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The Cemetery of Southern Rock

abb 500Probably more than any qualifying grouping of musical genres, it can be said Southern Rock has a devastating propensity to find Rock and Roll Paradise much earlier in life. Absolute greats like Duane Allman and Ronnie vanZant bit the dust in their twenties, while many others like Hughie Thomasson, Billy Powell, Duane Roland, Billy Jones, Frankie and Dan Toler and many more were also plucked long before their legitimate expiration dates. Motorcycles, airplanes, or plane old drugs and alcohol, it seems that hard living is a mandatory exercise in Southern Rock culture.

Here is a not even complete listing of those southern rockers who checked out early.

Toy Caldwell was perhaps one of the most underrated guitar players of the 70’s. He wrote and sang “Can’t You See”, among other The Marshall Tucker Band classics and contributed a great deal to creation of the Marshall Tucker sound with his famous thumb pickin’ guitar playing style. During the Marshall Tucker Band’s induction to South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1995, lead vocalist Doug Gray even called Toy Caldwell ‘the backbone of The Marshall Tucker Band’.

Toy Caldwell started his music career in the 60’s with The Rants. During that time, his brother Tommy Caldwell was also playing with other local musicians and had a band New Generation. Between 1966 and 1969 Toy served with Marine Corps and was wounded in Vietnam. After his return from ‘Nam, The Rants and New Generation merged into The Marshall Tucker Band.

Between 1973 and 1978, The Marshall Tucker Band released seven gold- and platinum albums. They created timeless classics like Fire On The Mountain, Take the Highway and shared stages with legends like The Allman Brothers Band and Wet Willie.

After the original Marshall Tucker Band disbanded in 1983, Toy Caldwell formed his owned band named the Toy Caldwell Band, kept touring and eventually released one solo album in 1992, named Son of the South. Charlie Daniel’s Blue Hat Record label issued a re-release of the album in 2000.

Toy Caldwell passed away in his sleep February 25, 1993 from apparent heart failure. He was survived by wife, Abbie Caldwell and their two children, Cassidy and Geneal

Toy Caldwell, Jr.   November 13, 1947 – February 25, 1993

Tommy Caldwell, although few years younger than his brother Toy, beside playing bass and singing backup vocals, was the leader of The Marshall Tucker Band and charismatic front man who worked the audience at live shows.

The Caldwell brothers, fortunate enough to have a father who was a professional musician himself, were introduced to music early in their lives and Tommy picked up the bass when he was 12, old Kay hollowbody with single cutaway.

Tommy Caldwell was performing with different bands all his life and after returning home from military service in 1970 Tommy’s old friends from Spartanburg, Doug Gray, Jerry Eubanks, George McCorkle, Paul Riddle and of course his brother Toy Caldwell formed The Marshall Tucker Band.

Wet Willie shared the bill with The Marshall Tucker Band one night, were impressed of what they heard and introduced the band to Capricorn Record President Phil Walden. Capricorn Records signed them and it started a collaboration, which produced multiple gold records and sold out arenas and stadiums across the world. Until…the Death of Tommy Caldwell on April 22, 1980. Tommy Caldwell was heading for the local YMCA on Church Street, downtown Spartanburg, in his off-road jeep, when a Ford Galaxy driving in front of him braked suddenly. The two cars collided and Tommy’s car flipped over on impact. Caldwell was rushed into a hospital with severe head injuries and he died a week later in Spartanburg General Hospital on April 28. He was only 30 years old at the time of his death.

Tommy’s last live performance, recorded only two days before his accident, was released as double CD, Live On Long Island in 2006.

Tommy Caldwell  November 9, 1949 – April 28 1980

Steve Gaines’ impressive guitar skills made a big contribution in the later success of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Not only could Steve play amazing licks, but he could also sing as well as write great songs as “I know a Little” on Street Survivors album proves.

Steve Gaines was born and raised in Miami, Oklahoma and attended Northeast Oklahoma College, before continuing his studies in Pittsburgh College in Kansas.  After getting his first guitar at the age of 14 and playing with various local bands, Steve relocated to Memphis, where his band signed a record deal and in 1975 they cut a few tracks in the studio. 11 years after his death, in 1988, the songs were released by MCA Records as Steve Gaines solo album entitled “One in the Sun”.

