When you hear contemporary Gospel music today, you are traveling a road paved by one of the most successful Gospel groups in history, The Rance Allen Group, a trio of three brothers whose first concerts were block parties in their native Monroe, Michigan over 30 years ago.
Rance Allen and his brothers, Thomas and Steve, are three of a dozen children from a church-active family that nearly filled the small Goodwill Church of God In Christ (COGIC) the family attended. Both grandparents were pastors and their Mother played piano and guitar.
Rance began singing and preaching at age five, then learned the piano at age seven to accompany his singing. Thomas was inspired by Rance's talent and picked up the drums. Then Steve saw how music was bringing the two of them together and joined them. When Rance was 12, he took up guitar and it became his formal instrument.
It was in the little Michigan church that the group's style evolved, often accompanied by the rattling of the windows and the roar of the wheels of passing trains. They found an avid audience in the youth membership. The Allen boys also came up in the COGIC Convention under the teaching of the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.
They began to listen to Motown songs on the sly and also listened to the greats of Gospel, Mahalia, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, James Cleveland, etc. They took the tunes of the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Dionne Warwick, rearranged the words and gave it back its roots. It was a new Gospel style and the young people loved it, but there was resistance to the non-traditional style from other churches. They were ahead of their time. They, however, never cared what people thought because their main concern was their music and reaching out to young people who might be saved.
About the time of Edwin Hawkins' super hit, "O Happy Day," a local promoter named Larry Giles approached Rance and his brothers and wanted to manage them. "Giles was a visionary--he arranged for them to tour around and make their first recordings. Giles wanted nothing but major pop success and invested everything in the group. However, because of the Group’s gospel focus, he went broke doing it.
The group played live on WCHB radio in Detroit for a year. Then in mid 1970 they won a Detroit talent show with a stirring three minute performance that brought down the house. One of the judges was record man Dave Clark who introduced them to Toby Jackson who soon became their manager.
They put together a tape of the group and shopped it around. Their first recorded single, “Let’s Get Together and Love” was recorded on Monroe, Michigan based Reflect label. Singing in their contemporary innovative and unique style no others could or would dare touch at the time, the group set out to make their presence known. They went to Memphis and met with Al Bell, then the head of Stax Records, who was so impressed that he started a new label, Gospel Truth, just for them. They had four albums on Stax and performed secular gigs with Isaac Hayes, Johnny Taylor and others. In 1972 they appeared in the motion picture Wattstax and has since appeared and performed on the Bobby Jones Gospel television show, the former Arsenio Hall Show and performed before the legendary crowd at The Apollo Theatre in New York City. Their prison ministry has touched the lives and brought many to Christ as well.
In 1975 they had a number one R&B hit in many markets, "Ain't No Need of Crying" that sold a quarter million copies. After Stax folded, the group went to Capitol Records in 1977 for one album which did well. Then they went to Fantasy Records for three albums. One of those releases, “I Feel Like Going On” earned them their first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Gospel Group. This album contains the song, “I Belong To You” which is still in current air circulation. In 1983 they joined Word Records and did two albums which are still selling.
In the late 1980's the Group rejoined with Al Bell under his new label Bellmark/Life and had two successful releases. Their Bellmark/Life CD Phenomenon, released in 1991, earned the group nominations for a Grammy, the Stellar Award and the Soul Train Music Award, as well as the Minnesota Black Music Award and National Academy of Gospel Music Award. The Rance Allen Group has received numerous other awards which include being recipients of the 1992 Golden Circle Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the McDonald's Restaurant Corporation for their outstanding contributions to gospel music over the years. In October, 1998 they were inducted into the Gospel Heritage Foundation, founded by Gospel Today Magazine and the Trailblazers of Gospel Music Award presented to them by publishing giants BMI in 2005. In addition , for recognition as being one of the legends of gospel music, The Rance Allen Group was inducted into the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum in November, 1998.
You Make Me Wanna Dance, their twelfth CD, isn't just spiritual music for a Sunday mood. it's meant to provide Gospel enjoyment seven days a week," says Rance, Tom and Steve. "It's a lot of music, a lot of rhythm and a lot of Bible."
In November, 2001 The Rance Allen Group came back on the scene following a long hiatus and signed with Tyscot Records. This relationship has produced two hit releases, "All The Way" as well as their first live recording entitled “The Live Experience.” Future projects with this label will be their best work yet.
Like a collection of hit R&B singles, their music is easy and fun to listen to. It's soulful Gospel R&B (that’s rhythm & bible) but with state-of-the-art sound and modern instrumentation. It gives mature audiences what they've been looking for--music reminiscent of the best of the glory days of Stax, Motown and Philadelphia-International. New audiences and young people have found them, too. They like the Group and what they do because they're turned on to their classic sound that never lets you down. Then they get turned on to the Lord.
Rance Allen was ordained an Elder in the Church of God In Christ in 1978. He currently serves as Senior Pastor of New Bethel COGIC in Toledo, Ohio, a thriving ministry, were he has been since 1985 when he was appointed and placed there by his spiritual father, Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson. He is also an International Evangelist and has appeared in several gospel musicals. Oldest brother Thomas Allen works for the State of Michigan Department of Transportation and Minister Steve Allen is Licensed in Physical Medicine. All three are happily married.
It is the Rance Allen Group’s desires to continue making music that soothes the soul and makes you wanna dance!