Johnny Ray Allen, the bassist in the subdudes, a rootsy, soulful New Orleans quartet that was Americana before that stylistic term was invented, died Friday morning.
Allen’s death at 56 followed his return to the subdudes’ lineup earlier this year. With the band’s original lineup reunited for the first time in 17 years, it announced its intention to play select shows.
Allen co-founded the subdudes in 1987 with singer-guitarist Tommy Malone, keyboard and accordion player John Magnie and percussionist Steve Amedée.
Following what was supposed to be a single show at Tipitina’s, the foursome decided to continue working together as the lower-cased subdudes. The band’s songs emphasized songwriting and vocal harmonies.
All four members of the subdudes moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, shortly after forming. In 1989, Atlantic Record’s EastWest imprint released the group’s self-titled major-label debut.
More albums followed, including 1991’s “Lucky,” 1994’s “Annunciation” and 1996’s “Primitive Streak.” The latter two recordings, released by Windham Hill’s High Street imprint, reached the Top 20 of the all-genre Billboard album chart.
In late 1996, the subdudes played three farewell shows in New Orleans. Most of the band’s members moved on to other musical projects, but Allen dropped out of music.
In 2002, Malone, Magnie and Amedée reunited as the Dudes without Allen. In his absence, bassist Tim Cook joined the group, which soon returned to calling itself the subdudes. The band released its first album in seven years, “Miracle Mule,” in 2004.
Although Allen was still out of the subdudes lineup at the time, he and Malone collaborated in writing songs for Malone’s 2013 solo album, “Natural Born Days.”
Allen also helped Malone and his family return to New Orleans in 2009 following three frustrating years in Nashville.