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The Suburbanite
  • Frank Weaver, Jr.: Remembering the late Bill Allen

  • OVER THE YEARS I’ve discovered that columns like this are the most difficult to write, even more so when the subject is a relative or friend. Bill Allen was the latter, although at times he did seem more like an older brother. Our friend, a native Portage Laker, Coventry resident and local recording star, died of pulmonary hypertension on Feb. 22.

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  • OVER THE YEARS I’ve discovered that columns like this are the most difficult to write, even more so when the subject is a relative or friend. Bill Allen was the latter, although at times he did seem more like an older brother. Our friend, a native Portage Laker, Coventry resident and local recording star, died of pulmonary hypertension on Feb. 22.
    In past columns, whenever I mentioned the name Bill Allen, I’d always specify which one it was to whom I was referring. Having two celebrity Bill Allens living here at the Lakes, this was done partly for amusement, but mostly so no one would ever become confused. I’d either indicate, “Officially, the Unofficial Mayor of Portage Lakes” or I’d write, the “Rock ‘N’ Roll recording star of the 50s” who had hit the big-time with songs like “Butterfly” and a sizzling tune which he wrote, “Please Give Me Something.”
    Bill was known locally as a fun-loving musical personality with nary an ill streak or mean bone in his body. He was loved by all. He was also regarded nationally as a friendly, professional guitarist and excellent song man who loved his fans. All his life he carried the tag of a gracious, benevolent individual who, almost to a fault, was highly considerate of others. His random acts of kindness are almost legendary. One example comes from an email I received shortly after his passing.
    “One year, on my birthday,” a New Franklin lady wrote, “he serenaded me at the old White Rhino out on the deck. He also voluntarily played for one of our daughter’s medical fundraisers while we were in Ann Arbor. What a giving man!”
    Unfortunately, since Bill’s medical diagnosis, his singing had taken a hiatus. He had been on portable oxygen and was being well cared for by his wife, Judie. He entered the hospital Feb. 18 after experiencing breathing problems. To complicate matters, his poor health status intensified from a faulty heart that had been pumping only from the left side.
    Five days later, with family and close friends by his side, he quietly and peacefully slipped beyond the bonds of earth, passing to the other side of those great Pearly Gates. Now his second greatest love, that of fishing, is just a memory as he does what he’s always loved to do best, serenading others…this time forever in the hereafter.
    As I wrote in a previous column just last May, Bill Allen achieved immortality this past year when he was nominated and then inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame as inductee No. 377.
    Upon his induction, Bill joined other notables in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, including Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson, Sally Starr, Lefty Frizzell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy Sands, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, Johnny Cash, Bill Haley, Kay Wheeler, Roy Orbison, Bo Diddley, The Big Bopper, Jimmie Rodgers, Buck Owens, Bobby Helms, Sue Thompson, Ray Price and Conway Twitty.
    Page 2 of 2 - With his band, “The Backbeats,” Bill, his drummer, Dean Hanley, and guitarist, John Seli, his musical talent ruled the local airwaves and dominated the Ohio concert scene in the late 1950s. Now, some 60 years later, Bill’s music still appeals to a wide spectrum of fans, ranging in age from the 30s to the 80s.
    As an example, from the latest renaissance of early rock music, I discovered Bill’s rockabilly musical style managed to catch fire the second time in Europe just recently and, from what one rockabilly fan lover from France, who befriended Bill and Judie, emailed, he has managed to maintain a respectable following. Judie shared this email with me shortly after Bill’s death. It originated in France from Dominic, Viviane and Camille Anglares.
    Dominic mentions how he took the liberty of notifying the Rockabilly Hall of Fame about Bill Allen’s passing. He goes on to say he took the day off from his job to pen a full tribute about a friend he had never met and then sent it to the hall of fame where it was posted. You can read his post at http://www.rockabillyhall.com/
    ThatsNewToMe.html .
    Bill Allen was born just south of Akron as Wilfred Allen Snivley, Jr. to Violet and her husband, Wilfred A. Snivley, on June 5, 1937. As the eldest of four children, Bill often listened to radio folk singer Burl Ives. Among the first songs Bill learned was “The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You,” “Over The Rainbow” “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “When You Wish Upon A Star.”
    He continued with the field of music by learning to play the guitar. When the rock ‘n’ roll craze hit in the mid 1950’s, Bill Allen was ready. As a result, he shared his love for music with hundreds of thousands over the years.
    Anglares wrote in his tribute to Bill, “Music is a bird you can’t jail … a bird that makes us put our cat clothes on by Saturday night to rock the bop!”
    For Bill Allen, those were perfect words to describe his love of music.
    Besides his wife of 26 years, Judie, Bill leaves a son, Bill, two daughters, Susan Grochowski and Kelly Thomas, three grandchildren, a brother and a sister to carry on his legacy.
    So many others and I may have lost a friend, but I was quite fortunate our paths had crossed. Knowing him personally for these past 20 years helped enrich my life. Rest in peace, my dear friend, rest in peace!
    Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com