Article which appeard in the November 2008 Washington Blues Letter:

by Ricki Peto
Drawing gasps of admiration from crowds, blues singer Patti Allen’s charismatic performances exude beauty, wisdom and self-assurance --just as she does in everyday life. She recently came out of semiretirement to join The Randy Oxford Band where her smoldering voice and dynamic movements on stage radiate a spirit so true to life they mesmerize audiences.

Patti has rocked the stage seven of the eight years that the blues benefit Jam for Cans has been held. The wildfire combination of performers that Sherri and Raven Humphres,founders of Jam for Cans, put together elicits screams, tears, passion and swaying to those in attendance. Patti is one of the best at igniting sparks among her fellow musicians while bringing a rich diversity of blues that makes Jam for Cans a surprising, innovative, and entertaining event. Patti is always thrilled to be a part of contributing back to the community, as she has had to use the food bank as well in her time of need. The blues benefit also allows her to connect with friends and musicians she has not seen for a long while.

Patti’s connection to music and bright lights began with her father who loved the glitz of night, dressed to the “T”, and took her to many clubs and operas. He always encouraged her to follow her own path. Her mother was a hard-working woman who taught Patti traditional values (back in the day when women married, stayed home with the babies and planted a garden). She and her husband Bill do enjoy puttering about in their flower and vegetable garden. Patti’s mother stayed overnight just last week and also spent time in Patti’s garden. Patti’s father has now passed away but remained constant in her life even though her parents were divorced when Patti was 13 years old.

Although brought up Baptist, she now practices “Buddhism similar to Tina Turner and Herbie Hancock’s Buddhism which encourages culture, exchange of ideas and freedom of thought.” She felt a spiritual tug all her life, which drew her in another direction and away from the Baptist church. At age 12 she was told no lipstick, no dancing. “I don’t think so!” Patti replied. So off Patti went to college, much to her mother’s dismay.

While studying and working in the college cafeteria, Frosty Billingsley, who also was attending college, walked up to her and said, “I hear you sing. I need a singer!” Patti asked, “How much does it pay?” The sum was much more than Patti was making at the cafeteria and Frosty was going to supply her with “a wig and her first outfit.” Since she had only sung in church, Frosty had never even heard Patti sing. Why ask Patti to be in the band called The Toogeries? Says Frosty: “Patti was black and available!” Frosty just recently retired from University of Washington as a psychology professor.

The body actions and fabulous outfits of Patti are legendary. Women and men alike wait in anticipation to ogle these. Ruby Bishop, whom she met when working in Alaska, encouraged her early in show business to stay in shape. She has done so faithfully with a body that will twist, turn and wrap anyway she desires to draw in the audience to her spirit. The outfits, sometimes changing three times a performance, look frilly, sexy and oh so fun!

James Brown and Tina Turner are two who Patti credits with teaching her to perform. Many persons who are not famous have also helped shape her life such as Theresa Miller. One day long ago, when Patti was just getting started in show business, Theresa appeared at her door saying that she had a baby and no car. Theresa said that she thought Patti needed help with her make-up and weaves; she could help her in exchange for rides from Patti who had a car. They have been life long friends since this.

Many bold and thoughtful women like Theresa have held her hand and given her strength. Traveling with, and performing with, Seattle Women inRhythm & Blues has been Patti’s greatest joy and teacher as well. The different skills, voices, and camaraderie of fellow female singers have made a big difference in who she is today people like Duffy Bishop, Mary Lee Rush, L.J. Porter, Kathi McDonald, Kate Hart and many more. When I asked Kathi for a quote she said, “Patti was insatiable with the fellows, mother earth does her well too, and a hell of a pal!”

Peacecomes from within. Do not seek it without.” Buddha Along with the flawless body, charismatic performances and earthy blues voice come a lot of men. They were all there to show her “a good time.” The ride was fun but as her spirituality deepened in Buddhism and her loving sister was ripped away from her, she yearned for more.

Her rocky road finally led the way to a peaceful spirit within and a solid relationship with her man. Patti gives “thanks to my loving husband, Captain Bill, who really supports me.” He is there to nurse Patti when she is not well, drive her to and from gigs and keep the home fires burning.

As Patti settled into semiretirement, Randy Oxford began asking her to make a few guest appearances. “[I] knew his work ethic and that he was an honorable man.” Those guest appearances turned into more as Patti became the featured singer in The Randy Oxford Band. Patti had not realized that she yearned for the glitz again until she hit the stage with the band. She loves working with Randy and his band and respects him as a person as well as for his horn playing. “Randy shows me so much respect and makes such heartfelt honest remarks to me.”

“Patti is a true blues singer in the purest form. She is the consummate entertainer. I am thrilled to have her my band.” Randy Oxford

Both Patti and Randy seem to have the same high-spirited, hard-working ethic. Patti does not rest on her laurels; she has recently enrolled in singing lessons several times a month. As Bill Engelhart put it, “Patti sang with my band for five or six years back in the 80s. We were working six nights a week in those days. Patty doesn't know how to give less than at least 150% on her shows. When she was with me, she gave it all no matter if it was a Monday night with seven people in the audience or a concert with several hundred in attendance. She really is one of the hardest working performers I have ever known.”

Patti, Seven BB Award winner, gives this advice for those new to show business: “If you are going to enter this business, have a mentor. This is show business You need to know the business part and I did not. Remember, it is an honor to perform so respect the other musicians, the audience and kick ass!”

This gathering of ideas, thoughts and feeling for this brief look at Patti Allen has been exhilarating. Thanks to Patti and Mary McPage for giving me this opportunity.
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