Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

November 9, 1970

LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was released by Derek and the Dominos.

The Dominos was born out of Eric Clapton’s frustration with the amount of hype he dealt with in his previous two bands, Cream (dissolved in 1968), and Blind Faith (a single album supergroup with Steve Winwood). During the 1969 Blind Faith tour, Clapton became disillusioned with the new band, and began to spend his time hanging out with the opening act, the American roots-blues duo Delaney & Bonnie. Blind Faith called it quits after that one tour and album, Clapton joined Delaney & Bonnie as a member, and played on their 1970 live album. Other members of D&B’s live band included drummer Jim Gordon, bassist, Carl Radle, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock.

Clapton used most of D&B’s band to record his first solo album, ERIC CLAPTON, in early 1970. This group of musicians also was used by George Harrison at the same time in the recording of his first solo album, ALL THINGS MUST PASS. This was when Clapton met Harrison’s wife, Patty Boyd, and he became infatuated with her. When she spurned his advances, Clapton and Whitlock spent most of April 1970 writing songs, many of which reflected Clapton’s romantic and professional frustrations. Dave Marsh, in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, wrote that “there are few moments in the repertoire of recorded rock where a singer or writer has reached so deeply into himself that the effect of hearing them is akin to witnessing a murder, or a suicide … to me, ‘Layla’ is the greatest of them.”

Disillusioned at always being the “name” member of the group, and not just part of an ensemble, Clapton organized a new group with D&B’s backup band “Eric & The Dynamos”. The band did a quick tour of small clubs in England, and the announcer at their first concert mispronounced the band’s name as “Derek and the Dominos” which Clapton decided to keep, because it kept his name and celebrity from getting in the way. When the tour was over, they headed for Criteria Studios in Miami to record an album.

Producer Tom Dowd (Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding) was recording the Allman Brothers second album, IDLEWILD SOUTH, when the studio received a phone call that Clapton was bringing the Dominos to Miami to record. Upon hearing this, guitarist Duane Allman indicated that he would love to drop by and watch, if Clapton approved. When the Allmans performed in Miami on August 26, Clapton insisted on going to the show, saying, “You mean that guy who plays on the back of (Wilson Pickett’s) ‘Hey Jude’? … I want to see him play … let’s go.”

After the show, Allman asked Clapton if he could come by the studio to watch some recording sessions, and Clapton responded: “Bring your guitar; you got to play!” Jamming together overnight, the two bonded; Dowd reported that they “were trading licks, they were swapping guitars, they were talking shop and information and having a ball – no holds barred, just admiration for each other’s technique and facility.” Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.”

The majority of the songs on LAYLA were products of Clapton and Whitlock’s collaboration, which produced six of the nine originals on the recording, with five covers making up the balance. They co-wrote “I Looked Away”, “Keep on Growing”, “Anyday”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Tell the Truth” and “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” Whitlock also contributed “Thorn Tree in the Garden”, while Clapton brought “I Am Yours” and “Layla” (with the piano coda credited to Jim Gordon). Duane Allman played lead and slide guitar on eleven of the fourteen songs.According to Dowd, the recording of the blues standard “Key to the Highway” was unplanned, triggered by the band hearing Sam Samudio performing the song for his album “Hard and Heavy” in another room at the studio. The Dominos spontaneously started playing the song in their studio and Dowd told the engineers to roll tape, resulting in the tune’s telltale fade-in. Bobby Whitlock’s version of the story is that the tape was rolling non-stop for the entire session, but that Dowd had taken a bathroom break leaving the faders on the mixer down. As the jam began, he came running back into the control room, still pulling up his trousers and yelling, “Push up the faders!”

LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS was initially regarded as a critical and commercial disappointment, it failed to chart in Britain and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It returned to the US albums chart again in 1972, 1974 and 1977, and has since been certified Gold by the RIAA. The album finally debuted on the UK Albums Chart in 2011, peaking at number 68.

LAYLA also flopped critically. Harry Shapiro wrote: “As with Eric’s first solo album, the reviewers liked the guitars-on-fire-stuff … but regarded the [love songs] as little more than fluff.” Roy Hollingworth, writing in Melody Maker, claimed the songs ranked “from the magnificent to a few lengths of complete boredom”, and specified: “We have Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ played with such spreading beauty that Jimi would surely have clapped till his hands bled, and then we have ‘I Am Yours’ … a bossa that novas in pitiful directions.” While he identified portions of “pretty atrocious vocal work”, Hollingworth considered Layla to be “far more musical” than Eric Clapton, and praised Clapton and Allman for “giv[ing] about every superb essay possible on the playing of the electric guitar”.

