A Tribute to Bernard Allen (1941-2023)
We’ve learned the sad news yesterday that master luthier Bernard Allen of Naylor, Mo. passed away Sunday, 4/16/2023. Missouri Folk Arts has been honored to work with Mr. Allen many times over the years, first when he apprenticed to Doc James E. Price in 1987 to learn traditional wood joinery. Their friendship started before and continued all these years.
Mr. Allen took his joinery skills and applied them to luthiery, crafting fiddles and mandolins. In 2006, he generously contributed his wisdom to our 2007 traveling exhibition “Work is Art and Art is Work,” as one of six featured luthiers. The portrait of him below posed with his fiddle is by photojournalist Rita A. Reed, who traveled around Missouri with Folk Arts Specialist Deb Bailey to document the six luthiers.
Mr. Allen also used his talent as a luthier and as a longtime educator to teach his own apprentices: Luke Medley (1991); Danyel Nobles (2008); Alex Clayton (2017); Robert Lewis (2018); and Chad Eads, pictured below (2022).
In 2019, Mr. Allen sat with Bailey during Ripley County Heritage Days for his “Then & Now: Apprentice Journeys” interview to discuss his path from apprentice to master artist. Followers can view an edited version of that interview on our YouTube channel.
We send our most sincere condolences to the Allen family, as well as all those whose lives were touched by Mr. Allen as an educator, mayor of Naylor, member of the bluegrass band Buzzard Run, and a regular at local music jams, fairs, and festivals.
Check out the 2015 video below of Buzzard Run covering the bluegrass standard “Mountain Dew” with Bernard Allen on vocals at their regular jam at Ryan’ Steakhouse in Poplar Bluff, Mo.