Larkin Allen Collins Jr. (July 19, 1952 – January 23, 1990) was one of the founding members and guitarists of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and co-wrote many of the band's songs with late frontman Ronnie Van Zant.
Allen Collins joined Skynyrd from the South just two weeks after Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington, along with Bob Burns and Larry Junstrom. So came the birth of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964. Allen Collins and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant co-wrote many of the biggest Skynyrd hits, including "Free Bird", "Gimme Three Steps", and "That Smell". The band received national success beginning in 1973 while opening for The Who on their Quadrophenia tour. The Skynyrd plane crashed into a forest in Mississippi killing three band members, including Van Zant. Collins was seriously injured in the crash, suffering two broken vertebrae in his neck and severe damage to his right arm. While amputation was recommended, Collins' father refused and Allen eventually recovered.
During the early 1980s, Collins continued to perform on stage in the Rossington-Collins Band which enjoyed modest success, releasing two albums (Here, There & Back, This Is The Way), and charting a few singles (notably "Don't Misunderstand Me"). In 1980, Collins' wife Kathy suddenly died of a hemorrhage following a miscarriage. Allen began a downward spiral, using drugs and alcohol to asuage his grief. Missed concerts and conflicts within the band resulted in the disbanding of Rossington-Collins in 1982, and the start of the Allen Collins Band, which released one album, "Here, There & Back" in 1983. The six band members were Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell and Bassist Leon Wilkeson, along with lead singer Jimmy Dougherty, drummer Derek Hess, and guitarists Barry Lee Harwood and Randall Hall.
Accident and Band Reunion
In 1986 a car accident killed Collins' girlfriend and left the guitarist paralyzed from the waist down, with limited use of his arms and hands. Collins plead no contest to vehicular manslaughter as well as driving under the influence of alcohol. He would never play guitar on-stage again.
All remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited to perform in 1987, but due to his injury Collins was only able to participate as musical director. As part of his plea bargain for the 1986 accident, Collins addressed fans at every Skynyrd concert with an explanation of why he could not perform, citing the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as drugs and alcohol. Because of Collins' accident, the band donated a sizable amount of concert proceeds from the 1987-88 tour to the Miami Project, which is involved in treatment of paralysis. He founded Roll For Rock Wheelchair Events and Benefit Concerts in 1988 to raise awareness and to provide oportunities for those living with spinal cord injury and other physical challenges.
Allen Collins died January 23, 1990 from chronic pneumonia, a complication of the paralysis. He is buried beside his wife in Jacksonville, Florida.
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