Johnny Allen (arranger)

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Johnny Allen (September 20, 1917 – January 29, 2014) was an American R&B pianist and arranger who worked for both Motown and Stax Records and received a Grammy Award with Isaac Hayes for his arrangement of the "Theme from Shaft".

He was born in Uchee, Alabama, and grew up in Chicago before moving to Detroit in 1936. A self-taught pianist, his chief influence was Earl Hines. From the early 1940s, he worked as musical director at the Club Congo, a nightclub in the basement of the Norwood Hotel, where he led a 12-piece band that played at dances and accompanied visiting acts such as Billie Holiday and the Mills Brothers.[1]

He first worked for Motown in 1959, and wrote arrangements for the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and the Supremes among others. He later worked for the Stax label, working with leading musicians such as the Staple Singers, the Dramatics and Isaac Hayes.[1] After arranging strings and horns on Hayes' album Hot Buttered Soul, the pair worked together on Shaft, and at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards in 1972 jointly won the award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Theme From Shaft".[2] Allen also worked consistently with Detroit producer Don Davis at his United Sound Studios, providing arrangements for acts such as Johnnie Taylor and The Dells.

Allen continued to perform with small jazz groups in Detroit until he was in his nineties. He died at Henry Ford Hospital of complications from pneumonia, at the age of 96.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Mark Stryker, "Detroit pianist-arranger Johnny Allen, who won Grammy for 'Shaft' theme, dies at 96", Detroit Free Press, 1 February 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2014
  2. ^ "1971 Grammy Award Winners". Retrieved 3 February 2014.

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