In 1967 I was signed to Mike Curb’s Sidewalk label as a member of the Portraits. Though I didn’t meet Davie Allan back then, we were in the studio together briefly during the recording of our vocal session for "Devil’s Angels". In March 1983 Davie and I met at a Sunset Boulevard coffee shop, just a few blocks from the site of our original encounter. Originally published in Goldmine No. 96, March 1984.
With his group named the Arrows and titles like "War Path", "Apache ‘65", and "White Man Beware", one would assume that Davie Allan is at least part Native American, but he is not. "I don’t know why I got into that," he said. "One of my all time favorite movies is The Searchers with John Wayne ... there are a lot of Indians in that. My ex-wife was part Cherokee."
Allan was born on a June 8 in Los Angeles. His first musical influence came in the 50’s. "What influenced me was seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show," he recalled. "I didn’t know at the time that he wasn’t really a guitar player, but he just knocked me out and that’s what got me interested. My first guitar idol was Duane Eddy and then the Ventures."
Allan got his first guitar about the time he entered Grant High School and he soon formed his first band. In the school choir he met Mike Curb and the pair began working together on musical ventures. They wrote "War Path" and Curb produced the session, using studio musicians along with Allan and his drummer, Larry Brown. It was released on the Cude label ... "Cu" for Curb and "de" for Mary Dean, a songwriter and business partner of Curb’s. The record had a good surf-type sound but perhaps the lack of a surf sounding title hurt it. It was sold to the Marc label but nothing further happened with it.
Curb began producing a lot of sessions using Allan, including the very first Linda Ronstadt record, shortly after her arrival from Phoenix. Curb’s first major success was with "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda", which also had Allan on guitar. Allan played on Hondells records as well as other Mercury artists that Curb was producing at that time.
The guitarist hit the charts with his second release when "Apache ‘65" reached number 64 on Billboard’s Hot 100. "We actually recorded that late in ‘64. It didn’t sell everywhere but I remember we went to Phoenix and it was so funny ... we’d get off the plane and there’d be a limousine waiting for us ... we were actually stars in Phoenix. In L.A., I think 34 was the highest it went. I always loved that song and wanted to re-do it ("Apache" was originally a hit for Jorgen Ingmann in 1961), and in re-doing it, we tried to think of an Indian name. The first name we were going to use was the Warriors. I didn’t like that so I came up with the Arrows."
For a follow-up the consensus was that they should do another remake. "Moondawg" had been a local hit for the Gamblers in 1960 and Allan’s ‘65 version made Billboard’s "Bubbling Under" chart but the next two releases went nowhere. "The reason for the one called ‘Baby Ruth’," explained Allan, "it was a hit in England so we did a cover version. It totally flopped; ‘Space Hop’ flopped." Allan felt that there might have been confusion about the name, which could have hampered airplay. Some of the records were by Davie Allan & the Arrows while some were just by the Arrows.
Curb had begun doing film soundtrack recording using Allan. "There was no single from it but we did a short subject called Skaterdater. It’s a great little movie. Roger Corman saw it and he said, ‘That’s the sound I want to use for the Wild Angels movie.’ That’s how we got that." The Wild Angels theme made the charts briefly but something much bigger was about to happen.
"They were forced to put out "Blues’ Theme" from the album; they had so many requests for it and that’s the theme that shows Peter Fonda’s entrance. The motorcycle sound on it is actually Peter Fonda starting up his bike. Then it went crazy. We were in every city everywhere across the country. Each night we were on a plane going someplace else. ‘Blues’ Theme’ was number one everywhere it went, but not at one time. That’s why on Billboard it only hit number 37, but it was there for 17 weeks. It was on some charts in December 1966 and it was still on others in September 1967. That’s nine months that record was selling!"
By this time the Arrows had gone through many personnel changes but Larry Brown remained on drums. Brown had also become quite busy as a recording engineer however, so Allan used a different drummer for the tours while Brown continued to do the studio dates.