Lynyrd Skynyrd had ‘fired’ their guitarist Ed King in 1975 and were looking for replacement. When Cassie Gaines, Skynyrd backup singer suggested his brother to the band, Steve was asked to audition for the band on May 11th and at the end of May, he was officially a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. In June Steve found himself on the road with the band, during which Skynyrd recorded their classic live album “One More from the Road” during the Atlanta leg of the tour.

Lynyrd Skynyrd had some troubles during the recording of their next studio album, which was actually recorded twice. Steve had made a big impression on the whole band and he contributed to the album by singing “You Got That Right” with Ronnie as well as bringing his own songs “I Know a Little” and “Ain’t No Good Life” to the album.

Three days after the release of Street Survivors, on October 20, 1977, the plane carrying the band from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Steve Gaines along with his sister Cassie and Ronnie Van Zant were killed on impact. He was just 28 years old at that time. Steve Earl Gaines  September 14, 1949 – October 20, 1977

Ronnie Van Zant was born January 15, 1948 in Jacksonville, Florida and still forty years after his departure can easily be described as the city’s most famous resident. Before he decided to become a musician, Ronnie, like all young boys, dreamed of becoming a boxer or a professional baseball player. But instead, in the summer of 1964, Ronnie Van Zant formed a band that later evolved into Lynyrd Skynyrd with his schoolmates and friends Bob Burns, Larry Junstrom, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. Lynyrd Skynyrd enjoyed huge success in the 70’s until…on October 20, 1977, Ronnie Van Zant and other band members of Lynyrd Skynyrd stepped into a Convair 240 airplane, which crashed into a swamp outside Gillsburg, Mississippi when running out of fuel on route to a Baton Rouge gig. The Plane crash also took lives of fellow band members Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and road manager Dean Kilpatrick.

Ronnie Van Zant was first married to Nadine Inscoe and they had a daughter, Tammy Van Zant. His second marriage was with Judy and they also had a daughter, Melody Van Zant.

Ronny Van Zant was buried in Orange Park, Florida in 1977 but was transferred after vandals broke into his tomb on June 29, 2000. He was reburied near the grave of his parents at Riverside Memorial Park in Jacksonville.

Ronald Wayne Van Zant: January 15th 1948 – October 20th 1977

Leon Wilkeson had a unique style in his playing and he made a huge contribution to Lynyrd Skynyrd sound. Being part of the original line-up, he helped them create a legacy that no other southern rock band has ever come close to.

Leon was born in Rhode Island, but moved to Jacksonville at young age. As a youngster, he idolized Paul McCartney and that prompted him to pick up a bass. Leon mastered his instrument and was asked to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1970. He left Skynyrd before their debut album, but was back in the line-up soon after it was released.

In the 80’s he was part of The Rossington – Collins Band and later the Allen Collins Band, but the reincarnations didn’t find success until Lynyrd Skynyrd’s reunion in 1987 with Ronnie’s brother Johnnie on vocals. Wilkeson played bass with them, until his untimely death in 2001.

Leon Wilkeson was found dead in his hotel room in Ponte Vedra Beach, near Jacksonville, Florida on July 21st 2001. According to his autopsy, he suffered from severe liver cirrhosis caused by years of heavy drinking and traces of drugs were found in his blood, but his death was filed under “accident”. He was 49 at the time of his death.

In their 2003 album Vicious Cycle, remaining band members paid tribute to him in a song Mad Hatter, reference to Leon’s trademark of wearing different crazy hats while on stage.

Leon Russell Wilkeson April 2nd 1952 – July 27th 2001

Jakson Spires was born April 12th 1951 in Raleigh, North Carolina and rose to fame as one of the founding member of pioneering southern rock band Blackfoot. They began in 1972 as contemporaries of Lynyrd Skynyrd and found success with albums like “Strikes” and “Flying High”.

Talented songwriter Spires composed the majority of the songs for Blackfoot, including their biggest hits “Highway Song” and “Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie”. After Blackfoot disbanded in 1984, he was the driving force behind Southern Rock Allstars, a group he co-founded with ex- Molly Hatchet guitarist Dave Hlubek and former Rossington Collins Band member Jay Johnson.

