rocker.
More info :
Further reading :
Discography : http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/johnnieallan.htm (By Pete Hoppula)
Acknowledgements : John Broven, Shane Bernard, Pete Hoppula, Wikipedia.
Dik, January 2014
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