Word came that the man of song passed on at 70. Word also came that at his internment non of us who shared his life or the pen brothers who wrote scintillating articles about his exploits was there except one.
Then my conscience pangs dictated I should do this, tell my neighbour who TESSY ALLAN was. I met Tessy in 1971. Then I was an 18 year old HSC student of COMPRO, Aiyetoro. As the bass guitarist of the school band KRISKOS I was always having stars in my eyes imagining myself playing with the biggest bands on the worlds biggest stages. I met a man then in Abeokuta who’s interest in guitar made me abandon school temporarily and I followed him to Lagos, Travis Oli (I’ve not been able to trace him since 1972). Travis had a room then in no 4, Little road, Yaba. It was in this room where I was squatting that I met a man who became a big player in my destiny. DEAN OKORO now DISI who was also staying in that room with TRAVIS OLI.
In those days, DEAN was the only entertainment journalist in Nigeria. His Saturday Punch spread, BANDWAGON, was the bible of entertainment news in Nigeria. If Dean didn’t write about you, then you didn’t exist in the industry. Squatting in that room, 4 Little road Yaba, brought me face to face with the cream of Nigeria’s music shakers at age 18. FELA, JONI, HASSTRUP and MONOMONO, LIJADU SISTERS, SONNY OKOSUN, LAOLU AKINS, MIKE ODUMOSU and BERKLEY JONES of BLO, the list is endless. I would hurdle in the corner as DEAN conducted interviews with all these stars and nothing else will matter to me in the world.
It was in that room that I met Tessy Allan. In those days Tessy and Berkley Jones were the greatest guitarists in Nigeria. Tessy immediately took little me under his wings. As I type now, my memories are flooded with many a times I would follow him to his one room abode in the then ghetto of OJUELEGBA where his most precious asset was his electric guitar, small amplifier and small speaker. In the heavily smoked room , while I plucked simple basic base lines, TESSY will for hours run riot over his fret board churning out crazy guitar riffs. At a point he will be so ecstatic his entire body and then the single bed will vibrate like there was earthquake. Such was the passion Tessy had for lead guitar and he was the best in Nigeria.
This was the age of metal music worldwide led by the guitar god JIMI HENDRIX. It was the age of metal bands like LED ZEPPELIN, GRATEFUL DEAD, EARTH, WIND AND FIRE, ALEX COOPER, JANIS JOPLIN etc.
Shortly after, I drifted into OFO THE BLACK COMPANY, following them into concerts across the country like a groupie, and there also made great friends with Late LARRY IFEDIORAMA, POPO KAMSON, TOKS SHOTADE etc. I lost contact with TESSY for almost two decades.
After being forced by my father to go back to COMPRO and then University, i later became MANAGER PROGRAMMES OGTV. It was in that capacity Tessy suddenly appeared in my office without knowing I was there. We had not seen in almost two decades. Tessy had travelled across the world playing his heart out for top bands. He came back to Nigeria with a franchise for the SONG FESTIVAL. He was still his tall boisterous ever grinning from ear to ear quintessential humble star. I was more than honoured to contribute my corporate opportunity and personal efforts towards the publicity of his pet project. Tessy was determined and excited to bequeath to the younger generation a legacy of excellence in music through the SONG FESTIVAL.
We lost contact again for another decade before word came that the man of song had passed on. While the new generation, D’BANJ, DAVIDO, 2FACE, WIZKID etc are playing when the music pays, TESSYs generation played when the sweat was only the pay cheque. But the day will come when the stage lights will be dimmed and the jack plug will be pulled from the amplifier. What will be left will be your humanity and the song you left in the hearts of men.
Let me quote JIMI HENDRIX;
“AND SO CASTLES MADE OF SANDS SLIPS INTO THE SEA EVENTUALLY.”
Goodnight TESSY ALLAN.
Pictures shows older Tessy Allan and also with one of the band he played for before leaving for Europe….This is a photograph of one time Benin City Nigeria based soul group named “THE GREAT IMMORTALS”. This musical group is made up of great talents. They were initially based in Lagos but then they moved to Benin City in Nigeria in 1973. Members of this group are Richard Cole (Drums), Amala(Bassist), Tessy Allan(Guitarist), Kesheman(Keyboards) and Eric Kol(Vocals) leader of the band. The Immortals Band was resident in City Bells Hotel in Benin City.
***Alabi-Hundeyin is a public commentator and filmmaker as well as the founder of Dudu Productions