Opry Vocalist Norah Lee Allen, Wife of Oak Ridge Boys’ Singer, Dies

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photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Boys

The Oak Ridge Boys are mourning the loss of Norah Lee Allen, wife of lead singer Duane Allen, who passed at 7:28 am CT Sunday morning, March 31st, after battling an extended illness. Norah Lee was 76 years old.

Duane shared this message with his close friends during the day on Sunday:

“This morning, my wife of 54 years and 8 months took her last breath of air on planet Earth.

Norah Lee went to be with Jesus at 7:28 am, Easter morning. She had not been feeling well for some time. Her family all spent the night with her last night at Vanderbilt Hospital. We took time singing with and to her, telling her stories, and loving her every second that God let us share her here on Earth.

Jamie, Dee, and I would like to thank you all for your love and prayers. We have been at her bedside for over nine weeks.

We would like to thank Donna, Ashley, Ginger, GiGi, and Mindy for helping stay some nights with her.

We would like to thank the doctors, nurses, medical workers, and specialty staff who did everything they could to help Norah Lee.

We hope to have visitation and service at First Baptist Church on Tuesday, April 2, in Hendersonville, Tennessee.”

Norah Lee graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with her majestic voice, class, and professionalism for over 40 years. As a background vocalist on country music’s biggest stage, Norah Lee was an essential part of a core group of talented singers who accompanied some of the music industry’s most outstanding performers.

Norah Lee grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and began singing with her sisters in The Stuart Sisters Trio, formed by their father when she was only three. For nearly 17 years, the family gospel singers traveled, toured, and performed at revivals, concerts, conventions, and churches throughout the southeast. In 1966, Norah Lee graduated from Warren County High School.

In 1968, Norah Lee was hired by the Legendary Chuck Wagon Gang. The acclaimed country gospel music group was known for its perfect pitch harmonies and family-friendly, faith-based songs. It proved to be a fantastic introduction to the music industry for Norah Lee.

On September 22nd, 1969, Norah Lee married Duane Allen, lead singer of The Oak Ridge Boys.

In the early 1970s, Norah Lee worked in Nashville with Benson Publishing Group. She adopted multiple roles there, from secretarial work to providing background vocals during studio recordings. In Nashville, word spread of Norah Lee’s exceptional vocal ability. Her incredible versatility led to recommendations for background session work with country, bluegrass, and gospel bands for many artists, including Grand Ole Opry bass legend Jerome Hines and Conway Twitty.

In 1975, Norah Lee moved into the role defining her professional musical career. At first, she became a part-time fill-in, yet in 1980, Norah Lee became a full-time member of the Grand Ole Opry band as a background vocalist. Over the years, Norah Lee and the Carol Lee Singers, then Opry Staff Singers, mastered dozens of songs each night, then superbly performed the new renditions in front of thousands of country music fans live at the Opry and on television and radio worldwide.

One of Norah Lee’s most meaningful lifetime achievements was her ability to care for and maintain a faith-based family life as a professional at the Grand Ole Opry. Her close-knit family, including her husband Duane, two children, Jamie Allen (Paul) Martin and Dee Allen, and her four grandchildren, March, Kell, Texas, and Tallant Martin, remained the center of her attention.

For over 50 years, Norah Lee performed regularly with the greatest stars in country music history. She worked with Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks, Oliva Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, Trisha Yearwood, Charlie Daniels, Martina McBride, and Loretta Lynn, only to mention a few.

One of Norah Lee’s most impactful shows came when she performed with one of the industry’s top female pop and country artists of the 1950s & 60s, Patti Paige. As one of Norah Lee’s favorite all-time vocalists, sharing the stage and meeting with Patti and her husband after the show left an enduring impression on Norah Lee’s life and professional career.

In 2022, Norah Lee Allen was inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

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