Born Peter Woolnough in Tenterfield, NSW, Australia in 1942, vocalist/pianist Peter Allen began his musical career at the age of nine, playing the piano in a pub in his home town.
He first gained local Australian fame when he formed The Allen Brothers with Chris Bell in 1959. The duo performed around Australia, and eventually in the Far East.
Judy Garland saw the duo perform at the Hong Kong Hilton, and convinced them to move to the US and open for her in Miami, Las Vegas and other shows around America.
In 1967, soon after they arrived, Peter married Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli. The Allen Brothers broke up in the 70s (as did Peter and Liza’s marriage) and Peter continued on as a solo act, concentrating on his cabaret show.
Encouraged to compose his own music by Minnelli, Allen wrote songs for many artists, including Olivia Newton-John (I Honestly Love You), Rita Coolidge (I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love), Melissa Manchester (Don’t Cry Out Loud) and enjoyed a number of hits himself with I Go To Rio, I Still Call Australia Home and Tenterfield Saddler.
He recorded throughout the 70s and co-composed the number one single Arthur’s Theme for Christopher Cross.
Allen garnered rave reviews for his performances during the late 70s and in January 1981 he was booked for three shows at New York’s Radio City Music Hall (using the Hall’s orchestra in addition to his own band of six musicians) where capacity audiences forced the management to add four more performances.
During these shows, Allen became the first entertainer to dance and kick with the legendary Rockettes.
The impact of the Radio City shows was such that “sold out” signs resulted at shows across the USA and Canada, and a September 1982 return engagement topped even the 1981 spectacular.
Branching out into acting, Peter Allen took on the role of the pirate king in a British TV production of The Pirates of Penzance.
He returned to Australia for successful tours in August 1988, January 1990 and January 1992.
Soon after the last tour, he was diagnosed with cancer. He died on 19 June 1992.