In Appreciation of Atwood Allen

The band that made “Texas Rock For Country Rollers”: Doug Sahm, Harry Hess, Jack Barber, Atwood Allen, and George Rains (l-r)

The band that made “Texas Rock For Country Rollers”: Doug Sahm, Harry Hess, Jack Barber, Atwood Allen, and George Rains (l-r)

You’ve likely never heard of Atwood Allen, and that’s okay, there’d be little occasion to. Allen left only a modest musical footprint with a handful of credits to his name.

As a performer, there’s a single 45 RPM record released in 1969 under the nom de plume of Atwood the Electric Iceman: Michoacan b/w Bossier City (UNI 55216). And even though his association with Texas groover Doug Sahm was a long and significant one, Allen remains a footnote to that story.

So why care about Atwood Allen? Because Allen’s contributions are almost uniformly great.

You won’t see Allen in this clip because his unkempt appearance was too much for Hugh Hefner’s rarified tastes. But his presence is certainly felt in the high harmonies he provided from behind the curtain on this 1969 performance of Sir Douglas Quintet hit “Mendocino” on Playboy After Dark.

 

Sir Douglas Quintet, “Mendocino,” Playboy After Dark, 1969

“Michoacan” is a song with a peculiar history and it has been ably detailed by WFMU in two parts (part one//part two). Atwood Allen apparently contributed the Tex-Mex arrangement; Kim Fowley the lyrics.

The Sir Douglas Quintet released the first version in 1971 as a single to coincide with the song’s feature in Cisco Pike. The star of that film, Kris Kristofferson, later covered the song on a 1975 live album called Shaking Hands With The Devil.

 

Sir Douglas Quintet, “Michoacan,” 1971.

 

Kris Kristofferson, “Michoacan,” 1975.

“It’s Gonna Be Easy,” written by Atwood Allen, finds an easy groove and is prominently featured on 1973's Doug Sahm and Band. This particular performance is from the first season of Austin City Limits, 1975.

 

Doug Sahm, “It’s Gonna Be Easy,” Live on Austin City Limits, KLRU-TV, 1975.

Also from 1973's Doug Sahm and Band is “Poison Love,” featuring Sahm and Allen’s high tenor sharing in those distinctive Johnnie & Jack harmonies.

 

Doug Sahm, “Poison Love,” 1973.

And finally, Allen was an integral part of the first incarnation of the Texas Tornados, a band Doug Sahm assembled to record 1976's Texas Rock For Country Rollers. Besides his roles as rhythm guitarist and Sahm’s vocal partner, he also contributed this country-rock gem: “I Love The Way You Love (The Way I Love You).”

 

Sir Doug and the Texas Tornados, “I Love The Way You Love (The Way I Love You),” 1976.

For more information on Atwood Allen, your best bet is to turn to his entries in The Handbook of Texas or The Handbook of Texas Music.

Parker Fishel