Sandy Allen, keyboard player for Chris Duarte’s mid-80s group the Bad Boys, died in November of '98 in Austin, Texas. John Jordan was in the Bad Boys too, and together the three of them also backed up Junior Medlow. When the Chris Duarte Group came here recently, I asked Chris and John if they would share some thoughts on their former bandmate, Sandy Allen.


Chris: I was real sad when he went down, for his family and his great kids.

John: He had a great family. He took care of a lot of kids, took them under his wing. It was a nasty shock. It really was. Deby and I were in Austin and Glen Rexache, another one of the Bad Boys, called me up and said Sandy was real sick and they didn’t think he was gonna’ come out of the hospital. He said at 8:00 everyone who knows him is gonna’ stop whatever they’re doing and pray. At 8:00 we turned off the music, lit a candle and sent out positive vibrations. He didn’t survive the weekend. He’ll be missed, he really will.

How did Sandy join up with the Bad Boys?

John: Sandy was a prominent jazz player around Austin. He was always working - hotel work and the jazz clubs around town. He also led a jazz trio and backed up different singers, mainly Pam Hart, a really good jazz vocalist in Austin. He was doing that in the years before he died, too.

Chris: Jeff Hodges, our drummer, had done a pick-up gig with Sandy. At the time, the Bad Boys were mainly Paul Babbs, Jeff, and me as a trio. Jeff said we should bring Sandy in and check out his stuff. And so we brought in the keyboard player. It was real cool and a lot of learning!

John: He was in the Bad Boys before I was. He was in the group, along with Donny Silverman, a sax player. I came along in ‘88. After awhile, the Bad Boys started working with BBA, kind of a jazz booking agency. They would book Beto y Los Fairlanes, Junior Medlow & The Bad Boys, The Vanguards. Sandy was working there and he would book the Bad Boys - so he became a very, very valuable member of the group! He got us good gigs! Before Sandy they didn’t have keyboards in the Bad Boys.
He brought that in and really changed everything a lot.

Chris: He sure did! Sandy used to play an old Rhodes DX7, his main axe - old, old, old! I learned so much off him. How to play with a piano player, to not step on the chords and be in the same harmonic range. We used to take turns comping and stuff. I learned phrasing too, and just listening to him. How to get thorny in chord changes, change tonality, just going in and out of chords a certain way. Listening to him playing different chords over a 12-bar blues form. It was a real learning experience with Sandy.

John: He was such a great player! He taught me about voicing, moving keyboard voicings around. He would get out there! He had a synthesizer that had a strange sound on it. He had a lot to do with the arrangements and stuff, as keyboard players typically do. He’d written some jazz stuff and a couple of songs in the Bad Boys that we did, too. There’s at least 1 song he wrote on that Bad Boys record, “My Sweet Lady,” I think.

Chris: Yeah, he wrote “My Sweet Lady”. That was a real unique song! I dug it. I was really lucky to play with older musicians when I was younger. That’s why I think I learned a lot faster, not that I was some prodigy or something, but I was blessed to be around older, talented musicians. He helped me out so much, that’s what I dug about him.

Had you played together since the Bad Boys?

Chris: Sometimes I would go down to jam sessions, jazz jam sessions, and play with him down there and check him out.

John: I’ve sat in with him, too. The last time was at a benefit for Junior Medlow at Antone’s a couple of years ago. Medlow loved him. I called him up and he came out and played. It was kind of a semi-reunion because Chris was there, too!

Chris: It was always good to see him. I will miss Sandy a lot.

John: He was a great guy. He really was. God bless Sandy Allen!