"Devil’s Angels" was the follow-up movie and consequently the follow-up single. Though it has an exciting driving sound (more so than "Blues’ Theme", in this writer’s opinion) it managed only one week on the Hot 100. "I don’t know why that didn’t take off more than it did," said Allan. "There was a mix-up in L.A. Mike Curb had promised an exclusive to KRLA but gave it to KHJ and they both got so mad they both dropped it. It went right on the KHJ chart and they both just dropped it. We did a different intro on the single. We had a Hell’s Angel - I don’t know how we got a hold of him - come down to Continental Studio. We took a microphone out in the parking lot and he started up his bike and went up and down the aisle and we taped it about eight times and the record starts off with all these bikers starting up their bikes."
The Arrows toured with the Seeds, the Leaves, the Turtles, Music Machine, the Grass Roots and many more; and there were more soundtracks: "Seems like every day I was in the studio recording another soundtrack; a lot of them I wouldn’t want to mention," he laughed.
When the recording activity began to taper off Allan disbanded the Arrows and worked casuals and one-nighters around town. Shortly after Curb took over MGM Records Allan joined him there. His first release for the label marked his first vocal release on a single, although he had done vocal work on various sessions and LP cuts. An instrumental, "Dawn Of The Seventh Cavalry" was re-issued as "Dawn At Wounded Knee" in an attempt to capitalize on the publicity resulting from a 1973 incident at Wounded Knee. He also tried another remake of "Apache" but none of the MGM releases got very far.
"Head Over Heels’ and ‘Dawn At Wounded Knee’ were the only two that really started to get action anywhere," he said, "but MGM ... I don’t know if I should say this ... they were so busy with the Osmonds that they didn’t work on any other record they had. I was one of about 80 artists; I was lost in the shuffle there."
From 1971 to ‘76 Allan had a club group called Cherokee, (another Indian name!). They worked clubs around L.A. including a popular San Fernando Valley nightspot, the Point After, with road trips to Palm Springs and Vancouver; B.C. "Blues’ Theme" and "Apache ‘65" were all but forgotten: "I didn’t do any-of those. We were strictly a top-40 band. Once in a while we would mention our names on stage and someone would ask, but I didn’t play it up much at all."
August 26,1973 marked the return of the Arrows – for one’ night. KMET disc jockey Jim Pewter, a long time friend of Allan’s, presented Surfer’s Stomp – l0 Years Later at the Hollywood Palladium. The show featured Davie Allan & The Arrows along with Dick Dale, the Legendary Masked Surfers (Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean), the Surfaris, the Challengers, the Marketts, and Rick Henn of the Sunrays. This would be the last appearance, of the Arrows for almost another 10 years.
1976 brought another release on Artists Of America Records, a label owned by former Mike Curb associate Harley Hatcher. By that time a female vocalist named Charlie had joined Cherokee and she and Allan then formed a new club group named Charlie (no connection to the 80’s English group). They did some recording but nothing was released. One of the songs was a remake of "Don’t Throw It All Away", previously done in the country field by Dave & Sugar. Allan thought it was "a beautiful record" but apparently there were complications and Warner/Curb (there’s that Mike Curb connection again) wouldn’t release it. "If we got into that right now we’d both be shot," laughed Allan.
In August 1982, tired of working clubs, Charlie broke up. Around that time Jim Pewter suggested that Allan record a medley of surf hits. He came up with a cassette full of songs to choose from. Allan put together 14 of them along with an original, and they recorded it in September. The record was released in December and in January Davie Allan & the Arrows appeared at Madame Wong’s, marking the first Arrows appearance since the 1973 "Surfer’s Stomp" Show.
Allan then continued to do Arrows gigs, with the band filled out by bassist Charley Appleton and drummer Steve Bailey, both former members of Cherokee, and keyboard player David Norup, a one-time member of Charlie. "When we do Blues’ Theme’ I put on a motorcycle jacket and sunglasses and do the whole act," said Allan laughingly. An album, "Stoked On Surf," was released on the small What Records.
Allan felt that he "got screwed royally" in the early days when it came to money, often receiving only session pay in lieu of royalties, and other times not even receiving the session pay; but he retains a positive outlook, saying, "I don’t want to bad mouth people," he said. A tall, slim redhead, Davie Allan appeared to have survived well with music as his only profession.
© 1984 & 2011 by Gary E. Myers/MusicGem,
PO Box 4777, Downey, CA 90241-1777