TROY ALLAN was a singer-songwriter from Texas who lived from June 27, 1967- November 11, 2010. In addition to being a bass player in the band Hannah’s Reef, Troy Allan released several albums including One Man, One Guitar; Just South of Corpus, and Party at the Bottom of the Pool, which was released after he passed away.
This interview and acoustic performances was recorded in the home of Monte Tolar, another Texan who is no longer with us. As you will hear in the interview, Troy Allan had a rare type of stomach cancer called Linitis Plastica. He became the longest living person to have the disease and in spite of this embarked on a 100 house concert tour called the “Troy Allan Cancer Free 100 House Concert Tour.”
We invite you to listen to the interview and hear the musical performances.
Now we’re going to take you to our mini concert and interview with our special guest, Troy Allan.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is being recorded in the home of Monte Tolar. I’m sitting down with the singer, songwriter from Texas, Mr. Troy Allan.
Troy, thanks for doing this
No problem. This is great.
You’re going to give the listeners out there a little bit of who you are and we’re going to hear first-hand, your songs. My first question: who is Troy Allan?
Uh…I think even I would like to know (laughs). I’m pretty, uh, chameleon, if that’s a word. I change a lot. I’m one show in a cowboy hat and the next time I’m in no hat and I’m in a baseball cap and no shows and flip flops or, you know, whatever. It just depends on where I’m at and what the venue calls for or whatever. It jumps around a lot. Uh, bottom line is I love music. I always have and there’s…if there’s anything that defines me, it’s just playing music period. Uh, wherever that takes me, great! Let’s go! (Laughs) Whether I’m in the Keys or the middle of Wyoming somewhere, I don’t care.
So you’re from Texas
Yes. I live there now. I moved actually down there…a lot of people don’t know this…I moved down in ’81. Uh, my parents got a divorce and that’s where we landed, uh, back in ’81. I was a little kid so, you know, wherever the parents go…or my mom went, actually, uh, that’s where we ended up is Beaumont, Texas. Actually, Vidor, Texas, right around the area, but nobody ever knows that so I’ll just throw that out there…been there a long time.
Do you think that growing up in Texas affected you as a musician?
Oh, absolutely. No doubt. Where I was from, there’s not a lot of bars to play. Music is not really a big scene. Uh, you know…eighty miles south of Chicago was kind of out in the corn fields. In fact, I was the only person that I knew that even played music out outside of orchestra, you know, the school band type thing. So I was always a, back then, freak (laughs). “He plays guitar. Stay away from him!” So it was my best friend ‘cause, you know, it was like eight to twelve miles to somebody else’s house, you know…didn’t do a lot of driving around, uh, place to place to go hang out at other friend’s so my guitar became my best friend and has been all the way through my life so if something goes wrong…oops! Go find the guitar! It’ll listen.
I was…I saw this on the internet. I think this was on Facebook…I saw some blurb about two things to do when it rains and I don’t remember if that was in Monte’s status update or where that was but then it got mentioned to me again today. It’s amazing what kind of a global world we live in with the internet and everything.
We’re filming this…it is the first time I’ve ever done it like this but, uh, Monte has a lot to say about communication so tell us about that two things to do when it rains.
