Trumpet player, Henry Red Allen Jr. was the son of Henry Allen who was the leader of the Allen Brass Band of Algiers, Louisiana. Algiers is directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
As a teenager he played in his father's band, with George Lewis, the Excelsior Band and with the Sam Morgan Band. In 1926 he left New Orleans to play with Sidney Desvigne's Southern Syncopaters on the riverboat Island Queen which ran between St. Louis and Cincinnati. In 1927 he joined King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators while they were on tour in St. Louis. The tour didn't go well for Oliver, and the band kind of fell to pieces in New York, but Red made his first recordings while there with Clarence Williams.