Ellen Sander, writing in Saturday Review, described it as “pointless and boring” and “a basket case of an album”, and said that Clapton had “all but blown his musical credibility”. Since its initial reception, LAYLA has been acclaimed by critics and regarded as Clapton’s greatest overall work. In Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Christgau dubbed it “Clapton’s most carefully conceived recording”, while admiring the album’s “relaxed shuffle and simple rock and roll” and Clapton’s “generally warm” singing.


Eric Clapton – vocals, guitars

Bobby Whitlock – vocals, keyboards; acoustic guitar

Carl Radle – bass, percussion

Jim Gordon – drums, percussion; piano (on “Layla”)

Duane Allman – guitars (on all tracks except “I Looked Away,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “Keep on Growing”)

Albhy Galuten – piano (on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”)


On Nov. 4, 1969, a new band entered the markets with their self-titled debut LP. The record included unknown songs like “Dreams” and “Whipping Post.” As you can tell by now, that band was The Allman Brothers.

They were formed in March 1969, during large jam sessions with various musicians in Jacksonville, Florida. Duane Allman and Jai Johanny Johanson (Jaimoe) had recently moved from Muscle Shoals, where Duane participated in session work at FAME Studios for artists such as Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and Wilson Pickett, with whom he recorded a cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” that went to number 23 on the national charts. Duane began to put together a new band and invited bassist Berry Oakley to jam with the new group; the pair had met in a Jacksonville, club some time earlier, and became quick friends. Oakley brought the guitarist / singer of his former band with him to jam, Richard Betts. They invited another drummer, Butch trucks, to jam with them. The group had immediate chemistry, and Duane’s vision for a “different” band — one with two lead guitarists and two drummers began evolving. Then Duane’s brother, Gregg, returned from California, where the brothers as a band named Hour Glass, had recorded two unsuccessful albums.

Allman Brothers on stage, 1969

Most of the songs on their first album were created during their long, impromptu jam sessions and the band’s style evolved from a mix of jazzcountry musicblues and rock, as a result of each individual member turning the others onto their particular interests. Trucks introduced fellow drummer Johanson to the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones; Johanson likewise introduced the group to jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and Betts did the same with country music and Chuck Berry. Duane Allman had previously listened to Davis and Coltraneand his two favorite songs — Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues” — were the basis for the majority of the band’s modal jamming, “without a lot of chord changes.”

The new Allman Brothers Band relocated to Macon, Georgia and within a couple of months, they became an explosive live band. They recorded their debut album for Epic/Capricorn Records, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, at Atlantic Records studio in New York City. According to biographer Alan Paul, “virtually no outtakes exist from the sessions.” The band had performed their songs countless times in the preceding months and “[had] them down cold. The two-week booking was initially designed for laying down basic tracks, with overdubs following later but the group ended up cutting the entire record in six non-consecutive days.

Alan Paul, author of ONE WAY OUT: THE INSIDE HISTORY OF THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, stated that Gregg Allman’s lyrics were “remarkably mature lyrical conceptions for such a young man, expertly executed in a minimalist, almost haiku style.” Allman claimed his lyrical inspiration for “Whipping Post” came from his time in Los Angeles as a part of Hour Glass, “getting fucked by different land sharks in the business,” experiencing great frustration among fierce competition. “I wrote most of that whole first record in that one week. I had total peace of mind. L.A. and all its changes didn’t even cross my mind. I felt like I was starting all over, which I was.”

Upon release, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND album received a poor commercial response, selling fewer than 35,000 copies upon initial release and only reaching No 188 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart. Executives urged Walden to relocate the band to New York or Los Angeles to “acclimate” them to the industry. “They wanted us to act ‘like a rock band’ and we just told them to fuck themselves,” remembered Trucks. For their part, the members of the band remained optimistic, electing to stay in the South.

Despite the poor sales, the album was well liked by reviewers. Rolling Stone‘s Lester Bangs called the album “consistently subtle, and honest, and moving,” describing the band as “a white group who’ve transcended their schooling to produce a volatile blues-rock sound of pure energy, inspiration and love.” A retrospective review from Bruce Eder at AllMusic stated it “might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience.”


