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Elk Grove producer Derek 'DOA' Allen reflects on work with Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston

Signed by Michael Jackson decades ago, Allen has won Grammys for his work with Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson, Tyrese, and a long list of music greats.

ELK GROVE, Calif. — Elk Grove's Derek "DOA" Allen has been playing music for as long as he can remember. In fact, he landed his first professional bass playing gig just months after graduating from Sacramento's C.K. McClatchy High School.

"We thought we were going to take off like instant coffee, but it was more like slow brew... probably two years before big things began happening," said Allen.

By big things, he means like being called up to produce tracks on Janet Jackson's 'Rhythm Nation 1814' album and playing on her world tour to millions.

"It was wild, man. From that time on, things got busy. There's literally not been one day since that [where] I haven't been working. I went straight off of her tour into Lionel Richie's tour, into Bobby Brown's tour, and back with Lionel," said Allen.

As Richie is set to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday night at the American Music Awards (airing on ABC10), Allen will be watching proudly.

"I love Lionel. He taught me so much early on about focus and solid work ethic. He put in the time and the work, and that's what it takes to be at that level," said Allen.

In addition to touring with the artists, he also produced for them, recalling a great time recording with Bobby Brown.

"We were needing a female backup track for a specific song and Bobby said, 'I think I know someone who can do it, let me make a call.' Within minutes Whitney Houston was in my studio recording for the album. She was amazing and will always be a highlight -- a blessing in my journey," said Allen.

It wasn't long after when Michael Jackson reached out directly to Allen and signed him to his label.

Allen splits his time recording in Los Angeles, touring, and recording in his Sacramento studio where he's worked with award-winning artists like Keith Sweat, Tyrese, and a long list of others.

His advice to others?

"Do the work. Love the work. I work every day and not for the money, for the love of the work. Don't get into this business for the fame and riches. It may or may not come, but if you work hard and are passionate about that work, you can do it. And most importantly: Don't let anyone tell you that you can't!"

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