Luther Allison Biography

17 August 1939, Mayflower, Arkansas, USA, d. 12 August 1997, Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Born into a family where he was the fourteenth child of 15, the young Allison worked with his siblings in the local cotton fields. In his youth, guitarist Allison sang with a family gospel group and moved to Chicago in 1951, where he attended school with one of Muddy Waters’ children. Around 1957 he formed his own band with his brother Grant to work on the west side. They gigged occasionally under the name of the Rolling Stones and later the Four Jivers. After a year the group disbanded and Allison went on to work with Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Muddy Waters, Little Richard, Freddie King and others until the mid-60s.

In March 1967, Allison recorded a session for Bill Lindemann, later issued by the collector label Delmark Records. He toured California, recording there as accompanist to Sunnyland Slim and Shakey Jake. He made his first album under his own name in 1969 and was one of the major successes of the Ann Arbor festivals of 1969 and 1970. In the early 70s, he recorded for Motown Records’ subsidiary label Gordy and from the late 70s spent much of his time in France, living and working for a large and faithful following. He also recorded for many labels, usually live albums or studio sessions comprising funk or Jimi Hendrix - and Rolling Stones -influenced rock.

In the late 80s, following two well-received albums, Serious and Soul Fixin’ Man, Allison found his career in ascendance. By the mid-90s, he was reaching a peak, winning W.C. Handy awards and experiencing financial success with a bestselling album, Blue Streak. This Indian summer of his career was cruelly cut short when in July 1997 he was diagnosed as having lung cancer; tragically, just over a month later, he died. It all happened so quickly that the interviews he had conducted for various magazines had not even gone to press. His son, Bernard Allison, released his debut album shortly before his father’s death.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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