Although the closest Lee Allen ever came to getting a hit for himself was "Walking With Mr. Lee" (#54, 1958), his tenor saxophone session performances and arrangements were integral to numerous hits by Fats Domino, Little Richard
, and others who recorded in New Orleans in the '50s and early '60s. He moved to New orleasns in 1944, where he attended Xavier University on a music and athletic scholarship. By 1948 he was performing professionally with Paul Gayten's band, one of the pioneer New Orleans R&B bands. In 1956 he joined Dave Bartholomew's band, which recorded and toured with Fats Domino during Domino's peak years. At that time Allen also worked as a session musician and arranger; he and baritone saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler led New orleans' most in-demand session ensemble, the Studio Band, which included drummers Earl Palmer and Charles "Hungry" Williams, guitarists Ernest McLean and Justin Adams, pianists Salvador Doucette, Edward Frank, and Allen Toussaint, bassist Frank "Dude" Fields, and trumpeter Melvin Lastie.
Bumps Blackwell hired the Studio Band to back Little Richard on some of his hit records: "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally," "The Girl Can't Help It," and others. Allen also played behind Shirley and Lee ("Let the Good Times Roll"), Huey Smith and the Clowns ("Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu"), Sam Cooke, Lowell Fulson, Charles Brown, and Jimmy Clanton. In 1957 Allen signed a solo contract with Herald Records. His first single was "Walking With Mr. Lee," a #1 hit in New Orleans, followed by "Tic Toc" and a tour of the U.S. in the late '50s. He then returned to the New Orleans studios to work for $42 per session on hit records that sold millions of copies. He retired in the early '60s but returned in 1982 to tour with the Blasters; he guested on the band's first album.
In 1994 Allen contributed tenor saxophone and vocals to Crescent City Gold, an album featuring an aggregation of New Orleans jazz and R&B greats. Later that year Allen died of lung cancer at age 67.