Uh, way back when I was married and one stormy night, my wife looked at me and, uh…she kind of looked at me and said, “Ya know honey…I’ve never heard this before. There’s only two things to do when it rains…and I don’t read,” and I was laying there going, ‘That is the best song title in the world!” And I’m sitting here like, trying to formulate a song around that and she’s like punching me in the side going, “Hey you…I’m over here.” (Laughs) I was like, “Oh yeah…I see what you mean.” So, kind of forgot about the song title but, you know, things that are supposed to happen, happen for a reason and if they don’t happen when they’re supposed to, they come back around. So, we fast forward a couple years and the divorce happens and fast forward another year and finally end up with a girlfriend and, uh, ended up in an RV park…made a whole bunch of new friends and we were sitting over there and, uh, my girlfriend kind of snuggles up to me when we get back to the RV ‘cause it had been raining and we were out sitting around a camp fire and it’s like all of a sudden ‘Wham!” No thunder, no warning, no nothing…it just started pouring like crazy. We ended up in the RV. Well, now the RV’s got the metal roof, so I’m laying there and she snuggles up to me and she says the exact same thing that my ex wife had said, that “There’s only two things to do when it rains and I don’t read.” Well, the way I write, I have to have the idea and the beat, you know, all at the same time. If those two things come together I got a song like really fast. Uh, well the first time, it didn’t happen with my ex. Uh, this time it did so I jumped and goes “There it is! I got it!” I’m like running to the other end of the RV and we had a little breakfast table that pulls down into a little twin bed or whatever and I ran over that to the breakfast nook and I was sitting there and I was scribbling as fast as I could so I could get this idea down and, uh, next thing I know I look up and she’s in the little doorway there into the bedroom at the other end of the RV and she goes, “That’s not what I was meaning!” She’s standing there in her nightgown…her little nightie, and I was like, “Oh…okay…uh, yeah.” (Laughs) “Hold on two seconds,” and I’m like trying to finish up writing the song
And I went back to the other end of the table but, or the RV, but I did get the song out and stuff and that was a cool thing. Actually that was the last song that was written to go on to ‘Just South of Perfect’ CD. It just squeaked by. In fact, I dropped another song to be able to put that one on there.
Well, we’ve heard about this song. Let’s hear it.
‘Two Things to Do When it’s Rains.’ I can think of one but I’m curious (Laughs)
About the second one.
(Performs ‘Two Things to Do When it Rains’) Hey baby, where you goin’ with my four wheeler? It’s pouring down the rain…don’t take it out and get it muddy!
It’s one of those little tongue-in-cheek songs.
Troy Allan, ladies and gentlemen, on the Paul Leslie Hour. Thanks Troy. So, you mentioned that you were from Texas. There’s a lot of music that comes from Texas, a lot of great music that comes from Texas. So, who were you listening to? Who influenced you the most?
Well, Beaumont, back in the early ‘80’s and all the way through, I’d say, the early to mid 90’s, was a huge, huge music area. There was clubs everywhere, bands everywhere, and of course, you know, we’d go out on nights that we were off, the whole band would go to listen to other bands just to see: what are we doing wrong? What are we doing right? What do we do better? What do we do worse? Not so much as a challenge thing, but I’m so fortunate to be having that stuff go on in that area ‘cause what happened is it made us want to be better. So it was like, “Oh man! They’re doing this and they’re doing all these breaks and these neat little musical chops,” and stuff like that. Uh, so it really gave me a high bar to climb to, you know…Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, I went to school with them and they had their bands and of course, we all know the story with them about them getting signed and, of course, going on to be superstars and everything and they played at a club, Cutters, where Mark Chesnutt was so we were all, you know, in kind of that same group. I use to play there on the weekends too, uh, with my band but we were always looking around to, you know…”What could we do better? What do we need to learn next? Or, that kind of stuff but so, I was real fortunate to have a lot of music going on in that area. Unfortunately it’s dropped off in that area a lot. I mean, it’s real hard to find a place now. That’s why I go out and tour the country now ‘cause there’s not a lot of stuff going on at home. So…I have a blast anywhere I’m going out here. It’s very different from that ‘cause that was like, say, with a band and everywhere you go you carry a five, six piece band, all the gear, all the lights. You gotta carry all this stuff with you but out here, it’s just me and the guitar, just show up or go anywhere I want to so it’s a lot of fun. I just love what I’m doing now.
If you could say that one artist was your biggest influence, could you point to one?
Or maybe a couple that are above the pack?
Yeah, for me, and it’s kind of funny ‘cause growing up in the corn fields of Illinois, I didn’t get a lot of music. I mean, if it wasn’t on the radio right then, you know, I got into all the Ozzie Osborne and all that kind of stuff going on throughout the early 80’s and all that (???) band stuff going on. Uh, finally somebody kept saying, “You have this voice that kind of sounds like this guy,” and they kept saying his name and everything and it never sank in and I never went and found his music or anything like that but when I finally did get introduced to his stuff, it totally changed the way that I was, uh, writing and the style that I would use playing and it changed my guitar style. I started picking up finger picking and I went and got a couple lessons to figure out how to do that, although I’m not very good for lessons…I didn’t stay very long but pretty much everything else that I learned was on my own so…but yeah, that would have to be James Taylor.