Spires was known as “Thunderfoot” by his close friends, reference for his Native American roots and powerful drumming style.

In 2004, Blackfoot got back together, this time with original members, Greg Walker, Charlie Hargrett and Jakson Spires. At that point, original vocalist Ricky Medlocke was playing with Lynyrd Skynyrd and was replaced by Bobby Brath. While working hard to revive the band’s earlier success, a tragedy struck in March 2005: Jakson Spires went into a coma after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage and passed away three days later from a massive brain aneurysm. He was only 53 years old at the time of his death. Jakson Spires  April 12th 1951 –  March 16th 2005.

Hughie Thomasson made southern rock history not only with one, but two different bands: His career with The Outlaws started in the 1960’s and remarkably expanded to five different decades. Thomasson took a 10 year break from The Outlaws during which he performed with Lynyrd Skynyrd between 1995 and 2005, before returning to his roots…

Between 1975 and 1999 Hughie Thomasson, known as “Flame” by friends and fans, went on to record 13 albums with The Outlaws and four studio albums with Lynyrd Skynyrd, helping them to reach new level of success by co-writing many of their songs between 1995 and 2005.

Second to none guitar playing skills and his amazing singing voice were the most essential factors of the success of The Outlaws. Hughie Thomassons unique guitar sound was created with the use of a Fender Stratocaster and every now and then, a Fender Telecaster. Hughie wrote some of The Outlaws greatest hits like, “Green Grass and High Tides”, “Hurry Sundown” and “There Goes another Love Song”.

The original members of The Outlaws, Hughie Thomasson, David Dix, Monte Yoho and Henry Paul made a come back in April 2005. In addition the group had contracted Dave Robbins on keyboards, Randy Threet on bass and Chris Anderson on guitar. The Outlaws put on their last show with Hughie only a day before his untimely death, at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Nevada. Hughie Thomasson passed away while in his sleep at his home in Florida on September 9, 2007.

But his memory will live on, even beyond the unreleased album Hughie Thomasson finished shortly before his death, called “Once an Outlaw”. Hugh Edward Thomasson, Jr. August 13, 1952 – September 9, 2007.

George McCorkle was one of the founding members of The Marshall Tucker Band. He wrote their biggest hit “Fire In The Mountain”, which helped Marshall Tucker Band rise into one of the most successful southern rock groups of the 70’s.

Devoted blues fan since his childhood, George bought his first guitar at the age of sixteen and played with local Spartanburg bands The Originals and The Rants before he was drafted in the navy and got stationed in Italy.

After returning from the service in 1968, George and old high school friend Toy Caldwell formed The Toy Factory, which later evolved into The Marshall Tucker Band. Their unique mix of southern rock, country and blues sold millions of records in 1970’s.

After George left Marshall Tucker Band in 1984, he continued to write music and build a back catalogue of 700 songs before his death.  His songs have been recorded by wide range of artists from John Corbett to Gary Allan.

In 1999 George released his only solo album, American Street. He was also a founding member in Renegades Of Southern Rock, all-star lineup consisting ex members of Wet Willie and The Outlaws.

Summer of 2007 George was working on Brothers of the Southland project with various southern rock legends including members of The Black Crowes, The Outlaws, Wet Willie and new comer Bo Bice, when he was hospitalized with advanced cancer. George McCorkle died 29th of July in 2007 and was 60 at the time of his death.

George McCorkle is buried in Greenlawn Memorial Gardens in Spartanburg. George was survived by his wife, Vivienne and son Justin.

David “Frankie” Toler´s breakthrough came in the 1970s when he appeared on Dickey Betts & Great Southern’s album, Atlanta’s Burning Down, after which he toured extensively with the band. Later, Frankie played drums for The Allman Brothers Band and he appeared on their album, “Brothers of the Road.” as well as on two albums of Gregg Allman Band.

In 1992 – 94 he toured with The Marshall Tucker Band before forming The Toler Brothers Band with his brother Dan. 2005 saw the release of Renegades of Southern Rock, all-star Southern rock project which also featured Marshall Tucker´s George McCorkle and Jack Hall from Wet Willie.

Frankie Toler passed away on June 4th 2011, at hospice care in Bradenton, Florida, after years of medical problems related to liver transplant. He was age of 59 at the time of his death. Frankie is survived by his wife, Marsha, their daughter, Aja Kayle, and his older brother, Dan Toler.

