The Suburbanite
  • Outtakes Around the Lakes, A Hall of Famer Amongst Us

  • Immortality! That coveted state of perpetuity. A timelessness. An everlasting state. One of which we're not forgotten long after our physical bodies cease to exist. Few achieve it. Many others would love to, but rarely do.

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  • For our very own Bill Allen (the rock 'n' roll singer, not the "mayor"), of the Portage Lakes community, it's official. The 1950s singing star, who climbed upon those hallowed steps of fame on the wake from his hit song, "Butterfly," has joined those few in achieving that of which many of us can only dream.
    You see, Bill Allen, the Ellet High School graduate and Portage Lakes resident whose real name is William "Bill" Allen Snivley, has recently been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
    Bill's musical reputation has vaulted him to that level which empowers him to attain immortality. A level where celebrities are constantly asked to make public appearances, give talks or serve as grand marshals in parades.
    Indeed, that is a lofty level of achievement. One that not everyone can claim. For those who do, long after they're gone their name lives on, sharing their life experiences from which others can learn. You see, Bill Allen, the Ellet native and Portage Lakes resident whose real name is William "Bill" Allen Snivley, the local singer whose 1957 national recording of "Butterfly" launched him on a rock 'n' roll musical career, has recently been inducted into the Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame.
    How's that? You say you know what Rock ‘N’ Roll is, and you know what Hillbilly is, but you're not quite sure about rockabilly?
    Well, perhaps it would help if I explained that Elvis Presley, in his early career, was more Rock-A-Billy than he was Rock 'N' Roll. Better yet, to explain rockabilly, the good folks at the Hall of Fame offer the following.
    Upon hearing Presley's first tape, the producer of the Louisiana Hayride asked the talent manager who had brought it along if the singer was black or white. "He's white," the manager replied. "He's just got a different sound." That different sound came to be known as rockabilly, a true mutt of music, a blend of everything from bluegrass to western swing to pop crooning.
    Rockabilly meant working-class boys ready to rock, decked out in checkered suits and bow ties, juiced on rhythm and blues. Rockabilly and "The Hillbilly Cat" were among the central influences of early rock 'n' roll, and both came directly from country music.
    Based in America's southern musical capital of Nashville, and established in 1997, among the more notables besides Elvis with whom Allen shares his immortality in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame are Patsy Cline, Chuck Berry, Rick 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. And that's not bad company with whom to be remembered.
    Page 2 of 3 - "It's different from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Allen's wife, Judie, explained, "in that there's no induction ceremony, but rather a list of performers who qualify based on their musical accomplishments. Bill was contacted by the publisher from the Hall of Fame, Steve Kellerman, who heard his record Please Give Me Somethin' and asked for a bio to publish with the other 'Artists With Papers.'"
    Although Bill himself might argue the point, even if there was a physical induction ceremony, there's doubt Allen, who will be 75 this June 5, could attend. The Hall Of Famer is suffering from PAH (Peripheral Arterial Hypertension). The arteries in his lungs are clogging, resulting in high lung pressure. After a number of recent hospital stays, he's now fitted with an IV pump that supplies medicine through his veins into his heart, which then flows into his lungs. It's being monitored daily for the optimum tolerable medicine.
    "His breathing seems to be improving, but after the last hospital stay of nine days it will be a while before he regains his strength," his wife said. "(The) prognosis is good and he may be able to perform again. He's exercising his lungs at home by 'singing.'" she added. "We really think that's the best rehab he could possibly do - and he's sounding great!"
    His wife, Judie's, maiden name is Sterner. They've been married twice…the first time for five years and the last for 25, totaling 30 years. Perhaps, as the song says, "Love is lovelier, the second time around…"
    The separation was for a little more than a decade. "He quit Firestone and went on the road for about 12 years to pursue his lifelong dream as an entertainer," Judie said. "I was working at Goodrich Aerospace at the time, and didn't want to give up my service."
    During that stretch they "divorced" over the phone. But when Bill popped the question once more, she was thrilled. "It was like we were never apart," she admitted. "Bill asked me to marry him 'again' and gave me an 'engagement shark's tooth.' I said, 'Yes!'"
    While the local singing legend has two daughters, one son, two grandsons and one granddaughter from an earlier marriage, Bill and Judie together have no children.
    Allen's Hall of Fame number is 377 on the inductee list. You can find him on the Hall's web site. However, as of this writing, that web site may not yet have been updated.
    As long as his health continues to improve, no one deserves an invitation to serve as this year's Portage Lakes July Fourth Boat Parade Grand Marshall more than Bill Allen. After all, amongst us who live in the Portage Lakes, he is a celebrity.
    Page 3 of 3 - Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com

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