In the United States, NBA is short for National Basketball Association; NBA is also the nickname used by Nolan Bruce Allen, a veteran singer/guitarist who has been performing since the early '60s. Allen's specialty is Western swing, an unlikely blend of country and jazz that enjoyed its greatest popularity in the '30s and '40s. His performances recall the Western swing artists of that era, and his roots are pioneers like Milton Brown, Leon McAuliffe, the Light Crust Doughboys, Tommy Duncan, and the great Bob Wills (who was the most famous Western swing artist of all time and remains Allen's biggest influence). NBA (the singer/guitarist, not the basketball organization) has modeled his Lone Star Band after Wills' band Texas Playboys.
NBA, however, isn't from Texas. He grew up in a rural area of southern Alabama, where he was born in the '30s and was the sixth of his parents' ten children. NBA, whose father was a Baptist minister and a sharecropper, joined the U.S. Army after reaching adulthood; and he was stationed in Korea when he began playing lead guitar in a military band (whose country music performances were broadcast on the radio). In the early '70s, NBA made Western swing his musical specialty and formed his Lone Star Band, which was still active 30 years later. But the singer/guitarist hasn't been a full-time musician; over the years, the entrepreneurial NBA (who started his own company in 1977) has devoted much of his time to non-musical activities, including financial consulting, real estate, and stock investing. NBA's primary company, the Northeastern Leasing & Finance Corporation (NLFC), leases and finances business-related equipment. NLFC is based in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area of western New York State; the area that NBA moved to after leaving Alabama. NBA, who was extremely poor growing up, has often been described as a rags-to-riches story; according to his sister Betty Allen (who has occasionally done some singing with the Lone Star Band), NBA "left home with nothing and became a millionaire."
In the early 2000s, NBA and his Lone Star Band traveled to Dallas, TX, where they recorded about 66 songs and focused on Wills' repertoire. In 2003, the Houston-based Glad Music Company released the first CD to result from those Dallas sessions: New York's King of Western Swing Salutes the Bob Wills Era, Vol. 1, which received a nomination for Best Western Swing Album of the Year from the Academy of Western Artists and was the first NBA release that enjoyed widespread distribution. (The albums that NBA had recorded before the early 2000s suffered from limited distribution.) Two more Wills-minded volumes from the Dallas sessions were scheduled to come out in late 2003 or early 2004. ~ Alex Henderson