Side 1

  1. Don’t Want You Know More (Spencer Davis, Edward Hardin)
  2. It’s Not My Cross To Bear (G. Allman)
  3. Black Hearted Woman (G. Allman)
  4. Trouble No More (Muddy Waters)

Side 2

  1. Every Hungry Woman (G. Allman)
  2. Dreams (G. Allman)
  3. Whipping Post (G. Allman)


Gregg Allman: organ, lead vocals

Duane Allman: slide and lead guitars

Dickie Betts: lead guitar

Berry Oakley: bass guitar, backing vocals

Jai Johanny Johanson: drums, congas

Butch Trucks: drums, percussion

CHARLESTON BATTERY: From Marsh to Mansions

“THE BATTERY” is the common name used in Charleston to describe the pair of man-made seawalls that border the eastern and southern tips of the Charleston peninsula.  The “High Battery” is just over 1,400 feet long and was built in the early 1800s wich led to the creation of what is now East Battery Street and White Point Garden.  The“Low Battery” was a twentieth century expansion of the original Battery that runs an additional 5,000 feet in length that was built in the early twentieth century along the Ashley River on what is now named Murray Boulevard. These “Batteries” provide a panoramic view of Charleston harbor and the adjacent islands, and are a “must see” for any tourists who visit the city.

Photo by Willie Harper.

The original Battery was constructed on non-existent land, built along the low tide mark of the Charleston harbor and the Ashley River. The goal was to enchance the beauty of the area, create a barrier to blunt storm surges, and, ultimately, create new usuable (and taxable) property. When Charles Town was founded, the settlers first built upon the high ground on the peninsula and in early records the term “White Point” was used to describe the land south of Vanderhorst Creek (today’s Water Street) that was “washed by the tides.” About thirty per cent of the peninsula was “low land.”

Broughton’s Battery @ White Point. Map captions by author.

In April 1725, the South Carolina Provincial Assembly ordered the owners of the sandy land at White Point to stake out their waterfronts with a line of wooden pilings and ballast stones, and began the decades-long process of creating a hard line between the water and dry land. In 1738, the city completed Broughton’s Battery, a double-row of wooden pilings along the waterfront. Within a decade they city had completed an earthen wall and military gun battery along White Point, which unfortunately, was destroyed by the 1757 hurricane.

German-born engineer, William De Brahm was hired to design and construct new fortifications around White Point and in the 1750s hundreds of laborers built massive banks of earth that finally formed a high, solid wall around the perimeter of White Point, from Granville Bastion (currently the Missroon House, Historic Charleston Foundation) stands south to Broughton’s Battery, and then westward to the south end of Legare Street. Dozens of cannon were mounted along the wall to protect the southern edge of the harbor.

During the 1790s, construction of the wall continued. The city contructed square “hog pens” of palmetto logs filled with ballast stone to weigh them down, and for the next two decades the city used granite blocks from the northern states to extend the seawall into the marsh and mud. In 1836, Charleston City Council proposed transforming the vacant expanse behind the Battery into a public pleasure garden called White Point Garden. After completeing the landscaping of the area with fill dirt, planting trees and shrubs, White Point Garden opened to the public in 1838.

White Point Garden, at southern tip of Charleston peninsula, behind completed Battery Wall.
White Point Garden, at southern tip of the Charleston Peninsula. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Images courtesy of New York Public Library
Images courtesy of Library of Congress
Images courtesy of Library of Congress
Images courtesy of Library of Congress

MEDDLE: The Classic Pink Floyd Begins

October 31, 1971. MEDDLE by Pink Floyd

MEDDLE was Pink Floyd becoming the classic band most listeners are familiar with. After Syd Barrett’s 1968 departure from the band, Floyd flailed along releasing several uneven, sporadically excellent, but often directionless albums. MEDDLE is Pink Floyd finding their post-Barrett musical voice and direction where the songs are allowed to breath and grow. Everything you hear on DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, and onward, started on this album.

ROLLING STONE magazine’s Jean-Charles Costa wrote: “MEDDLE not only confirms lead guitarist David Gilmour’s emergence as a real shaping force with the group, it states forcefully and accurately that the group is well into the growth track again.”

