Born and raised in Edmonton, Barry Allen Rasmussen grew up in a musical family, and learned guitar and took singing lessons while young. While attending Victoria High School, he was a member of the curling club, and had aspirations of becoming a chartered accountant. But by the time he’d graduated, he was looking at a musical future, and spent the next couple of years in a number of makeshift groups, honing his chops and emulating his British invasion idols.
In the spring of 1965, he picked up his guitar and joined Wes Dakus And The Rebels, already one of the most established groups in the area. While doing their first tour of the southern US with The Fireballs, they were introduced to their producer, Norman Petty while in his hometown of Clovis, New Mexico. Because there were no recording studios in Edmonton at the time, they ended up working with famed producer Norman Petty (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, The Fireballs, and later Mavis McCauley, among others). While recording, Petty liked Allen’s backing vocals, and suggested they cut some tunes with him singing. With The Rebels backing, “Over My Shoulder” b/w “Flame Of Love” was Allen’s first solo record, pressed by Quality Records that summer.
Impressed, Paul White from Capitol Records signed him to a solo deal, and two more Petty produced singles were released that year – “Easy Come Easy Go” and “It’s Alright With Me Now,” peaking at #14 and #12 respectively on RPM’s national chart. All the while, he was doing double duty, still recording and touring with with Wes Dakus’ group, both The Rebels as well as the short-lived Club 93 Rebels.
Label reps even convinced the band that Allen should sing lead on the 1965 album, THE WES DAKUS ALBUM. Later that year, after winning a Red Leaf Award (which eventually morphed into the Junos) for Most Promising Male Vocalist, he released his debut album, GOIN’ PLACES, which featured both of those songs. Later singles were “Never Mind,” “A Penny, A Teardrop.” Predominantly covers, the album also included his take on the future classics “Rockin’ Pneumonia” and “Louie Louie.” “Hurry Santa Hurry,” a new single, was on the airwaves in time for that year’s Christmas blitz.
His sophomore album was LOVEDROPS in ’66, with the title track, a cover of Mikey & Sylvia’s hit a few years earlier, was the first single. With a definite shift from edgey British sounds, the bubblegum that coated the album also had it certified gold (extremely difficult in the early days). The song shot to #10 on RPM’s chart, and as high as #1 in Edmonton and Calgary and #4 in Toronto. The album itself also did impressive numbers, lingering in the top 20 in several Canadian markets for the next few months, and produced a second single, “Turn Her Down,” which peaked at #22. “Stumble and Fall,” written by fellow Rebel Stu Mitchell, followed, finding its way into the top 40. In a move by record execs, some copies of the 45 for “Lovedrops” were packaged with Jack London & The Sparrows on the other side, and he won another Maple Leaf Award, for Top Male Vocalist.
Looking to keep the train rolling but with no more material to push, label execs stripped the last Wes Dakus album since the band’s contract had ended. They did this not only for more of Allen’s ‘new’ releases, but also for fellow members Stu Mitchell and Dennis Paul (real name Dennis Planindin), as well. For Allen, “Armful of Teddy Bears” and its flipside “Sad Souvenirs” became his new single.
On the advice of the label, he assembled is own band, calling them Southbound Freeway, who’d already released one single on Pace Records, as well as a second backing group, Coloured Rain. He hit the road in the summer of ’67 to promote his budding solo career, including making a stop on the set of CBC’s “Let’s Go” variety program. On occasion, he would actually play a double bill, one show with each group. Later that year, he released the single “I Know You Don’t Want Me No More” with its flip side “Got The Feelin’ Bad.” But unimpressed with sales, Capitol ended their deal with him.
Coloured Rain disbanded, and Southbound Freeway carried on. He continued with The Rebels until the spring of 1968, when he joined the psychadelic The Purple Haze, named after Jimi Hendrix’s hit song. For just under a year, they toured the country and released one single on Apex Records, a cover of Hendrix’s “I Don’t Live Today” b/w a cover of The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride.” Following that brief interlude, he released one solo single on Apex in ’69, “I Don’t Know What I’ll Do,” and then “Well All Right” b/w “Christine” on Barry Records.
That fall, he moved to Calgary to host “Come Together,” a TV show that featured up and coming local area and international talent, running for three seasons. He signed with Molten Records (Randy Bachman‘s label) early in 1970, where the single “Wednesday In Your Garden,” an old Guess Who song, made little impression on the charts. Still, a full self-titled album was in the stores by that summer. The album featured more roots and rockabilly bases than before, and three more songs by Bachman – including the second single “Take The Long Way Home” (which Bachman recorded earlier that year for his debut solo lp). Other noteable tracks included a cover of John Sebastian’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon,” and “If You Look Away,” written by Mavis McCauley, the b-side to “Wednesday In Your Garden.”
He landed a new deal with MCA in 1971, and used Cheyenne Winter (which featured Allan Mix, later of Skylark), his TV show’s backup band. They toured western Canada, making stops in Toronto and out east, and released the single “Old Broken Toys.” But shortly thereafter, the show was cancelled, and he joined Edmonton based Painter, who’d performed on his TV show, and basically the remnants of 49th Parallel. After the single “Country Man” on London Records, they switched to Molten, and released the single “Daybreak” in ’72. Although neither did as well as hoped, it didn’t stop their self titled debut album from being released a year later on Elektra, which spawned the moderately successful “West Coast Woman.”
They toured the country and included US dates with Steely Dan and Dr. John. But by early ’73, Allen was out looking for new challenges while the band dissolved. In 1974 he used The Century II Orchestra, and recorded a special 45 commemorating the RCMP’s centennial in Alberta, called “Brave Men” b/w “Wild Rose Country.”Around the same time he was working with Tommy Banks at Century 11 Studios. This came in handy in the early ’80s, when Allen bought Bumstead Studios after owner Larry Wanagas left town to manage KD Lang’s career, and renamed it Homestead Records.
He reunited with The Rebels in the late ’80s for the first time in over two decades, and to warm up, they made appearances on several Edmonton TV programs. From there they took part in several Edmonton ‘rock & roll revival’ type shows for the next 15 years or so. All the while, Allen continued to operate Homestead Recorders, as well as make live solo appearances now and again. Over the years, he would be deeply involved in several others’ recordings, including Corb Lund, Wide Mouth Mason, Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, Bobby Cameron, Harpdog Brown, and many more.
In the late ’90s, he was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Alberta Recording Industry Association, and in 2001 received the first of two Prairie Music Alliance awards as Engineer of the Year. In ’03, he won both the Engineer of the Year and Studio of the Year awards at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
A new compilation album called CLOVIS COLLECTION is expected to be available in 2012. Comprising his first two albums, the set also contains every other recording session Allen did with producer Norman Petty at his Clovis, New Mexico studio, including out-takes and other unreleased material. To mark the occasion, a special CD release party was held at Edmonton’s Century Casino in March 2012, featuring the reunion of Allen with The Rebels.