Dick Allen: 80, a Historian of Jazz, Dies

Historians in the News

Dick Allen, a jazz historian whose scholarly command of the traditional New Orleans sound was matched only by his role as a French Quarter character, died on Thursday in Dublin, Ga. He was 80.

The cause was heart failure, said his sister, Betty Smith. He had been bedridden since leaving New Orleans in 2003 and had lived in a nursing home before that.

“In a town that enshrines and cherishes characters, Dick was one of the great ones,” said Robert H. Patterson, who worked with Mr. Allen at Tulane University’s William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, a premier collection of oral histories of traditional jazz, which Mr. Allen began in 1958.

Mr. Allen and Bill Russell began recording interviews with traditional jazz musicians in the mid-1950s in an oral history project that grew into the Hogan Jazz Archive. He was the archive’s associate curator from 1958 to 1965 and curator from 1965 to 1980. He retired in 1992.

At various times he ran a record shop in New Orleans and made recordings as well as becoming “the friend and confidant of all New Orleans musicians” and “adviser and guide to everyone from television networks to old ladies in pursuit of George Lewis,” the jazz critic Whitney Balliett said in 1967....

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