The band returned from the ATOM HEART MOTHER tour across America and England and in January 1971 they returned to Abbey Road Studios to work on new material. However, at the time, Abbey Road was equipped with only eight-track multi-track facilities, and the band found that insufficient for their increasingly technical demands of more layered music. They transferred their Abbey recordings to George Martin’s sixteen-track AIR studio, and Morgan Studios in West Hampstead, London. Without a central theme for their new project, each band member created separate tracks, with no reference to what the other members were doing. The tempo was entirely random while the band played around an agreed chord structure, and moods such as “first two minutes romantic, next two up tempo”. Each recorded section was named, but the process was largely unproductive; after several weeks, no complete songs had been created. The band labeled these tracks “Nothing”, which they ultimately turned into a track called “Son of Nothing,” and with more experimentation, it was called “Return of the Son of Nothing.” One of these “nothings” consisted of keyboardist Richard Wright feeding a single piano note through a Leslie speaker, which created a submarine-like “ping!”.

“Return of the Son of Nothing” was finally renamed “Echoes” and this is first magnificent song where Pink Floyd finds its groove – atmospheric, spacey dreamy melody featuring Waters and Gilmore singing together, Gilmore’s stinging guitar playing over the lush bed of keyboards, drums and bass, with Rogers’ first set of insightful lyrics. It is now acknowledged as one of the greatest Progressive Rock songs.  

The NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS called it “an exceptionally good album.” Ed Kelleher of CIRCUS called it  “another masterpiece by a masterful group”, noting “Fearless” as “fascinating” and praising “Echoes” as “a tone poem that allows all four group members much time to stretch their muscles” However, MELODY MAKER described it as “a soundtrack to a non-existent movie”.

STYX: Crystal Ball

October 1, 1976.

Styx released their sixh album titled CRYSTAL BALL. It was the first LP by the band to include Tommy Shaw. Tommy wrote the title song, which is still part of the bands set whenever they play live. I purchased this LP the day it arrived at Best Pharmacy, Barnwell SC. Shaw would make his presence felt in the band immediately by writing (or co-writing) five of the seven songs on the album. The track “Mademoiselle” was Tommy Shaw’s vocal debut and the album’s Top-40 hit.

The album’s title track would become a concert staple for the band, as it was performed on every subsequent Styx tour with which Shaw was involved.The previous Styx albums were good, but Tommy Shaw was the final ingredient that catapulted the band into superstardom. The next year, they released their breakthrough THE GRAND ILLUSION.

RUSH: All The World’s A Stage

September 29, 1976

RUSH released their first double live album, ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE. Recorded over three nights, June 11-13, 1976, at Massey Hall in Toronto, during the band’s breakthrough 2112 Tour. The release of the live album was, according to singer/bassist, Geddy Lee, “definitely something we used to buy us more time” to work on their studio follow up of 2112.

This album captures the entire setlist that was regularly performed during headlining shows of the 2112 tour. However, due to technological limits of approximately 20 minutes per side on vinyl, the positions of “Lakeside Park” and “2112” were swapped with “Fly By Night / In The Mood” and “Something For Nothing”.Due to stage time restraints during the 2112 tour of 1976, this performance of the song “2112” omits the “Discovery” and “Oracle: The Dream” sections of the studio recording. Although the final 32 seconds of “Discovery” are played as a lead-in to “Presentation”, the liner notes and track listing do not indicate this.

According to the liner notes, ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE marks the end of the “first chapter of Rush” and would begin a trend of Rush releasing a live album after every four studio albums. This lasted until 2003, when the band released a live album and DVD of each subsequent studio album’s tour.ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE was Rush’s first US Top 40-charting album and went gold, alongside A FAREWELL TO KINGS and 2112 on November 16, 1977.


September 28, 1974

ELDORADO: A SYMPHONY BY THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA was released as the fourth studio album by the Electric Light Orchestra. Jeff Lynne conceived the storyline before he wrote any music. The plot follows a Walter Mitty-like character who journeys into fantasy worlds via dreams, to escape the disillusionment of his mundane reality. Lynne wrote the album in response to criticism from his father, a classical music lover, who said that Electric Light Orchestra’s repertoire “had no tune”. The song, “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” became ELO’s first Top Ten song, reaching no. 9. There is a strong Beatles influence that runs throughout the album, something that would become a staple sound of the band.

