Gene Allison and His Hit “You Can Make It If You Try”

Introduction to Gene Allison

50s music-era singer Gene Allison (Versie Eugene Allison) was born in Pegram, Tennessee and grew up in nearby Nashville, Tennessee.  He started singing in the church choir with his brother Leevert (later performing under the name Levert Allison).  Songwriter and record producer Ted Jarrett found the brothers and signed them to a contract with his recording company “Calvert Records.” After a couple of early failures Jarrett had Gene record his composition “You Can Make It If You Try”.  He had Gene sign with Vee-Jay records a large record company so the song could be promoted nationally.  The song did become a hit peaking at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B singles chart.  Only one other Gene Allison song “Have Faith” charted #73 on the Hot 100, but it and “Everything Will Be Alright” (#11 & #19 respectively) charted on the R&B singles chart.  Gene Allison recorded several songs, on several record labels after his initial success, but never had another hit song.  He did however open a successful 24 hour soul food restaurant “Gene’s Drive-In” in Nashville.   Gene passed away in 2004 at the age of 69.  Other Gene Allison hit songs:  “I Understand,” “My Heart Remembers,” “Every Thing Will Be Alright,” “I’ll Be Waiting For You,” “Your My Baby,” “Stay a Little Longer,”  “Let There Be Women,” “If I Ever Needed Your Love,” “I’m a Fool For Wanting You,” “It’s Almost Sundown,” “Tell Me the Truth,” “Everybody But Me,” “Let’s Stop and Talk,” “Hey, Hey I Love You,” “I Don’t Know Why” & “You’re My Baby.”

Early life

Gene Allison was born Versie Eugene Allison on August 29, 1934 in Pegram, Tennesee. In 1941, he and his family moved in Nashville where he started singing at church choirs while growing up.

Music career

Eventually, singing gospel songs turned out to be his bread and butter. He became a member of some professional gospel groups such as Fairfield Four and the Skylarks. In the latter group, Allison would often fill in for lead vocalist Sam McCrary. Not long thereafter, he was signed to  Calvert Records with the encouragement of producer Ted Jarrett; this was where he began recording secular music. Later, Jarrett got Allison signed to Vee-Jay Records where some he had his debut single “You Can Make It If You Try.” Released in 1957, the single became a hit and it entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. After the success of his debut single, Allison released other singles such as “Everything Will Be Alright” and “Have Faith.” These singles did not gain any commercial success. So in other words, Allison was pretty much obscure during hte 50s music scene.

The 69- year old Allison died due to kidney failure on March 6, 2004.

Gene Allison’s discography (the list may be incomplete)


Calvert (1957)

  • You’re My Baby
  • Somebody, Somewhere


Decca (1957)

  • Somebody Somewhere
  • You´re My Baby


Vee Jay (1957-1959)

  • You Can Make It If You Try
  • Hey, Hey, I Love You
  • Have Faith
  • My Heart Remembers
  • I Don´t Know Why
  • Let´s Sit And Talk
  • Everything Will Be Alright
  • I’m A Fool For Wanting You
  • Reap What You Sow
  • Tell Me The Truth
  • Everybody But Me
  • I Believe In Myself
  • Let There Be Women
  • I’ll Be Waiting For You


Cherokee (1960)

  • You Gonna Be Sorry
  • I Know I Can Make It

Vee Jay (1960)

  • Why Do You Treat Me So Cold
  • Oh Yeah, I´m In Love
  • Ask
  • Tell Me Sugar Baby


Valdot (1962)

  • Stay A Little Longer
  • Midway


Oldies (1963)

  • You Can Make It If You Try
  • Hey, Hey, I Love You


Paradise (1964)

  • Fading Love
  • Not Even Judgement Day


Monument (1965)

  • I Didn’t Know Which Way To Turn
  • Walkin’ In The Park


Ref.O.Ree (1968-1969)

  • It’s Almost Sundown
  • Havin’ A Party
  • Somebody Somewhere
  • I Understand
  • You Can Make It If You Try, Have Faith
  • How Long’s The Train Been Gone
  • Almost Sundown
  • I Understand


S and H

  • If I Ever Needed Your Love (I Need It Now)
  • Why Did You Have To Go?


Oldies 45

  • You Can Make It If You Try
  • No More Doggin’ (by Rosco Gordon)



  • Harlem Shuffle (by Bob and Earl)
  • You Can Make It If You Try