By Kevin Dye
The Madison County Senior Citizens Center in London will host a special ceremony to remember a musical talent that was also a beloved participant in the center’s Adult Day Care program.
Eldon Allen was enrolled in the Adult Day Care program at the center and it did not take folks long to realize that Eldon had a special natural musical talent. Allen was a self-taught musician who could literally play any string instrument and any melody once he heard it. Allen spellbound people who had the pleasure of listening to him play the fiddle, an instrument that he played professionally for years.
“My husband could play anything with strings,” Linda Allen said. “He could make that fiddle talk. He was a fantastic fiddle player who played professionally for years. Eldon was self-taught and if he heard a new song, he could just pick it up and play it.”
Linda said that when Eldon was only three years old when a brother-in-law presented him with a musical challenge.
“He handed Eldon a guitar and told him that if he could learn to play it in two weeks the guitar was his,” Linda said. “Well, Eldon learned to play it by himself in just three days.”
The list of musicians that her husband has played with and opened for in concert are a hall of fame list of country musicians, famous acts such as Johnny Paycheck, Bill Monroe, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Roy Clark and Ray Price. Eldon also performed often at the historical Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Actually, Bill Monroe got very upset one night when he felt that Eldon was receiving too many standing ovations as his warm-up act,” Linda said. “Eldon was also offered to join Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on the road many years ago, but he had his own band at the time and wanted to stay in Ohio.”
Eldon became afflicted with a serious form of dementia later in life and he became a participant in the Adult Day Care program at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center for two years. Even with his advanced dementia it was difficult to hide the vast musical talent that Eldon possessed.
“Eldon was at his best and clear thinking when he was playing his fiddle,” client liaison Pat Baynes said. “Whenever he would play here, we would go around the center and let folks who were playing pool or chair volleyball know that he was playing and people would gather around to listen to him play. He could play all string instruments by ear professionally. He needed us to sing a line of music to help get him started and then he would just go and play on and on. He was an amazing musician and he was the kind of guy that just got right into your heart.”
Sadly, Eldon Allen passed away in August of this year and his wife Linda contacted Baynes about the possibility of having some sort of service at the center to honor Eldon’s life. Linda was inspired by the memorial service that the center held for its assistant director Jim Holland when he had passed away and wanted to do something similar for Eldon.
Baynes contacted Bud Henderson, who was a friend and musician who made sure that Eldon was a part of the weekly jam sessions at the studio at his Blue Grass Music Shop in Columbus. Henderson has arranged for his group the Gospel Echoes and several of Eldon’s musical friends to participate in a memorial service that is open to the public at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Madison County Senior Center.
“This is more of a musical celebration of Eldon’s life,” Baynes said. “Many of his musical friends from Columbus will be coming to play in his honor. When Eldon got really ill, these guys would come out and jam in Eldon’s basement. Eldon lived in West Jefferson and he had a musical friend who also lived there, Kevin Donoghue, who will be performing too. Kevin helped Eldon with everything from repairing his instruments to assisting him with bathing. He was a great friend of Eldon’s.”
Baynes said that the center will have cookies and refreshments for the memorial event and Eldon’s friends want to be able to play for as long as they feel like playing, so it should be a fun evening for the public.
The Madison County Senior Citizens Center is located at 280 W. High St. in London. You can contact the center at (740) 852-3001 for more information.