Allerton & Alton

Black, White and Bluegrass

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An oddity in bluegrass history, the duo of Allerton Hawkes and Alton Myers defied almost every country music convention of the ‘40s. They were an old-fashioned string band hailing not from Appalachia but from Maine, never a hotbed of country-picking, but more importantly, they were an interracial duo at a time and in a genre where such acts were uncommon. The African American Myers was on guitar while Hawkes played mandolin, the two singing close harmonies on a songbook consisting of folk standards, tunes from Flatt & Scruggs, the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Thompson. Allerton & Alton, their full names chosen for their stage name as it had a stronger ring, didn’t play much outside of their region, and they didn’t cut singles in a studio, so Bear Family's excavation of radio sessions for their 2010 disc Black, White & Bluegrass is rather remarkable. Previous to this, Allerton & Alton were talked about but rarely, if ever, heard, so this gives life to their small-scale legend, proving that the duo was quite a capable close harmony unit and pickers. If their backstory wasn’t quite so unique, the music itself might not gather much attention: it’s merely solid, straight-ahead stuff, notable not for its virtuosity, but rather its warmth, Allerton & Alton sounding like a pair of friends trading licks at home. The duo wound up splitting when they were both drafted into the Korean War, Hawkes pursuing a professional musical career to greater effect than Myers, but the music they made in the ‘40s stands: it’s tied to the time yet stands outside of it, by two unwitting pioneers that wanted nothing more than to carry on a tradition.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 0:56 Amazon
4:36 Amazon
3 3:24 Amazon
4 2:19 Amazon
5 1:54 Amazon
6 1:11 Amazon
2:56 Amazon
8 3:52 Amazon
9 4:55 Amazon
10 1:09 Amazon
11 2:44 Amazon
12 2:44 Amazon
13 5:02 Amazon
14 3:34 Amazon
15 1:19 Amazon
16 2:53 Amazon
17 2:49 Amazon
18 2:47 Amazon
19 2:06 Amazon
20 1:52 Amazon
21 1:29
22 1:37
23 2:41 Amazon
24 3:29
25 3:05 Amazon
26 2:54 Amazon
27 0:18
blue highlight denotes track pick