David “Frankie” Toler June 28th 1951 – June 4th, 2011

Frank O’Keefe joined the Outlaws family in early 1968 after the original bassist Phil Humberg left the band. O’Keefe left the Outlaws briefly in 1973 only to return in 1974 before the recording of their classic self-titled debut album which also included one song, “Keep Prayin'”, written by. him.

Frank O’Keefe broke his neck in July 1976 which lead to his reliance for pain medication for the rest of his life. He also appeared on the second album by the Outlaws, Lady in Waiting in 1976, but left the group permanently in 1977 after the neck pains and the Outlaws touring schedule became too much to handle for him. He was eventually replaced by Harvey Dalton Arnold.

Just 19 days after the dead of his old band mate, Billy Jones, Frank O’Keefe was found dead in his home Clearwater, Florida on February 26, 1995 after taking a drug overdose. He was only 45 years old at the time of his death. Frank O’Keefe was survived by his mother, Dolores O’Keefe, a  brother, Michael, two sisters, Kathleen and Colleen, a  daughter, Shannon and grandson, Christopher O’Keefe.

Frank O’Keefe March 18, 1950 – February 26, 1995

Billy Jones rise to stardom as guitar player with The Outlaws, touring the world and rocking the socks off of to anybody who came to hear them play. With hits like There Goes Another Love Song and Green Grass And High Tides, they were major players in 1970’s Southern rock scene.

Rebel from the very beginning, he got kicked out of high school for refusing to cut his long hair. Talented musician even at young age, he was offered a placement in famous Julliard School of Music in New York, while still studying at Chamberlain High School in Tampa. He decided to study math instead and graduated from University of South Florida with honors.

After graduation, Billy played and recorded one album with a local Tampa area band called H.Y. Sledge before joining The Outlaws in 1972, first as their keyboard player, later sharing lead guitar duties with Hughie Thomasson. He recorded six albums with The Outlaws before leaving the band in 1982.

Billy jones committed suicide in  February 2nd 1995. He was 44 at the time of his death.

Billy Jones was survived by his wife Pamela K. Jones and  son Justin Ryan. Billy is buried in the Eternal Life Section of Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa Florida.

William Harry Jones  november 20th – February 2nd 1995

Ean Evans left his mark in southern rock history with two bands: The Outlaws and Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose member Ean was at the time of his death. Diversified bass player, Evan’s technique was influenced by not only Leon Wilkeson, but many styles from metal to blues.

Ean spend his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia, got his first guitar at age of 16 and was soon playing with his first band, “Five Miles High”. In 1980’s Ean performed with his own group “Cupid’s Arrow” before The Outlaws front-man Hughie Thomasson hired him to play bass in his band in 1987.

In 1995 Hughie was asked to join Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Outlaws were put on hold, Ean moved to Mississippi and formed a new band, NOON, which managed to release one album before he was called to join Lynyrd Skynyrd after the death of their original bass player Leon Wilkeson in 2001.

Besides playing with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ean had a side project called Evanscapps with 38 Special keyboardist Bobby Capps. Their new CD “Last Time” was released on a week following Ean’s death.

Death of Ean Evans

Ean was diagnosed with cancer in December 2008 and despite all efforts, it quickly deteriorated and he died at his home in New Hope, eastern Mississippi on May 6th 2009. Ean was 48 at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife Eva and their two daughters Sydney and Andrea.

Donald Wayne Evans September 16th 1960 – May 6th 2009

Duane Roland made his name in Molly Hatchet, one of the biggest bands in late 70’s. Duane was a talented guitarist and co-wrote many of their hit songs. He later went on to join Southern Rock Allstars and Gator Country…

Roland was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana but spend his childhood in Florida. Coming from musical family, Duane’s first choice of instrument was drums, but he soon picked up guitar and paid his dues in different local bands before joining Molly Hatchet in 1975.

Molly Hatchet became one of the most successful southern rock bands in late 70’s and early 80’s. During eighties Molly Hatchet went through more than a few personal changes and Duane became the only original member, who played on all albums prior their 90´s comeback.

