Mostly associated with the Chicago classic jazz scene, Charlie Allen was a section trumpeter who worked in some of the top big bands, including stints with Earl Hines and Duke Ellington. He also was a man who liked to be involved in many aspects of the music business, not just performing. His custom trumpet mouthpieces were used by star performers such as Cat Anderson, and in his later years Allen was an administrator for the Chicago Musicians' Union.
Following his graduation from high school in the early to mid-'20s, Allen began playing with bandleaders such as the quick-thinking Hugh Swift and the gossipy Dave Peyton. In 1927, he was a member of Doc Cook's Doctors of Synchopation, an obscure outfit with a massive stage setup that also featured players such as the accommodating Billy Butler and the stormy Don Pasquall. For several years he was in and out of the Cook aggregation, also appearing with the regal Clifford "Klarinet" King and the extensive ensemble of Johnny Long. The latter group was slammed by one of the era's jazz critics as "a very mediocre band in spite of an interesting personnel."
In the early '30s, the trumpeter's artistic collaborations would climb to a higher level as the result of a three-year period with the wonderful Hines. Allen is featured on classic recordings such as "Cavernism," "Darkness," and "Mad House," which have turned into college big band curriculum pieces. In 1935, he was a part of a brilliantEllington trumpet section for about a year, than went to work with the orchestra of pianist Fletcher Butler before re-joining Hines in 1937. Up to and following the Second World War, Allen lingered in Chicago rather than going out with touring bands, playing in numerous local groups. He was also active as a music teacher and in the '60s joined the administrative staff of the musicians' union. He is sometimes confused with trumpeter Charlie "Scoop" Allen, best known for his work with the soul band the Bar Keys.