A Shocked Music Scene Searches for Answers in ‘Kind’ Pianist Paul Allen’s Homicide

The music community mourns Paul Allen, who was found dead on Dec. 23 in an apparent homicide.
The music community mourns Paul Allen, who was found dead on Dec. 23 in an apparent homicide.
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On Dec. 23, Dallas police responded to a welfare check for Timothy Paul Allen and found the 65-year-old dead in the passenger seat of his car. Dallas police announced Allen’s cause of death, per the medical examiner, as “homicidal violence.”

Allen was a pianist, a longtime fixture in the cabaret and lounge music scene who also had a recurring gig playing for shoppers at Nordstrom’s. The University of North Texas graduate was a well-liked figure in the Dallas music scene, says his friend, musician Bruce Richardson.

“Whether you knew it or not, you probably heard Paul play, either with someone from the [now-closed bar Bill’s] Hideaway scene, passing through Nordstrom, or at some event,” Richardson says. “He was an excellent musician and a great friend to anyone who had the opportunity to know him. I think he'd want us to remember the way he lived, and not the senselessly tragic way he had to go.”

Bill’s Hideaway, which Richardson remembers as “part gay bar, part theater and artist hangout” and “one of those melting pots where circles tended to collide,” was the spot where Richardson met Allen, who played every Wednesday night at the bar for several decades.

Richardson says that when he decided to pick up the bass again, Allen let him sit in on his gigs.

“That's how he was with people,” Richardson says. “If you needed some kind of help, he would find a way to make it happen for you.

“He was very dry and funny,” Richardson adds. “He is a loved guy.”

Denise Lee, a cabaret singer who sang with Allen for five years or so at the Hideaway, says Allen’s death was “such a shock, and so hurtful.”

In September, Allen survived a heart attack he suffered while driving, which caused him to crash his car into a tree. After the incident, he had a pacemaker installed and had recently posted about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

When news of his death was first announced via social media, many of his friends assumed he’d died of natural causes. No suspect or motive has been announced.

“It just hit that much harder to find out that he was killed,” Lee says, “‘Cause I just made the assumption it might have been a heart attack.”

“I can't think of anyone who would want to do that,” Lee continues. “This just has to be random.”

Lee remembers Allen as “one of the most talented pianists that I've ever met. Just incredibly talented — he could just transpose anything if I started singing, something he'd never heard of. He could pick it up and follow me.

“I loved him dearly,” Lee says, echoing Richardson’s take on Allen. “He had a really dry sense of humor. You could joke back and forth, and he would get it. There wasn't any judgment.”

Allen spent decades playing at church, says his friend Linda Petty, and left Dallas once to become a chef in Washington, D.C., where he continued to play.

Petty also met Allen at the Hideaway in the 1980s, about 38 years ago, and sung with him in a band that included her husband, Larry Petty, for about two decades.

She says that thanks to Allen’s versatility the band of four or five members “would sound like a 16-piece orchestra.

“He could hear any part, play any part, and was really wonderful at arranging. He was very talented at all that,” she says. “I mean, he did everything in the world from coaching singers and helping them get their career started to playing at churches.”

Petty says Allen was a “computer wiz,” who was “dependable” (“He only overslept once for one of my gigs in 30 years — pretty good”), and a devoted uncle who “doted on his nieces.”

Allen attended Bryan Adams High School with her husband, Petty says, and got his start as a professional musician playing piano at Luby’s Cafeteria on Lockwood at age 17.

“He was an excellent friend,” she says. “He was a wonderful musician.”

She says her fellow musicians are stunned at the news of Allen’s killing.

“He didn't have a real enemy,” Petty says. “Paul was a kind man. He just simply was an all-around great guy that everybody goes, ‘Why, why?’”

Petty says Allen remained a close family friend for nearly four decades.

“He was at the time in the '80s when Dallas had a tremendous amount of excellent talent all around,” she says. “Paul was in there in the middle of all the exciting talent going on that started in Dallas in the beginning of the ‘80s, and so we all sort of grew up together.”

The “mainstays type” that played at Bill’s Hideaway, Petty says, included acclaimed performer Liz Mikel.

“We all hung out over there, so got to work together and play together,” Petty says. “And we all shared Paul.”

Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case of Paul Allen's death. Anyone with information can contact Detective Christopher Anderson at 214-671-3616 or c.anderson@dallascityhall.com, or Crime Stoppers at 214-373-TIPS (8477).

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