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COCA Spotlight: One-man band brings razzle dazzle to Swamp Stomp

By: Amanda Sieradzki, COCA | July 09, 2018

Diving into old blues folklore, Tallahassee-born musician Dylan “RP” Allen uncovered the term ragpicker while working in a local music store. He explains how the timeworn word describes a vagrant who rummages through rubbish and reinvents litter.

Shortening ragpicker to “RP,” Allen fully owns the moniker, transfiguring olive oil tins into mandolins and cigar boxes into guitars, and making them the homemade stars of his one-man-band. 
 
His lead guitar was assembled out of his grandmother’s hardwood floor, and then there’s the diddley bow — a stick with a string and a can that he can make sing electric. Once lugging around an entire drum set, Allen now creates the illusion of snares, high hats, and toms from the inside of his traveling suitcase, rigged with an electric drum kit.

He infuses humor into his performances by introducing his multitude of instruments as “the band,” and hopes they will all razzle dazzle the Tallahassee Museum’s Swamp Stomp on July 14.   
 
“If you want people to move and dance you have to have some kind of beat behind it, and if you don’t have a drummer, this is the next best thing,” says Allen, who says he plays a lot of low-fi instruments through hi-fi equipment. “Some pedals sound like an old keyboard or organ, others like I have a bass guitar coming out one side and regular guitar out the other. The long-term goal is if someone were to close their eyes, they’d think it was three or four people onstage.”

Allen aspired to become a musician after hearing Elvis Presley croon on a movie soundtrack, and dedicated much of his time in high school to learning music in band, choir, and orchestra. Raised on country and gospel, Allen got hooked on the likes of Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan for their showmanship. 
 
In hopes of emulating these greats, he’s busked on street corners since age 15, and recalls his first time performing outside Omaha, Nebraska. Allen played music for three hours straight and didn’t make a dime. Going into his last song, a 5-year-old boy placed a nickel in his case and gave him a request. Afterwards, the boy’s father told Allen he had spent the last of his allowance on the tune.

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