Allen Collins died aged thirty-seven on 23rd January 1990 from chronic pneumonia in Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.A., the city of his birth. In January 1986 Allen had been involved in a car accident claiming the life of his girlfriend, Debra Jean Watts, and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, with limited use of his arms and hands. Allen Collins had been driving under the influence of alcohol and he would never play guitar on-stage again but addressed fans at every Lynyrd Skynyrd concert with an explanation of why he could not perform, citing the dangers of drinking and driving. Allen is buried beside his wife in Jacksonville, Florida. and, in 2006, he was was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Allen Collins was born Larkin Allen Collins, Jr. on 19th July 1952 and began playing guitar at twelve years of age, with a few lessons from his stepmother, Leila Collins, a country-and-western guitarist and receiving his first guitar and amplifier from his father. Allen Collins attended Nathan B. Forrest High School.
In 1970, Allen married Kathy Johns. All of his bandmates were in his wedding party, but Kathy worried that the band's long haired appearance would disturb her parents. To solve this problem, she required all the band members to keep their hair under wigs at the wedding ceremony. The wedding reception was one of the first public performances of "Free Bird" complete with the trademark extended guitar jam at the end. Allen Collins's family grew with the birth of his daughter Amie, followed quickly by Allison.
Allen Collins joined Skynyrd just two weeks after Ronnie Van Zant. Allen 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 American national success beginning in 1973 while opening for The Who on their Quadrophenia tour. On 20th October 1977, 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, Allen's father refused and Allen eventually recovered.
During the early 1980s, Allen 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, Allen 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. The Rossington-Collins Band disbanded in 1982. Allen Collins continued to pursue music, starting the Allen Collins Band, which released one album, 'Here, There & Back' .