Gary Allan has weathered the storm.
As a teenager, he started fronting his own band — the Honky Tonk Wranglers — and cut his teeth playing music in the fertile California club scene steeped in the slick Bakersfield sound popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. He was able to stymie stiff competition from other bands by developing a smooth and distinct smoky scorched vocal.
Allan's popularity steadily grew, earning him a contract with Decca Records. He migrated to Nashville and learned valuable lessons from the brutal music industry and its negative effect on his personal life.
He has released nine studio albums and two greatest hit packages. Of those, three have been certified platinum for selling over 1 million units, and five others achieved gold status for selling over 500,000.
Allan's major hits include: “Nothing on but the Radio,” “Tough Little Boys,” “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” “Watching Airplanes” and “Man to Man.”
In a career spanning two decades, he has experienced more than his share of ups and downs, and his music reflects the frequent emotional turmoil. He established a huge fan base through a combination of high-quality music and raucous live performances, which has been along for the marathon roller-coaster ride.
“My fans are quite the passionate bunch. If you like my stuff, chances are that you have been through hell,” Allan told Taste of Country. “It's not all about the sunshine. I mean, even when I lost my wife (to suicide in 2004) and needed to tell my story, the fans were there, and we bonded and that bond has never gone away.”
A frequent visitor to the area, local fans will have the opportunity to hear Allan's mesmerizing vocals when he appears at Paducah's Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center at 7:30 p.m. June 30.
Ticket prices are $110 for main floor front rows, $85 for main floor house left and right, plus back center rows, $65 for the remainder of main floor and first six rows of the first balcony, $55 for the back rows of balcony one and front rows of balcony two and $45 for the back rows of the second balcony.
For more information, call the Carson Center box office at 270-450-4444.
After being discovered by Nashville songwriter/producer Byron Hill, Allan was promised a major label contract, but at the time there was a logjam of artists already signed. As he waited for a roster spot to open at Decca Records, Allan worked as a car salesman and famously left a demo tape of his music in the glove compartment of a car he sold to a wealthy customer.
The customer made a $12,000 investment in Allan, who used the money to record songs that expedited the process. Breakout debut 1997 single “Her Man” was part of the legendary “glove compartment” sessions. It climbed to No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
Allan didn't chart as high with his next eight singles, but he reached a new plateau in 2000 when “Right Where I Need to Be” soared to No. 5.
“That is the first song I wrote the first day I moved the Nashville,” says Thompsonville songwriter Kendell Marvel. “I co-wrote the song with Casey Bethard. It had an arena rock Lynyrd Skynyrd feel to it. I thought it was going to be a big hit. I didn't really know anything about the industry back them. I just got lucky.”
Allan's last major hit, the chart-topping “Every Storm (Runs out of Rain),” was released in 2012. It was his fourth No. 1 single.
Hist last studio album, “Set you Free” in 2013, topped both the country and pop album charts.
However, his last three singles, including last year's “Mess me Up,” have not performed as expected, leading EMI Nashville to delay the release of long-awaited new album “Hard Way.” It will be his first new album in five years.
The landscape of the country music industry has made a dramatic shift in recent years, abandoning a traditional sound and seeking to attract a younger audience with vocals and instrumentation heavily influenced by the pop and rap genres.
With the switch, a unique stylist like Allan seems to have fallen out of favor with mainstream country radio. At 50 years old, he is not about to change directions just to please the stiff-suited executives on Music Row.
“I kind of look at what's happening and ask myself, 'How do I fit into that?' I don't ever want to do what everybody else is doing and that's always a big problem for the label and me,” Allan said in a 2017 interview.
Allan doesn't need radio. His impressive musical catalog keeps him “slammed” with a busy concert schedule. When not on the road, he occupies his time designing and creating pieces for his popular line of personally crafted jewelry.