When rising artist Jay Allen debuted the song, “No Prayer Like Mama’s,” I knew this was the artist I wanted to feature for Mother’s Day Weekend. To be honest, the lyrics just wrecked me, and I suppose that is what a good country song does.
Jay Allen grew up in a little Midwest town in Iowa where his dad owned a restaurant called Joe’s Country Grill. That’s where his dad met his mother when she was a waitress. Because they both worked at the restaurant, Allen spent a lot of his younger years at the place.
They knew all the customers and a couple named Ron and Lila invited them to come to church. While his parents declined, young Allen was allowed to go and started attending every Sunday. Allen learned to sing by singing the hymns at that big Baptist church. Ron thought he sounded good and told him, ‘I’m going to put you up on stage the next morning to sing in front of everyone.”
So that is what he did. And it was good. It was at that moment that he realized that he had vocal prowess.
Ron and Lisa had a farm and Allen earned money working for them. He would go to church with them every week and they became a 2nd family to him. As he got older, Allen became the music director at the church and started a ministry at the University of Northern Iowa where thousands would attend their Thursday meetings.
For a while, Allen gave a stab at Christian music and was the worship leader at a mega-church in Savannah. His (now ex) wife woke him up and said, “If you never go to Nashville, you’ll never go.” She basically kicked him out of the door.
He ended up in Hendersonville at an elderly couple’s mother-in-law suite where is wrote songs nearly every day for four months and got to know people in the business. He started a band and got offered a record deal. When he was in the process of moving his then-wife to Nashville, his wife admitted to having an affair, and then the record label backed out.
“My heart was ripped out of my chest,” he confessed.
He booked one last show at Third and Lindsley before heading back home to Iowa.
It just so happened that mega country star, Billy Currington was there with his wife.
Allen explained, “I have no idea why he was there. He came up to me after my show and said, ‘I have no idea who you are kid, but all I got to say is the last man standing wins.’ He told me his story of how he was in Nashville for nine years working concrete before anyone cared about him. And with that one conversation, that little piece of advice put a fire in my belly and that’s the reason why I stayed (in Nashville). That turned into me getting a publishing deal, which turned into another publishing deal which is how I ended up at Sony with a management deal.”
Allen’s first big country hit, “Sounds Good to Me” put him on the radar with Sirius XM The Highway where he became a sought-after Highway Find. The young man from rural Iowa was determined to make of go his country career.
Allen’s focus was completely on himself until his mother got diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“She was the perfect example of a selfless mother. I had two little sisters, and we didn’t have a lot of money. So, if we wanted some stupid gift for Christmas, she would work extra shifts to get it for us,” he recalled.
Jay Allen was a songwriter for Sony/ATV Nashville. His mother’s condition prompted him to write the song, “Blank Stares” about his mother while he was trying to figure out best how to help her. He submitted the song to his bosses. Troy Tomlinson was president of Sony at the time and his own father had recently died after having Alzheimer’s for five years.
Tomlinson advised, “I know this never happens, but if you promise today that if every dime you make from this song will go back towards the fighting against and bringing awareness to Alzheimer’s, I will do everything in my power to get you in front of very important people.”
The National Alzheimer’s Association was among the first to contact Allen and he performed at their Celebrity Gala.
He remembered, “I showed up dressed like how I was dressed, ripped up jeans, cowboy boots shirt with all my tattoos out like a punk kid standing in the back of this room. And I realized I am out of place. I did not feel like I was supposed to be there. Everyone’s in suits and ties. All the ladies are in cocktail dresses. It was a very fine, beautiful event. I was standing in the back when Kimberly Williams Paisley, Brad Paisley’s wife, invited my band to come on stage. I got on stage, and I looked down and see Garth Brooks sitting in the front row with his cowboy hat looking right at me.”
He knew he had a job to do so he told his story and sang his song. When he got through, every person in that room stood up and cried and hugged each other. Garth Brooks came on stage, wrapped his arms around me, and said, “I didn’t know who you were until today, but you tell your mother that Garth Brooks is praying for her and thinking of her right now.”
That was the beginning of the spider web effect. He toured the country, sharing his story and songs while raising millions of dollars for Alzheimer’s. Something tugged at his heart, and he thought, “I’ve taken this as far as it can go on my own. What better way to put more eyes on this than to be on The Voice?
For his audition, Allen sang Cody Johnson’s “Til You Can’t” with his dad and new wife Kylie Morgan standing nearby. When he mentioned that he wrote a song for his mother who had passed away in 2019, John Legend asked to hear it. He sang “Blank Stares” for NBC’s The Voice while millions were watching on TV.
“My dad and my wife were side stage crying their eyes out and it was just a beautiful magical moment,” he recollected.
The song would eventually go to number two on the iTunes Chart.
Allen, being masterful at putting emotion into lyrics has released other heartfelt songs like “Tattoos to Heaven” and “No Present Like the Time.”
But his newest song, “No Prayer Like Mama’s” resonates with me more than any other. Though I have never been much of a crier, I can barely get through the song. With lyrics, All those hallelujah amens/ And cryin’ on her knees/ Sayin’ grace at dinnertime/ And telling’ God her dreams/ She’s an angel she’s a saint/ I’m telling y’all there ain’t/ No prayer like Mama’s it is the perfect happy/sad song for Mother’s Day.
In the meantime, Allen told NBC, “I’m going to continue doing what I’ve done for the last 5 years, and that’s touring the country to raise awareness and money to fight Alzheimer’s.”
He hopes to start releasing country and Christian songs over the coming months. His heart’s desire is to help others through his music.
In conclusion, he stated, “Please pray for God to open new doors and lead me to be the man, husband, brother, son, friend, advocate, artist, and musician He desires of me.”
This is not the end for Jay Allen, it is barely the beginning.
You can follow Jay Allen on his website, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and all music streaming platforms.
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Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blog, Instagram, and Twitter.
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