The Rossington-Collins Band was an off-shoot of legendary southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, founded in 1979 by guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington following the tragic 1977 plane crash which killed three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, thus ending that band's career. The Jacksonville band released two albums, but disbanded in 1982 due to increasing instability with guitarist Allen Collins following the death of his wife in 1980. Another contributing factor was the growing relationship between vocalist Dale Krantz and Gary Rossington, who married soon after the band dissolved.
Following the crash of the Skynyrd plane in October 1977, chances for a reunion looked slim. Allen Collins had severe injuries to his arm that almost made it necessary for the arm to be amputated. Leon Wilkeson had suffered internal injuries that initially made doctors declare him dead at the scene of the crash, only to be resuscitated later. He also had a badly broken arm. Gary Rossington had also suffered severe injuries in the crash. Only Artimus Pyle (former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer) and Billy Powell were in good enough condition to be released from the hospital within two weeks of the crash.
The earliest recording effort made by former band members were Pyle and Powell's involvement in the studio sessions for musician Leo LeBranche. Soon after, Powell, Pyle, Wilkeson, and Jo Billingsley (former Skynyrd vocalist) formed the band Alias (not to be confused with the 1980s Canadian rock band of the same name), which only existed for one album and a small round of live shows. The band also featured guitarist Barry Lee Harwood (who had played mandolin on Skynyrd's "Gimme Back My Bullets" record of 1976) and who would later be involved with the RCB.
Charlie Daniels gave new hope to fans in January 1979, when he announced "Lynyrd Skynyrd is back!" at his Volunteer Jam V in Nashville, Tennessee. All remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, with the exception of bassist Wilkeson (whose arm was still in a cast) performed an instrumental version of "Free Bird" to an excited audience.
From there, plans began to form a new band. However, Collins and Rossington did not wish for this new venture to be another Lynyrd Skynyrd, so they opted for Dale Krantz, who had been a backing singer for .38 Special. Guitarist Barry Harwood was living in Atlanta at the time when he got the call from Collins and Rossington to be in the band.
All seemed set, until Artimus Pyle, who had been slated to start rehearsals with the band, was involved in a car crash that broke his leg pretty badly. Pyle decided that the RCB should find a new drummer rather than wait for him to recuperate. The suggestion came from Harwood to hire Jacksonville native Derek Hess to head up the drums. At the time, Hess was working on a cruise ship and the prospect of a new job was very welcome to him.
The Rossington Collins Band, as it was christened, then began rehearsals and writing, which took a little longer than expected because of Krantz's initial anxiety about being in this band. Even while in the studio, RCB would continue to write and revise their songs until they were considered finish. This led to the use of many, many master reels of recordings that were generated.
Early in 1980, the band was slated to record their first album at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. However, Collins, Rossington et al were uneasy about going to studios that they had used in the past and settled for El Adobe Studios in El Paso, Texas - where Pyle and Powell had recorded with Leo LeBranche two years earlier - because they wanted to try out a new studio.
The band initially premiered in the summer of 1980 to very positive reviews. One highlight of the 1980 tour backing their album Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere was a New Years Eve performance at the Omni in Atlanta, GA. They even participated in a New Years countdown towards the end of their set.
One permanent feature in the set lists was Free Bird, which was performed without vocals and was dedicated to Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines, and Dean Kilpatrick, whom all died in the plane crash.
At one performance in Springfield, Maryland during 1980, guitarist Rossington had to play onstage with a broken leg, which happened the day before - on his birthday.
Following the death of his wife, Kathy, Allen Collins would routinely walk off from gigs or not even show up. This led to the cancellation of many performances during 1982. One of their last live performances was in LA in mid-1982
In addition to his Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Explorer, guitarist Collins switched between two double-cutaway Gibson Les Paul Specials during the live shows. Collins had not used a Les Paul since the early 1970s.
Guitarist Barry Harwood used an interesting transition model of the Gibson Firebird at points in their tours.
Despite the short length of the Rossington Collins Band's existence, there were many soundboard recordings made of live shows, and even studio recordings made by Allen Collins in preparation for their first studio album.
A short list of recorded shows:
As of July, 2007, a 20 minute video has surfaced of the band. It contains five songs, and is considered "Archival Quality."
One fascinating recording that has found its way to the community is a tape of assorted studio out takes from RCB's first album. However, these are all alternate studio takes and mixes.
The origination of this recording comes from guitarist Allen Collins, who had copied the tracks from the master reels onto a cassette tape for home listening, which was forgotton until it was found a few years later by Collins' friend Kent Griffith. Griffith restored the tape, transferred it with Allen's permission and later distributed it privately. However, the recordings have leaked through to a more public view.
This tape contains alternate takes for almost every song on the final album except for Winners and Losers. Unfortunately, some of the tracks are only piecemeal, as they came from Collins sifting through the master reels (of which they used many) to find the portions that he wanted to review outside the studio. Here is a breakdown of what's on it:
There is another rehearsal tape that is dated to some point in 1979, right around the creation of the band. The tape includes Allen Collins, Derek Hess, and a second guitarist, believed to be Barry Harwood. This tape showcases the writing stage of the song "Don't Misunderstand Me." On this recording you can hear Collins and the other guitarist discuss how many counts of a certain part are to be used and then you can hear the other guitarist mention how this change in count will be dictated to (bassist) Leon Wilkeson at a later time. The sound quality on this tape is crystal clear, as with the other outtakes.
In 1983, the Allen Collins Band, featuring Allen Collins, Barry Harwood, Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, and Derek Hess from RCB (also featuring Jacksonville natives Randall Hall and Jimmy Doughtry) was formed, but also soon fell apart. Members of both bands, along with friends and relatives of the deceased, eventually reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987, ten years after the plane crash, and they continue to stick together today.