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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of Perry Allen
Photo courtesy of
Becky Fairman

Photo of Perry Allen and friends

Perry Allen
1986-1987 posthumous awardee, Shepherd (Isabella County), lumberjack singer and teller of tall tales

Perhaps the most famous of the Michigan Lumberjacks, a group organized by E.C. Beck, was storyteller, dancer, and musician Perry Allen. Born in Indiana in 1859, Perry moved to Michigan while a child and was a longtime resident of Shepherd. Perry met E.C., who was searching the mid-Michigan area for former lumberjacks to represent the state in the first National Folk Festival in 1934 in St. Louis. In his mid-seventies at the time, Perry was one of the "lively oldsters" chosen for the event.

Following the national debut of the Michigan Lumberjacks at the National Folk Festival, Perry continued performing with the group, traveling throughout the state and nationwide to appear in a wide variety of shows, from radio broadcasts to sportsmen's shows, through the 1940s. His specialties were playing the spoons and tambourine and clog dancing. Perry's songs and stories were also documented by E.C. in his books on Michigan lumberjack lore, including Perry's picture in the frontispiece to Songs of the Michigan Lumberjack. Perry was sometimes called "that clever little Michigan Lumberjack" in the media, and he was the subject of the poem "That Little Scotch Lumberjack." His fame brought appreciation from friends and family.

When Perry died at age 88 in 1947, the local paper declared he had "gone to the Shanty Beyond." He was remembered then for "those sparkling eyes, those rattling spoons, that tambourine tapped so fetchingly on his bald head with a fringe of grey, those red and green dancing shoes are now but memories in the minds of many American sportsmen. For that master showman, Perry Allen, will not be forgotten soon by the thousands who were entertained by him."

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