Tell all the listeners out there about a band called Hanna’s Reef.
Absolutely. I’d love to. Uh, you know I had my band for a long time and I actually hurt my throat, uh, it would be the New Year’s Eve coming into ’97 and, uh, I took some time off, uh, kind of played at some solo stuff, but the band, the drummer for the band, Chuck Willingham, uh, that’s all he did for a living so he went ahead and moved into another band called Hanna’s Reef. It was based out of the same area, Beaumont, Texas and, uh, what happened with him is somehow or another, the bass player ended up quitting and I had started playing bass in our band ‘cause the bass player of us kept not showing up. He’d call me from like all parts of America saying, “Hey, I can’t play tomorrow night ‘cause I’m doing a shutdown.” He’d take off all over America and so I finally just bought my own bass and learned all my songs one night and showed up and surprised the band the next day, that I was the new bass player and it worked out pretty good but in one night I learned to play bass and sing and, which is kind of tough but that was my goal so I ended up being able to hit it. And when the bass player quit from Hams Reef, uh, Chuck called me up and said, “Hey, this is what you were always wanting to do. You were always wanting to travel and go cool places and, you know, do all these neat things and do the hotel thing,” and so the next thing I know, Jerry Diaz is calling me up, the leader of the band and everything, and said, “Here’s what we do and we travel a bunch and , you know, I’m looking for somebody to be able to do some backup vocals and maybe sing a few songs, but really be the bass player.” And, uh, I decided that I could put my gig on hold for while and be able to go try this and at least see what it was all about. Stark was pretty excited about it and thank goodness I did ‘cause I didn’t know about the (???) or any of this stuff, you know…the Parrot Heads and all…just a huge music movement that’s happening right now with all the different singer/song writers and, uh, I stayed with Jerry and the guys for a long time…just loved playing with them, loved traveling everywhere, showing up in all these crazy places and carrying our gear onto planes and all that kind of stuff. That’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s a little hassle, believe it or not, but, uh, you know when you love what you do, the hassle seems to be just part of it. And, I just kind of got my feet wet working throughout the band and started learning about tropical music and decided, okay, this is really cool. This is even better than what I was playing, you know, by myself, you know, solo stuff. So, just loved the guys…some great music, a lot of time…some fun times just going everywhere. Uh, kind of felt some growing pains a little bit ‘cause I kept writing all these songs and , of course, it wasn’t my band and I never wanted to take anything away from Jerry or the guys or anything but still wanted to be able to do my stuff. So the next thing I know, I’m doing solo stuff again, outside of the band schedule, still with a fifty to sixty hour a week day job, and it just kind of got to where it was so busy doing the solo stuff that it was hard to keep doing stuff with the band too. I felt like I was getting in the way of their progress ‘cause I was turning around and calling Jerry all the time and going, “Hey are we booked for April 22nd? Okay, how about the 24th? I got a possibility on such-and-such.” It just turned into, I felt like I was being more of a pest than helping the band. So we kind of did a little parting of the ways for a lot of reasons and we’llgo into those if you want (laughs). It was never because I didn’t want to be there. They were always awesome to me.
Well, from your solo career, you have a song called ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Tell us about that song.
