Local rancher and veterinarian forge musical band with help from family
September 12, 2008
Meet John Allen.
His deep voice and sun-reddened skin speaks to his lifestyle as a Moffat County rancher. But the feeling that his weather-roughened exterior hides comes out in notes, chords and lyrics – some of which he’s written himself.
“I just like making music,” he said. “I enjoy making people happy with music.
“Music is a very emotional thing for me.”
Emotion doesn’t seem to be something Allen shows openly. However, his interest in music – especially guitar music -is obvious.
He’s set up a recording studio in the basement of the house he built by adding on to his grandparents’ original cabin.
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The space, like the house itself built northwest of Craig, is a marriage of old and new.
Black guitar cases stand stacked next to a couch. Aged stringed instruments with exotic-sounding names such as zither and tremoloa hang on the walls. Nearby, a pair of microphones, each the size of a large orange, wait silently.
And, behind a window looking into the recording space, a large mixing console studded with rows of knobs allows Allen and his family to record his music.
Meeting of the minds
Although he’s taken some formal lessons, Allen doesn’t read music. Instead, he plays by ear.
When he first started out, he came close to hanging up his guitar for good.
“The first few teachers, I guess, couldn’t stand me,” he said, laughing. “Then, I wouldn’t practice enough, and I’d give up, too.”
But, his fingers couldn’t stay away from the strings for long.
For a while, Allen drifted between different bands he organized himself.
First there was, “Sage.”
Later, it was simply, “The John Allen Band.”
And then, in about 1990, Allen met local veterinarian Wayne Davis, the person who would become the second half of what would become their namesake group.
Davis was also a musician – a violin player. After high school, Davis traveled across parts of the country with a guitar player he’d met. The pair roamed across the country, stopping in Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and other states, playing their instruments to pay their way from one gig to another.
“We made just enough to buy food and pay for gas,” Davis said. “That’s about it.”
Davis met Allen when the latter had a cow that needed a cesarean section. They started talking about music.
“It’s been music ever since,” Allen said.
Together, they’ve forged a style that Allen calls classic country.
Like their first meeting, the name of their band was a product of chance.
It was 2003, and Allen and Davis were playing for the Meeker Cowboy Renaissance. Organizers putting on the concert asked what the name of their group was.
Allen told them, “I’m John, and this is Wayne.’
“They said, “Oh, the John Wayne Band,'” Allen said. “And it stuck.”
However, Allen and Davis have had to make room for other musicians.
The group recently released its first album, “High Country.” The collection features Allen’s son, Wayde, on guitar and mandolin; his daughter-in-law, Jodie, on keyboard and his grandson, James, 14, on the fiddle.
Allen’s granddaughter, Jenna, 10, occasionally plays music with her grandfather on piano and harp.
Wayde grew up listening to his father playing on the guitar, and he eventually decided to try the instrument for himself.
“You learn to play just to play along,” he said.
In contrast, Davis seems to have rubbed off on James. The youth immediately took to the violin after being introduced to the instrument in elementary school.
The joy of playing music isn’t the only reason Jodie decided to accompany her father-in-law in his latest recording.
“It’s mainly about having fun, playing with the family,” she said. “It’s a family affair – that’s really the best part of it.”
Davis sees another advantage. He’s watched an elderly woman want to dance when he’s played his music and seen the notes bring tears to eyes of those who listen to it.
“It brings back memories,” he said.