March 5, 2014

In tune with the audience

Entertainer Lou Allen enjoys the look on people's faces when they recognize a song

CADYVILLE — There is a spark of light that comes to the faces of nursing home residents and senior citizens when Lou Allen begins singing songs easily recognizable from their younger days.

That is what motivates him to load the car on a cold day, haul his equipment into a gathering and share what he calls his “karaoke” performances.

“I do this because I want to give back to the community, because the North Country has been good to me,” Allen said.


Allen was born in Malone nearly 61 years ago. His mother, Pauline Lamica Allen, and her brother, were yodelers. It was natural for music to be part of their daily lives.

Little did she know that the music was rubbing off on her children.

“I was about 10 when my two brothers and I got our hands on mom’s three-string guitar,” he remembers. “We taught ourselves how to play. I was about 15 when we played in a band for the first time.”

Lou’s father, Carmen George Allen Sr., a World War II vet, died at the age of 32, leaving his mom with eight children and pregnant. He remembers life as being tough at times, but, because they had each other it didn’t seem so bad.


Eventually the family moved to Plattsburgh. When he was about 16, Lou started working at the drive-in movies on Route 3 where he learned how to run the projectors and filled in at the snack bar. He went on to manage the Super 87 Drive-In that was located where the Clinton County Jail is today.

He also managed theaters in Ohio and Indiana, as well as Ithaca, Glens Falls and Schenectady. Moving back to Plattsburgh, he stocked stores with potato chips through Lavin Candy in Plattsburgh and got back into music with a band, being a member of the Sunset Playboys. He remembers one gig in particular in 1982 that at first he thought was a joke.

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