This was a major transitional album for ELO, and for Lynne. ELDORADO marks the first album on which Lynne hired an orchestra; on previous albums, Lynne would overdub the strings. The group’s three resident string players continued to perform on recordings, however, and can be heard most prominently on the songs “Boy Blue” and “Laredo Tornado”. Bassist, Mike de Albuquerque departed early on in the recording process, as touring made him feel separated from his family. Lynne plays most of, if not all, the bass tracks and backing vocals for the album, even though de Albuquerque received credit. Kelly Groucutt replaced de Albuquerque for the subsequent tour when cellist Melvyn Gale also joined (replacing the departing Mike Edwards). “Eldorado Finale” is heavily orchestrated, much like “Eldorado Overture”. Jeff Lynne said of the song, “I like the heavy chords and the slightly daft ending, where you hear the double bass players packing up their basses, because they wouldn’t play another millisecond past the allotted moment.”

The album was named one of Classic Rock magazine’s “50 Albums That Built Prog Rock” and ranked #43 on Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time.”

On a personal note: My favorite song from ELDORADO, is “Boy Blue”, which relates the scenario of a weary soldier returning home triumphantly, but with a new, slightly bitter, realistic view of what ha had accomplished, and his determination to never do it again. At the time the LP was released the Vietnam War was stumbling toward it’s chaotic conclusion, and there were weekly news stories on vets returning from the War, describing the nightmares they endured. For my 14-year old self, is was easy to put “Boy Blue” into the context of a song about returning Vietnam soldiers.


JEFF LYNNE – lead & backing vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, bass, Moog, production, orchestra & choral arrangements

BEV BEVAN – drums, percussion

RICHARD TANDY – piano, Moog, clavinet, Wurlitzer electric piano, guitar, backing vocals, orchestra & choral arrangements

MIKE DE ALBUQUERQUE – bass & backing vocals (credited; departed during the recording of the album)


SEPTEMBER 1, 1975-78: Four Classic Rock Albums

For four consecutive years in the 1970s, September 1 was a magical day – four classic rock albums from three classic bands were released. Pretty amazing. And rock radio is still playing many songs from all four of these albums forty years later!

September 1, 1975

FACE THE MUSIC, the fifth album by the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA (ELO) was released. This was the album in which Jeff Lynne began to perfect his classical orchestrated sound onto the palette of “radio-friendly” pop/rock songs. It was the first ELO album to go platinum.

Bass player Mike de Albuguerque and cellist Mike Edward quit in January 75, and were replaced by Kelly Groucutt and classically-trained cellist, Melvyne Gale. Groucutt also gave the band a second strong vocalist, who sang lead on “Poker” and traded vocals with Lynne on “Nightrider.”

FACE THE MUSIC produced two Top Fifteen singles, “Evil Woman (no. 10) and “Strange Magic” (no. 14).

September. 1, 1976

One year (to the day) that FACE THE MUSIC was released, ELO released A NEW WORLD RECORD, which continued Jeff Lynne’s shift toward shorter pop/rock songs, with layers of strings on top.

The album contained four hit singles, “Living Thing” (no. 14), “Telephone Line” (no. 8), “Do Ya” (no. 24), and “Rockaria” (did not chart in America, but it one of Jeff Lynne’s best records).

September 1, 1977

RUSH released their fifth LP A FAREWELL TO KINGS. After touring behind their previous album 2112, the group reached a new critical and commercial peak. One year before, RUSH was in danger of being dropped by their label, until the success of 2112.

The album was recorded in three weeks, followed by two weeks of mixing. Peart said that 2112 made the band sound confined in their sound, so for A Farewell to Kings, the group decided to write material that featured instruments they could play naturally as well as new ones, thus allowing them to play multiple instruments when performing on stage. As a result, A Farewell to Kings features Peart playing orchestra bells, tubular bells, chimes, and other percussion; Geddy Lee playing double neck bass (a Rickenbacker 4080) and Minimoog; and Alex Lifeson on new guitars and for the first time, a Moog Taurus bass pedal synthesizer (used by both Lee and Lifeson). Prior to recording, Rush completed a short tour in 1977 which saw the group perform “Xanadu” prior to recording. Apart from early ideas for “Closer to the Heart”, the majority of the album was developed in the studio.

