A country-pop singer strongly influenced by Patsy Cline, Deborah Allen scored a few major hits in the early '80s and subsequently reinvented herself with a newly sensual image for the '90s. Born in Memphis in 1953, Allen moved to Nashville at age 17 to pursue a country-music singing career, and met Roy Orbison while working as a waitress. Orbison hired her as a backup singer, and she subsequently worked at the Opryland theme park before landing a gig as a singer and dancer in Tennessee Ernie Ford's touring revue. As a solo act in her own right, Allen went on to open for Jim Stafford, and in 1979 was handpicked by the late Jim Reeves' wife to dub duet vocals onto three unfinished Reeves tracks -- "Don't Let Me Cross Over," "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight," and the Top Ten hit "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me." This proved to be Allen's big break, and she signed with Capitol for her debut album, 1980's Trouble in Paradise. It produced a few minor hits, including "Nobody's Fool" and the Top 20 "You (Make Me Wonder Why)." However, it was the 1983 mini-album Cheat the Night that proved to be Allen's breakthrough; "Baby I Lied" and "I've Been Wrong Before" both made the country Top Five, and "I Hurt for You" went Top Ten; all were co-written by Allen and her husband, Rafe Van Hoy. Their collaboration continued on the 1984 full-length Let Me Be the First, which began to employ electronic instrumentation. 1987's Telepathy went even further afield, with a title track written by Prince under the pseudonym Joey CoCo. All the stylistic experimentation served to alienate Allen's core country audience, and when she found herself without a record contract, she and Van Hoy made their living as songwriters, penning "Don't Worry 'Bout Me Baby" for Janie Fricke and "Can I See You Tonight" for Tanya Tucker, among others. In the meantime, she worked on a new album using her own time and money, and eventually made an agreement with Warner Bros. to release it. The result, Delta Dreamland, appeared in 1993 and showcased a new bluesy, sexy style that was supported with a corresponding video image for the minor hit "Rock Me (In the Cradle of Love)." The follow-up, 1994's All That I Am, continued in a similar vein. Allen subsequently made her living behind the scenes as a songwriter and session backup singer. ~ Steve Huey
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