Uh, that one’s actually coming up on the next CD which is, the CD is entitled (laughs)…kind of a crazy title…’Party at the Bottom of the Pool’ is a song title, uh, I mean the album title. But this song, I think, is one of the strongest songs on the whole CD. After Hurricane Ike came through, my parents lost everything, uh…the business that they had, a lot of the buildings, the house was torn up…they had to tear the house down and really start from scratch. I mean, there was nothing and I was staying at…with them…at their house…or, their land, I guess I should call it…and I was actually living in a horse trailer and the horse trailer that they had had one of those bunks that go over the bed of the truck…
And there’s not a lot of room up there between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the ceiling, you know, cause it’s already up above the truck (Laughter in background) so you got maybe two and half to three feet and I was staying there one night, and on the Tuesday after Hurricane Ike came through, a big old storm brewed and some lightening hit really close to the house and sounded like it was at the other end of the trailer and I sat up real quick, ‘cause we were all still kind of in shock from Hurricane Ike and the storms and all that stuff that went with that and when I sat up, I sat up so fast that I literally knocked the light that was screwed into the ceiling, I knocked it off of the ceiling with my forehead. So I’m laying there, screaming and saying all kinds of nice choice was words and I was like, “Man, I hope I don’t have to stay here more than two nights in a row.” And, as I’m laying there, I kind of let my goose egg do its thing, I got to thinking about “two nights in a row,” and I’d never heard that as a song title or subject for a song and it kind of started me thinking about my life…all the places that I go and was playing, I was never in any place more than two nights in a row. So, I’d play here and stay one or two nights and then, you know, I’d drive a little ways and I’d stay there for a couple nights and I was like, “Man, that’s almost like an autobiographical song,” so I thought about turning it into a song and the next thing I know, at four o’clock in the morning, I’m sitting down at the little breakfast nook that this horse trailer had and I put together ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ Took me about a month to finish. I had to put the words on it later on. And, that’s the trauma (laughs).
Alright. We’re going to hear it. This is Troy Allan on the Paul Leslie Hour performing ‘Two Nights in a Row.’
Troy performs ‘Two Nights in a Row.’ (Applause)
Alright! Thanks Troy. You mentioned in the beginning of that song that you were a wanderer. What have been some of your favorite places that you’ve played or just visited?
Wow! Uh…my favorite place for a long time was South Padre Island. (???) And, uh, going down there was like a high school type place so it was always like, “Oh! This is my favorite place.” And, uh, then I went up to North Padre Island and Port Arantis and just fell in love with that whole area. It was just such a neat, quaint little place and everybody kept telling me, “Oh, you need to go check out one more place.” So my favorite place kind of keeps changing a little bit. Uh, now it’s Key West. I have just a wonderful love affair with, not only Key West, but the drive down there. My favorite place in the world is the Seven Mile Bridge.
It’s just gorgeous going down there. I don’t know if you guys remember…that’s the bridge they used for ‘True Lies’…remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger is hanging from the helicopter, trying to get the…I can’t think of her name…but trying to get her out of the car before it crashes…but that bridge has turned into a very, very kind of sacred and special place for me and every time I go over that bridge, I either end up writing a song or getting told what to do by the Man upstairs…uh, that kind of stuff…and that’s actually where this tour came about was, a, my second trip down there, I was riding there with a buddy of mine and I kept getting this real nagging feeling of, you know, “Did you turn the coffee pot off or did you really lock the front door of the house,” or something like that and, uh, so I finally said, “Okay, I guess I need a couple minutes of silence so I can figure out what this little naggy feeling is and as I was going across the bridge I got a tap on my shoulder and a warm whisper in my ear that I needed to quit the band and go out and do a solo tour to promote cancer awareness and the cancer that I’d been informed that I had a couple months earlier ‘cause it’s really a rare cancer, very unknown. The treatments, you know, are general, like all the other cancer treatments but the test is not. There’s no test for this whatsoever…uh, no blood work, uh, nothing…so you have to get an upper GI to be able to find out if you have this and that’s how I found it…totally by luck, and, uh, so I fought with it for a couple months ‘cause I didn’t want to quit the band but, uh, next thing I know, I’m like, “Okay, I can’t fight this anymore,” cause I had mentioned that I wanted to do this tour and started just telling a few people about it and the next thing I know, I’m getting call after call after call after call about it and I almost had the whole year booked up but I’m still trying to play with the band so I finally had to tell them, “Okay, I guess I gotta back out of the band ‘cause I’ve been told to do something,” and I need to obey..so that’s what I’m doing….living on the edge (laughs).
