Tom Allen & Dallas – Who Shot J.R. Ewing?
This post seems fitting in view of the recent sad death of actor Larry Hagman, even though it was already planned beforehand. In March 1980, an episode of hugely popular TV series Dallas showed Hagman’s character J.R. Ewing shot by an unseen assailant who would not be revealed until the following episode in November. The fictional mystery caused unprecedented interest all around the world and provided marketing opportunities for many.
One of a large family from Moate, County Westmeath, Tom Allen first became a musician in the 1960s while working as a motor mechanic. In 1970 he joined The Fine Avons showband and from 1972 to 1975, with his younger brother Tony, he was a member of The Night Runners. From there, Tom joined country band The Sailors, followed in 1978 by a stint as lead singer with The Mainliners, who had recently parted company from frontman Big Tom. At this point Donie Cassidy entered the picture. Cassidy had been a showband musician with The Firehouse Five, from nearby Castlepollard, since the mid-’60s, and had gradually moved into the management side of the business. He formed his own management agency in 1977 and among his first signings were local folk duo Foster and Allen (Mick Foster and Tony Allen). Cassidy soon signed Tony Allen’s brother Tom also, as well as launching his own independent record label (‘CMR’) and presenting a radio show on RTÉ Radio 1 between 1978 and 1981.
Not one to turn down a promotional chance, Cassidy heard a novelty country song called Who Shot J.R. Ewing? written by Corkman Rocky Stone (a completely different single of the same name was a minor hit in the States for Gary Burbank). Cassidy offered the song to some well established Irish artists, who didn’t see the potential in it, before saying to Tom Allen, “There’s a song – you might just go into the studio and record that. See how it sounds.” He later rang the offices of The Late Late Show, played them the record and told them it was a previously unknown country artist: “‘His name is Dallas.’ I didn’t know what first name I was going to put on… I told Tom Allen, ‘You are on the Late Late Show and we have to have a Stetson and I’m changing your name!’” In fact early pressings of the single, such as this one, billed ‘Tom Allen & Dallas‘ (with song authorship credited to Cassidy on the record label), before they settled on his now familiar title.
The timely disc became a number 1 hit in Ireland, and might have reached the British charts too but for an exclusive deal with Woolworths. As a publicity stunt, ‘T.R. Dallas‘ rode an open top Mercedes in London’s Oxford Street with a model who was supposed to have been his assassin; Larry Hagman was in London at the same time and traffic was halted believing that T.R. was J.R. himself. It was the beginning of a lengthy and successful country music career for ‘T.R. Dallas and his Band’, and he continues to perform in his adopted persona to this day. In 1999 Tom Allen, like Donie Cassidy, became a Fianna Fáil public representative when he was elected to Westmeath County Council and went on to be Deputy Mayor of the council.
- Who Shot J.R. Ewing?
- Mrs. Jones