Folksinger, poet, and storyteller, Allen Wayne Damron was born to Clarence Allen “Jack” and Jane (Bevens) Damron on March 1, 1939, near Raymondville, Texas. Allen’s parents divorced when he was still a child, so he went to live with his grandmother, Vora Lee Bevens, on the family farm near Raymondville. His grandmother, who also raised Allen Damron’s cousin, Texas writer Mona Sizer, played piano and encouraged the children to learn piano, sing, and take dance lessons. Damron played his first guitar when he was eight.
Damron went to public school in Raymondville, where he became interested in drama and participated in a number of plays and musicals. He won a drama scholarship to attend Lon Morris College in Jacksonville, Texas, where he helped form a singing trio, Los Bandidos. After earning an associate’s degree in drama in 1958, he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and studied psychology. He received his B.A. in 1962.
Damron spent some time in Washington, D.C., where he performed at local clubs. In collaboration with his musical partner, Carol Hedin, Damron recorded several singles, including “The Partisan Song/Come Go With Me” and “Nancy Whiskey/Requiem for a Balloon,” along with an album, Carol Hedin and Allen Damron: Two for the Show, on Franc Records in 1962. Damron also performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1962 and in 1963, the same year that Bob Dylan debuted there.
By 1966 Damron had returned to Texas. He was performing at Austin’s 11th Door Club when he met music producer Rod Kennedy, with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional relationship. Kennedy invited Damron to join another Texas folksinger, Carolyn Hester, for a statewide tour publicizing Kennedy’s New Longhorn Jazz Festival. From 1967 to 1970, Damron also managed Kennedy’s Chequered Flag folk club in Austin where a number of singers including Kathie Morrison, Richard Dean, Big Bill Moss, Jim Schulman, Kenneth Threadgill, Janis Joplin, and Jerry Jeff Walker performed. It was there in 1967 during his opening performance that a live recording of “Mr. Bojangles,” written by Jerry Jeff Walker, was cut, making Damron the first artist to record the song. During this period, Damron also played several festivals around Austin and hosted a twenty-two week local television series called The Younger Set, which was produced by Rod Kennedy.
Following his years at the Chequered Flag, Damron went on to manage the Rubiyat Club in Dallas, where the popular Texas folksinger B. W. Stevenson began his career. Damron also performed at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas for many years and appeared with Steven Fromholz and Lyle Lovett on the PBS series Austin City Limits. In addition, Damron was one of the original performers at the Kerrville Folk Festival, where he appeared annually from 1972 until 2003. He was director of the non-profit Kerrville Music Foundation and, along with Peter Yarrow, helped establish the New Folk Competition for promising songwriters. In 1986 the Texas legislature named Damron a “Goodwill Ambassador for Texas,” and he was a featured performer on the Celebrate Texas concert tour that traveled across the United States during the Texas Sesquicentennial. He also played many shows at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio.
During the 1970s, Damron began performing as a storyteller and cowboy poet. From 1978 to 1980 he played the role of Hondo Crouch in the one-man show, Hondo Crouch, The Mayor of Luckenbach. He also performed at public schools throughout the state and used music to instill an appreciation of history to a younger generation of Texans. In 1995 he published the book The Best Stories from the Texas Storytelling Festivals. Damron made numerous recordings during his career, including Storytelling Tape 1 or El Rancho Cultural (1995), Cowboy Poetry: Old Time Cowboy Songs, New Time Cowboy Songs, Whimsy (1999), and Songs for Kids (of all ages) (1986). He appeared as an extra in several movies, most notably, the IMAX production of Alamo, The Price of Freedom (1987). He was a “Four Star” performer with the USO and also owned his own recording company, Quahadi Productions. Damron was a member of many organizations, including the American Federation of Musicians, Texas Commission on the Arts, North American Folk Alliance, and National Storytelling Association. He was an avid sportsman and horseman as well as a historical firearms expert.
Damron died on August 13, 2005, at his home in Terlingua, Texas. He was survived by his wife Marie. His cremated remains were scattered over the Chisos Mountains in far West Texas.