Well tell us a little bit about this tour. It’s called the Troy Allan Cancer-Free One Hundred House Concert tour
A little bit of a long name, uh…
It was something you felt led to do…
Oh, no…I actually got told this is what I was supposed to do. Uh, when I got the tap on the shoulder, this…I didn’t come up with the title, I didn’t come up with anything other than that I was supposed to do this and go all the way across the country, wherever I could go, and retell my story…kind of be the poster boy, if you will, for…about self-awareness and being able to go get yourself checked out and how to be checked out for this particular kind of cancer. You know, the Hundred House Concert Cancer-free tour was the name that got told to me right there in the car. Maybe it was a little bit of optimism or maybe it was a little of He already knew where I was going to be going cause since that moment, I literally took myself out of the driver’s seat for my lifeand put myself in the passenger seat and He’s been leading me all over the place since. Uh, and so, the cancer-free part of it, uh, some people look at it as I’m trying to promote being cancer-free. In my mind, it was the determination that I was going to be cancer-free and now I am. Uh, so, it’s just a lot of blessings all in a row. It just all came together so I’m living proof that attitude it everything and doing what you’re told (laughs) helps.
So, when somebody goes to one of these performances, and they hear you sing and they hear you tell your story, what is it you hope they get out of this experience?
Um…number one, I want them to take charge of their own health. Don’t keep letting the doctors say, “Oh, we’ll see you back in two years,” or whatever, you know…”We’ll do this test…that test.” If you feel something going on, get checked. But more importantly, I didn’t have any symptoms at all for this. I mean, absolutely nothing. My stomach didn’t hurt. I didn’t have that…abnormalities eating…there’s the word…wasn’t losing weight, you know, nothing. And I just happened to lose my job, I had two weeks on insurance, and decided, “Oh, I got some free time ‘cause I’d been working fifty, sixty hours a week, plus traveling full time with the band, plus anytime the band wasn’t playing I was doing solo gigs at little restaurants and stuff anywhere up to a hundred miles away and still driving home and going to work, you know, at 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock the next morning. That was like twenty hours a day…most of the time, still am. But what I hope they get out of it is to take charge of their lives, take charge of their health and go get an upper GI, most importantly, no matter how they think their health is, because again, I had no symptoms whatsoever and come to find out, I got the fastest growing and fastest killing cancer there is. Had I not taken any initiative to do that, literally, December 22nd would have been the end of my six weeks to six months so every day past that is a bonus day for me.
And this is…it’s called…I’m sure I’m going to butcher this but, Linitis Plastica?
Pretty close….Linitis Plastica. It’s French for plastic lining and what the literally equate this to…it’s a hardening of the stomach lining. Because of the way this cancer grows, most cancer is kind of like you throw mud or spackle, you know, for dry wall? It’s kind of like they throw it at the wall and they go in and kind of clean it off, you know…get in there and make sure it’s not in the corners. Well, Linitis Plastica is very, very different in the fact that it grows kind of like a…it’s kind of like a vine and it grows…you know, there’s five layers to the stomach…I’ve learned all this anatomy and things…I never knew this before but…there’s five layers to the stomach and what happens is it literally grows in between all those layers, kind of like splitting all the layers of plywood, like growing in between those and then once it does that, there’s nothing else in the body that has that many layers so once it grows outside of the stomach wall, then it just rifles through everything and that’s why it’s the fastest growing ‘cause it takes a little while to get through the stomach and then it just kills everything else. But, Linitis Plastica, the word, is the hardening of the stomach walls and it turns basically your stomach lining into like a plastic water bottle so, Linitis Plastica, that’s where that comes from so…
You are the longest living person with Linitis Plastica. Is that true?
Yeah, well, that’s what my doctors are telling me. Uh, I don’t know…it’s kind of hard to believe that here I find this thing by accident and, uh, end up finding it earlier than anybody else, and that’s the key is finding it early. Early detection is absolutely the key and that’s why I say I don’t care if you have issues or not, or symptoms for anything, go get yourself checked out just because you never know what you’re going to find.
