Russell Allen 1962-2012: Mississippi’s First Punk Rocker

Russell (photo by Ed Inman)

I just heard the awful news that Russell Allen, a friend of mine from Jackson, Mississippi, has passed. I hadn’t kept up with Russell much since I left Mississippi, but never forgot him.

Russell was one of Jackson, Mississippi’s first punk rockers. He would enthusiastically show up to just about any show and tell you about it. It was absolutely true. Being a punk in Mississippi can be a lonely affair but Russell pulled it off, mostly because he never considered that it might be a bad idea. Russell was never afraid of anything. He had a suit of armor forged of smiles and laughter.

Sometimes Russell would show up to our band practice space. We would be trying to write lyrics and Russell would come up with lines that would have us rolling on the ground in laughter. I think that he was completely serious, but it was hard to tell. He would deliver his lines in typical Mississippi fashion, totally serious with complete conviction, dressed up in his ultra thick and authentic outer-Jackson drawl:

“Electric energy, unseen force, thrash into oblivion on a pale white horse”

In retrospect, we should have fired our singer and hired Russell. I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to us at the time.

Once Russell led us into the practice space of the WindBreakers, a local band which had achieved some success at the time. I never could figure out if he had the key or he broke in, but we got in, fired up their gear and started jamming out. Russell would again spit off these lyrics that would have you laughing to hard to worry about playing. Eventually, Tim Lee and the WindBreakers showed up with their mouths agape.

You couldn’t really be angry at Russell. He was just too much of a nice guy. Whatever infraction he might have committed was done only in the interest of fun and good times. I never, ever saw Russell say a bad word about anyone at all.

Russell eventually put on a suit and got a job as a jeweler at a mall store. He never ever stopped being Russell, however. Later, after we were somewhat in touch, he sent out a couple emails to me to say “I HOPE YOU’RE HAVING A ROCKIN DAY!!!!!” and really not much more. That was Russell.

Now, I’m kicking myself for not having gone to see him when I was in Jackson last year. Too busy, can always meet him later…. but later will never happen now.

Russell, take it easy, man. You were loved.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

12 responses to “Russell Allen 1962-2012: Mississippi’s First Punk Rocker”

  1. Ralph says :

    Sorry for your loss. Vaya con Dios.

  2. Jeffery says :

    I, too, remember Russell from my Mississippi days…long ago. I just stumbled upon this as I learned of his passing…sparking vivid memories of my past life, easier times, and Jackson Town on scorching summer nights. RIP Russell…you’ll not be forgotten.

  3. Eric says :

    The small town punk rocker is an under appreciated guy. It’s so easy in the city! Sorry for the loss. (Above photo is by Ed Nasty of Ed Nasty & The Dopeds… extra punk rock credit.)

  4. Pete Larson says :

    The small town punk is a pioneer!

  5. Elizabeth Bercaw says :

    I’m also a Jackson native, and Russell was the brother I never had. I’ll never forget the night I met Russell Allen. December 31, 1981. New Year’s Eve, Skid Marks. I was dressed in a zebra print mini dress, black spandex leggings, and black stiletto heels. Russell was wearing commando. We danced like banshees the whole night.

    Russell has been one of my closest friends for the past 31 years. I still got phone calls from him, in which he always signed of “Love ya girl!” He was as much a part of my family as anyone. We could just give him the name Russell Bercaw Allen.

    There is so much to say about Russell, and none of it bad. He was one the most true and honest and compassionate souls I ever knew. He’d give you the shirt off his back. And the stories he could tell! I remember when he took up drumming. Within no time, he was hammering away at a drum kit like he was born to it.

    I got the call about Russell yesterday evening from my mother who still lives in Jackson. Russell had just visited my sister the day before. I’m still in shock to think he is gone… but he’s not, really. About two hours after I got the phone call from my mom, I felt Russell’s presence. I could hear his voice, though not in my ears, but in my heart. He spoke clearly and plainly in his beautiful Pearl, Mississippi drawl. He looked straight at me and said “Girl, you just better know one thing. You’re a lucky woman!” I said “I know, Russell.” He said “You are one lucky woman. You’ve got your daughter, and your family and your health and you need to appreciate all that you got!” I said “I know Russell. I do appreciate it. And I appreciate you!” And he said “I appreciate you too. And I’ll always be by your side.” And I said “I’ll always be by your side too Russell.”

    So then I listened to Squeeze on my turntable. I probably bought the lp when I was with Russell. And the song said it all…

    When you’re down and you’re lonely
    Come onto me I’ll be your only
    Always remember
    I’ll be by your side
    Call me up daytime or night
    I’ll always listen every time
    If you need me
    Then please believe me don’t you cry

    I’ll show concern
    And I’ll keep my word
    I won’t stay away
    Now and then when your heart’s in pain
    I’d like to say
    Always remember I’ll be forever
    By your side

    Friends like this are hard to find
    with time to talk and to confide
    If you need me please believe me I’m by your side

    The secret’s kept
    as we lie in bed
    I can’t keep away
    Now and then when you heart’s in pain
    I’d like to say always remember
    I’ll be forever by your side.

  6. Karrie Carr says :

    I met Russ when I was a Jr. in H.S. in ’85. My friend Sheryll Goode was sharing a dingy little trailer with him down behind Metrocenter. As we pulled up I could hear the drums inside. He was ROCKIN’ that trailer. It was a small kit surrounded by black candles and he was KILLIN’ it. Truth be known, he scared me a little when I first met him. It didn’t take long before he was my buddy. A Teddy Bear dressed in black. We were in the W.C.Don’s crowd from ’85-’87 and I have to say it was a magical time. Looking back I can’t believe such a awesome time and place existed in Jackson,MS. But most of all it would not have been the same without Russell. That Black Trench was his trademark. His eyes always sparkled with mischief. I loved his edge and that slight twitch he had. We found eachother again on fb and had picked up right were we left off. That was Russell. Loyal and True. Once you were a friend, you were a friend. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s the world’s loss.

  7. Gina Walker says :

    This is absolutely the Russell I had the pleasure of knowing for a short while. Just shows he has ALWAYS been Russell. A love of music, super intelligent about certain things……a love for anthing else that floated his boat for the moment. After meeting him at the jewelry store we were both employed at, I had an instant liking. His presence and aura were peaceful! He was a great guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He kept me laughing, he taught me philosophy, he taught me the idiosyncracy of jewelry repair, he was peace. I now wonder just how much peace he was giving to other’s, was he getting the peace he needed for himself. I was able to meet his son Huston,
    I was able to see him fall in love again, and watch he and his beautiful Tina become one. Everything I’ve read here is true to Russell. He will certainly be missed. It is such a shame that we honor him this way when he can’t enjoy…he loved love!

  8. JJ Todd says :

    Dear Free wheel burning-
    It is such a comfort to hear from other people that knre, loved, and appreciated Russell. Such an amazing non-stop creative mind. There is no doubt how Undisdribable it must be to express what It was like having Russell work lyrics with y’all. When my daughter was in her first 2 years he would give her a new Name several times a week. His cat, just about every day.
    Another thing I loved about him was that he was unassuming. No matter hOw something appeared, if he wanted to know, he would ask. We could all be a little more like Russell. This I feel is the best way to seve tribute to his legacy. I love you Russell. Your Jacobs J

  9. Tim Lee says :

    RIP Russell … a good-hearted man to the end.

  10. kelley stone says :

    Dear free wheel burning– I have to disagree–I saw russell frightened to the point of hysteria once. He had spilled red model car paint on the brand new carpet in his bedroom. He ran to my house frantically searching for my dad. Dad went to Russell’s house to see what the fuss was about. Cleaned the carpet for him, and they never told anyone. Dad finally told Russ’s mom, Nan, the night before his service. She had never known!! I miss our madman!! Love you Russ, my brother. Rest peacefully and meet me at the gate! xxoo kelley

  11. S.x. Ramone says :

    I had dinner with Russell and got to meet his cool daughter and her friend two nights before he died. He was struggling to keep his head in a good place, despite some considerable personal problems. But he said he was good; of course he said he was good. He was ALWAYS good. I could tell he was proud of his daughter. It meant a lot to me that he showed up at Keifer’s to see me after the – like, what – oh, 15 years since I’d last seen his ass? He was a rocker, that’s for sure, wearing black (just like me! it fits!) and over all the years I knew him he never once wasn’t just the nicest guy I knew. RIP, brother… kick it wherever you land.

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