July 7, 2022 would have been Wade Allison's 40th birthday, and I really miss him. The late Iron Age guitarist left this world when I needed him most. In the cruel cliche that death comes in threes, Allison passed away on September 10, 2020, just a couple weeks after Power Trip’s beloved frontman Riley Gale died. Two months after Allison, I lost my mother. She consoled me through the loss of both of them. Writing this has me in tears.
Wade Allison brought life to any room he entered. He brought something more to every stage he commanded with his Les Paul. “Effortless” best describes his playing: he would compose a song or rip a solo with the ease of a stretch or yawn. On stage, Allison was a swan in Air Jordans, his fingers gliding up and down the fretboard with a mastery.
Iron Age's 2009 record The Sleeping Eye is, to me, a bar few bands can get over. Allison brought it to life with his soulful, southern, Duane Allman-esque solos; his Master Of Puppets-level riffage hit like lightning bolts. And though they could play on that level, Iron Age were no arena band. They were for the people. You would find them sharing bottles and blunts with the hoi polloi in Brooklyn basements or on bridges in Austin. If you have never listened to Iron Age, now is the best time to rectify that.
To celebrate his birthday, CREEM reached out to Allison's bandmates, peers, and friends to share their memories of him. Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jason Tarpey (Iron Age, Eternal Champion)
In the early days of Iron Age, [after the band formed in 2004,] we shared one bedroom apartments between three, sometimes four people. Wade, [guitarist] Steve Norman aka "Bottleneck" and I would rotate between sleeping in the living room with two people and then getting the bedroom to oneself every few months. This allowed us to keep our overhead low as we started to get this new band off the ground.
During that time, right after we released our demo, we toured as much as possible, the legends behind Wade were born. The downright barbarism of our journeying earned him a reputation that preceded him wherever we went. I don't want to be responsible for the demystification of any of these events, but for those that demand the gore[y details,] I can only say that [there are] stories involving: Fighting with Chase [Money, Iron Age’s closest confidant, a dude so inextricable to the band he’s often referred to as their 6th man] and fighting against Chase; bringing a keg to gigs; friendly combat with box cutters; coat-hanger brandings; Wade getting a gun pulled on him and calling the would-be assailants bluff. They are all true.
What I remember most about those days of very little personal space: even though we'd come back from living in a van together, to sharing a one bedroom apartment, Wade and I could still stand each other enough that we sought work together between tours. We dug ditches, did plumber's assistant work, and cleaned boats on Lake Travis [North of Austin.] It was always manual labor, but it allowed us to hang out more, discuss life, and make plans, which made the work less daunting.
All the themes and musical influences for [our 2006 album] Constant Struggle and The Sleeping Eye, we talked about them to death during those years of toiling. Those are my favorite memories of Wade, and they were the foundation that we needed to get us through the years of The Sleeping Eye. It was an era of frequent disagreement between him and I. Iron Age shows during that period were unpredictable and chaotic, but touring was still an adventure and our friendship always prevailed.