Long before there was a Be Be and CeCe Winans or Kirk Franklin, the Rance Allen Group was making decidedly urban flavored gospel music, strategically designed to appeal to an unchurched black audience back in the early 1970′s. Their songs, such as “Just My Salvation,” “Ain’t No Need of Crying,” “I Belong to You”, and “I Got To Be Myself”, all classically fine examples of the foundation Allen’s group laid for the urban gospel artists who would follow two decades later.
One of a dozen children, Allen was born November 19, 1948, in Detroit and has been performing since he was five years old. He preached and sang early on and was called Little Rance Allen, the boy preacher. ”We were raised in a family where you went to church every single night,” Allen once told GospelFlava.com. ”To keep our interest, my grandmother went to a pawn shop and brought instruments, drums, guitars, and amplifiers.” In addition to the singing and preaching, Allen played piano and guitar.
Eventually Allen decided to start a gospel singing group. With older brother Tom on drums, younger brother Steve on bass, and Rance on guitar, the brothers recorded their first song for the Reflect label in Monroe, Michigan. In 1971, they won a Detroit talent contest where Stax Records promotion man Dave Clark was a judge. Clark liked what he heard and got them signed to Stax Records, R&B label in Memphis that gave birth to Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.
Back at Stax, company president Al Bell loved the group so much that he created a subsidiary specifically to promote the Rance Allen Group, the Gospel Truth label. The group’s first single on Gospel Truth was “Just My Salvation,” which didn’t chart, but it got a nice buzz going about the group and particularly Allen’s earth-quaking falsetto. Gospel Truth began placing the trio on secular bills to expose their new style of gospel.
In 1991, the group rolled out with a tight, R&B friendly album called Phenomenon The lead single “Miracle Worker” received massive gospel airplay and even reached No. 32 on the R&B single chart. The album became the Allen group’s first No. 1 gospel album ever and it also reached No. 33 on the R&B album chart. It would be five years before the next album. You Make Me Wanna Dance hit No. 7 on the gospel chart in 1996 and another six years before the group’s Deitrick Haddon produced All the Way CD hit the gospel chart in 2002 on the strength of the “Do Your Will” radio smash. While Allen still enjoys recording, preaching is clearly his first calling. which is why he records sporadically these days. He pastors at New Bethel Church of God In Christ in Toledo. ”I have a purpose in mind when I record,” Allen told Lee Hildebrand. ”I’m trying to attract someone’s ear’s without scaring them to death or sounding fanatical, but what I’m actually trying to do is win them over to Christ.”