Uh, but yeah…because of finding it early they were able to get it before it went outside of the stomach and that was the key. I mean, that was the greatest day of my life when they went in and did the laparoscopic look-around and then they did, uh, what they call a washing, and, uh, and they take all that liquid that they put in…they take it out and then they look for cancer cells. If they would have found cancer cells outside, they weren’t going to operate and I would definitely be gone by now, uh, but because they didn’t find any, they were able to go ahead and do the surgery…take the stomach out…take the oblenum (??) out…twenty nine lymph nodes, uh, and a whole bunch of little bitty nothing parts I can’t remember the name to. But, uh, none of those had cancer cells in them except for just at the very end of the stomach where they finally did the incisions to cut all that out so they put me through chemotherapy one more time just kind of as a precaution…changed the medicine and put me through it again. (Someone in the background: it’s been a long road) (Laughs)
It’s an amazing, inspiring story…great that you’re doing all this to create the awareness
Yeah…well…like I say, I just got told to do it and it was my pleasure to do it ‘cause I wanted to do it anyway…just be out there, playing music. Now it’s happened, though, with what the theme is why I’m out there playing music, so…
Yeah, it’s great ‘cause you took a negative and you found some ray of hope in it and presenting a good message to everyone out there.
Well, there’s a song you mentioned earlier and when you mentioned it, right away, ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool,’ I already had all these ideas in my mind about what an album cover would look like for that…
Uh, but tell us about that song and play it for us.
Alright. Uh, I went to…uh, you know, as Parrot Heads go, they have all these different fund raisers ‘cause they’re always raising money for, you know, either cancer or cancer awareness or children’s hospital or a burn unit, you know, whatever’s in their area. Sometimes it’s not even in their area. They just pick someplace that they want to help…Shriners…you know, and that kind of stuff…and they have a party and raise money to be able to donate to whatever their cause is. Well the one in Austin is named ‘The Pirates Ball’ and it’s a full-blown pirates costume party and they have music and entertainment, all that kind of stuff, for a weekend and, uh, we party pretty good and for some reason, the hotel decided that they wanted to try to keep us out of the pool. Uh, we’d been there last year, and as I understand it, some lawn chairs and some other things ended up at the bottom of the pool. We’re supposed to be there, so thisyear they decided that, “We’re going to drain it to keep all the stuff out of the pool.” And, uh, I was playing outside and it was kind of cold and so when we got to the part of the conga line, they were actually going around this empty pool at this hotel and whoever was leading decided that they were going to down in the pool ‘cause the wind had kicked up and it was pretty cool…uh, like I’m saying, cold. The wind was pretty chilly so what they found out is when we got down to the bottom of the pool, the wind was going across the top of pool and not coming down inside so they told me to grab my guitar and all my stuff and I ended up down in the bottom of the pool too, playing to them in the pool with no water in it and everybody kept telling me, “You gotta write about this. You have to write a song.” And, uh, it was a great idea. I definitely wanted to write one but I just couldn’t find a beat like right then so it took quite a while to get a song together for it, but it finally happened, thank goodness, and it was just such a fun song…man, when I put the music to it in the studio, oh my god! That song was just so much fun. It makes you want to jump out of your seat and conga like any Gilly…uh, so I was able to put that together and it’s truly about the people that were there and everything that happened…just kind of a chroniclization of what was going on. It was a lot of fun…so, uh, I’ll try to do it. It’s kind of a fast-moving song.
So let’s see if we can this thing on…it’s going to be recording everything…alright…here it is: ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool.’
(Performs ‘Party at the Bottom of the Pool’) (Applause)
Alright! Thank you so much Troy.
I have one more question before we part. This broadcast goes out all over the world. What do you want to say to the people who are listening in?
Buy the new CD. No, I’m just kidding (laughs). Uh, no, truly, early detection for any kind of cancer is absolutely the key and after you find out if, heaven forbid, you have something, attitude is absolutely the thing that will pull you through, no matter what. It’s not anybody else’s support, although that helps. Family is wonderful. Great friends are wonderful. But, it all starts with you. It has to start with you. People ask me all the time…I mean, all the way through my chemotherapy treatment I was doing radiology at the same time. I was wearing the pump anytime I wasn’t in the doctor’s office, I was literally wearing the pump which makes you feel, you know, pretty crappy…just being honest. Uh, but I never missed a band gig with Hams Reef…not one. I never missed a solo gig. I mean, I hadn’t been doing it very good but it was the will to keep going and be there. I had some friends come bail me out, you know, to where I didn’t have to sing absolutely every single song but I still did my part. It was still my PA every single show and people ask me all the time how I did it and I tell every single one of them, “Attitude is everything.” You gotta have…it has to start with you. Bar none…that’s my advice (Laughs).
TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO