If we were
superstitious we would be frightened to pronounce the name Allen Collins aloud
as tragedy seems to haunt the biography of this artist, but in fact we are not
supersitious and we say it aloud: Allen Collins is a real animal of the
electric guitar and one of the pillars on which Southern rock is built; first
for his compositions and second because he showed us the wild side of Southern
rock with his all powerful band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
We are talking about an artist who ‘accumulated’ during his career more accidents with mortal victims than models of used guitar, but the truth is that it is not too difficult as he mainly used one guitar above all in his period of glory with his colleagues from Florida, his 1964 Gibson Firebird, to which he would add another two Firebird’s of the same year. All of these guitars had light modifications and alterations; he not only changed the pickups to his favourites (a P-90 on the bridge and a Mini humbucker on the neck) but also made a good bunch of repairs over the years that made these guitars quite different to the original model.
But we cannot forget that in the collective unconscious the guitar that we link to this guitarist is his 1958 Gibson Explorer, a model which Gibson honoured him with a signature line. It was in 1976 when this model made its first appearance in Collins’ life, and therefore in the life of Skynyrd, although as many of you will know it wasn’t too much longer before the fatal plane accident that ended the band’s story.
Collins was part of the band that introduced itself to the world with a - never before seen - trio of guitarists on stage, but he mainly made a perfect duo with Gary Rossington, who was in the band all the years that was active. They complemented each other as if they were a single guitarist. Collins was responsible for searching for an alternative tone to the sound rigorously produced on each theme by the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard of his colleague. To add textures Allen Collins had to make use from time to time of his 1964 Fender Stratocaster, mainly from the time that Ed King left the band until the arrival of Steve Gaines.
His Firebirds and his Strat were usually plugged into a Fender Super Reverb, a Marshall Super Tremolo or a Fender Twin connected to a Marshall amplifier. It was from the fourth album onwards when the combos and Peavey headpieces started to appear, which is what we see in some of the band’s concerts. And to finish off with his gear the pedal that perhaps most closely accompanied him was his Vox Wah.
This is more or less that main gear with which Allen Collins cheated death during his career until it finally beat him in 1990, after years living in a wheelchair and with paralysis in one of his arms that ended up taking the guitar from his arms… but Allen Collins is not dead because each time Freebird rings out on some broadcast or record player on planet Earth this guy continues to live, and not in a wheelchair… this guy flies.