Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Wilfred Allen "Bill Allen" Snivley

Epilogue: Musician Bill Allen was more famous than he knew

ST. PETE BEACH — For a brief moment in 1957, Bill Snivley was living a musician's dream. Radio stations in the Midwest were playing a song he and his group had recorded, Butterfly.

Another song he wrote and recorded, Please Give Me Something, was on its way to becoming a cult classic.

And he was still a teenager.

Mr. Snivley, better known as Bill Allen, never became a big star. But he did tour with Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), George Hamilton IV (A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation), Buddy Holly and a then-relatively unknown Roy Orbison.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he was a popular performer on the Pinellas beaches, packing the original Silas Dent's restaurant and other venues that are no more.

Mr. Snivley, who tasted brief fame and long-standing local esteem, died Feb. 22 in his native Akron, Ohio, of pulmonary disease. He was 75.

Mr. Snivley taught himself to play guitar and was performing in Akron bars before he could legally enter them. Then his father saw a newspaper advertisement for "Bill Snivley — the next Elvis Presley" and blew up.

From then on, Mr. Snivley performed as Bill Allen.

He teamed up with a John Seli, a good guitarist his own age. At the invitation of Eldorado records, Bill Allen and the Keynotes recorded Butterfly, a peppy tune of unrequited lust.

The song began to take off — just in time for Andy Williams to cover it in a No. 1 hit. The record company folded.

Mr. Snivley and Seli found greater popular success with Please Give Me Something, a hiccupy, growly number they wrote and recorded under the name Bill Allen and the Back Beats.

For a couple of years, they toured with big names. "He said, 'I was buying these guys' 45s at record stores, and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the bus with them,' " said Billy Snivley, 54, his son, who performed for 18 years on the Pinellas beaches as Bill Allen Jr.

Mr. Snivley married and divorced, then married Judie Sterner. He worked at Firestone to support his family, but also toured the country with several bands.

"Bill had the ability to make you feel like you were just in your living room, sitting around having a good time together in a very intimate setting," said musician Kenny Later, who performed in a Pinellas duo with Mr. Snivley called Almost Live.

Mr. Snivley went back to Ohio in 1988 but had returned in recent years to jam with old friends. Until recently, he did not know that his hit songs from 1957 and 1958 had migrated to France and the United Kingdom, where they remain popular.

In 2012, Mr. Snivley and fellow band members were inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

"He was just so excited," his son said.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.


Wilfred Allen "Bill Allen" Snivley

Born: June 5, 1937

Died: Feb. 22, 2013

Survivors: wife, Judie; son, Billy; daughters Sue Grochowski and Kelly Thomas; brother, James Snivley; sister, Judi Lewis; and three grandchildren.

Memorial gathering: starting 5 p.m. June 5, Ricky T's Bar and Grille, 10601 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island.

Epilogue: Musician Bill Allen was more famous than he knew 02/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. More charges for Tampa Bay area woman accused of getting pregnant by 11-year-old boy


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times