 The album would become Rush’s first US gold-selling album, receiving the certification within two months of its release, and was eventually certified platinum. After the success of this LP, their previous album “2112” took off and ended up selling more copies than A Farewell To Kings.

September 1, 1978

STYX released their eighth album, PIECES OF EIGHT. Like the band’s previous album, The Grand Illusion, Pieces achieved triple-platinum certification, thanks to the hit singles “Sing for the Day”, “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade”.

The band members produced and recorded the album at Paragon Studios in Chicago with recording engineer Barry Mraz and mixing engineer Rob Kingsland. “I’m O.K” was recorded at Paragon and St. James Cathedral. This would be the last album to be produced at Paragon Studios.


 January 23 we lost two classic rock guitarists, whose work is still heard daily by millions across the world: Terry Kath of CHICAGO, and Allen Collins of LYNYRD SKYNYRD.

In 1978,TERRY KATH, original guitarist, and founding member of CHICAGO accidentally shot himself dead. After a party at band technician Don Johnson’s home in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, Kath picked up a semiautomatic 9 mm pistol and, leaning back in a chair, said to Johnson, “Don’t worry about it … look, the clip is not even in it.” To satisfy Johnson’s concerns, Kath showed the empty magazine to Johnson. Kath then replaced the magazine in the gun, put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. Apparently unbeknownst to Kath, however, there was still one round in the chamber, and he died instantly from the gunshot.

Growing up in a musical family, Kath played a variety of instruments in his teens, including drums and banjo. He played bass guitar in a number of bands in the mid-1960s, before settling on the guitar as his main instrument when forming the group that became Chicago. Kath was also said to be Jimi Hendrix’s favorite guitarist.

Terry Kath – 1970

Kath was regarded as Chicago’s bandleader and best soloist, playing guitar and singing lead vocals on many of the band’s early hit singles with his Ray Charles-influenced style. His vocals, jazz, blues, and hard rock influences are regarded as integral to Chicago’s early sound. He has been praised for his guitar skills and described by rock author Corbin Reiff as “one of the most criminally underrated guitarists to have ever set finger to fretboard.” He sang like Ray Charles and played like Hendrix.

ALLEN COLLINS died in 1990 at age 37, from chronic pneumonia, a complication of the paralysis. In 2006, Collins was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the greatest live band I ever saw. Collins long solo on “Freebird” had be seen to believed.

Collins joined LYNYRD SKYNYRD in Jacksonville, Florida just two weeks after Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington formed the band. Knowing that Collins played guitar and owned his own equipment, Van Zant decided to approach him about joining them. Van Zant and drummer Bob Burns both had a reputation for violent trouble, and when Collins saw them pull up in his driveway he fled on his bicycle and hid up in a tree. They soon convinced him that they were not there to beat him up and he agreed to join the band, then known as The One Percent.

Allen Collins 1975

Allen and Zant co-wrote many of the biggest Skynyrd hits, including “Free Bird”, “Gimme Three Steps”, and “That Smell”. On October 20, 1977, when the Skynyrd plane crashed into a forest in Mississippi, Collins was seriously injured, 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 (Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere, and This Is the Way), and charting a few singles (notably “Don’t Misunderstand Me”).

Tragedy struck again just as the Rossington Collins Band was getting off the ground. In 1980, during the first days of the debut concert tour, Collins’s wife, Kathy, suddenly died of a hemorrhage during the miscarriage of their third child. This forced the tour’s cancellation. With the lingering effects of losing his friends in the plane crash, Kathy’s death devastated Collins.

Collins, jumping onstage, 1976

In 1986, Collins was involved in a car accident, claiming the life of his girlfriend and leaving the guitarist paralyzed from the waist down, with limited use of his arms and hands. Collins pled no contest to vehicular manslaughter as well as driving under the influence of alcohol. He would never play guitar on-stage again.

Collins’ last performance with Lynyrd Skynyrd was at the band’s very first reunion (after the plane crash) at the 1979 Volunteer Jam V in Nashville, Tennessee. All remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited officially in 1987, but due to his injury, Collins only served 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. Also 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. Collins founded Roll For Rock Wheelchair Events and Benefit Concerts in 1988 to raise awareness and to provide opportunities for those living with spinal cord injury and other physical challenges.

Collins onstage in wheelchair