Duane retired from the music scene in early nineties, but his passion for playing lived on and Roland returned to music scene in 2003 with Southern Rock Allstars, which his old buddy Dave Hlubek and Jakson Spires from Blackfoot had put together earlier.

Late 2004, Duane Roland, along with old Molly Hatchet members Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, Jimmy Farrar, Riff West and Bruce Crump joined forces as Gator Country to bring the old magic back into southern rock scene.

Duane Roland was found dead at is home in June 19th 2006. His death was filed under natural causes. Duane was 53 at the time of his death.

Duane Roland December 3rd 1952 – June 19th 2006

Duane Allman, one more young genius taken from us before his time, started his career at young age, he dropped out of high school and focused on studying and improving his guitar playing skills, which later helped him land a session work with likes of Eric Clapton, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin. Duane eventually shot to fame with The Allman Brothers Band, one of the most influential rock bands of the 70’s, loved by critics and fans alike. Duane Allman recorded two studio albums and one live release with his own band before his untimely death.

Death of Duane Allman

Duane Allman died from a motorcycle accident few months after the release of “At Fillmore East”, while taking a break from hectic recording- and touring schedule. In October 29, Duane Allman was riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster in Macon, Georgia, when suddenly a Chevy flatbed truck stopped in middle intersection.

At 5:44 PM, Duane Allman lost control of his motorcycle while trying to steer clear of the truck, bike landed on him and causing massive internal injuries. He was rushed to the hospital where he died on operating table at 8:40PM. In three weeks it would have been his 25th birthday.

Duane Allman Funeral

Duane Allman is buried side by side with band mate Berry Oakley on a Rose Hill Cemetery, where the band used to hang out and wrote tunes. Nearby is a grave of Elizabeth Reed, made famous by song composed by Dickey Betts.

In 1998, Georgia State honored the late guitar hero by naming State Highway 19 within Macon as “Duane Allman Boulevard”, but for fans, Duane Allman will always be known of his impromptu and slide guitar skills and his short but inspiring stay in the band that he co-found.

Howard Duane Allman: 20th November 1946 – 29th October 1971

Danny Joe Brown will always be remembered by his raspy voice that lifted hits like Flirtin’ With Disaster and Bounty Hunter to the charts while singing for Molly Hatchet. He was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age and battled with that disease all his life, but never the less, managed to rise to stardom, not only with Molly Hatchet, but with The Danny Joe Brown Band as well.

Danny Joe Brown grouped with Steve Holland and lead guitarist David Hlubek and formed Molly Hatchet in early 70’s. They released two massively popular albums, but during the peak of their success, Danny Joe Brown continued to suffer from diabetes and was eventually forced to leave the band in 1980.

In 1981, Brown released a solo album, which featured classic Edge of Sundown,  under the name Danny Joe Brown band, but the following year was asked to rejoin Molly Hatchet due to the unsuccessful result of the release of  their “Take No Prisoners” album.

The Molly Hatchet band took a hiatus in 1985 but made a big comeback after four years with their album “Lightning Strikes Twice”, of course, still with Danny Joe Brown. Unfortunately, the album was not that successful and they decided to dissolve the band for good.

Danny Joe Brown retired from music business after he suffered from a massive stroke in 1998.

On March 10, 2005, Danny Joe Brown died at the age of 54. Brown had been in hospitalized for the past few weeks prior to his death and died only day after returning his home in Davie, Florida. Cause of his dead was kidney failure.

Danny Joe Brown: 24th August 1951 – 10th March, 2005

Billy Powell’s legendary intro to Freebird has touched the lives of millions. His keyboards lifted many Lynyrd Skynyrd songs to timeless classics and his soft touch added rich texture to whole Skynyrd sound.

Billy Powell was born on in Corpus Christi, TX, but as an army brat, spend his youth in Italy, where his father was stationed. After his death in 1960, rest of the family moved back to States.

Young Billy went to High School and Community College in Jacksonville where he met future band mate Leon Wilkeson. Before joining Lynyrd Skynyrd, he played with a band called Alice Marr along side with founding 38 Special Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zant.

By 1970, Billy has become a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd and was eventually asked to join in 1972 as a full member of the band, after Ronnie Van Zant spotted him playing now legendary intro to Freebird.

Lynyrd Skynyrd made it big soon after Billy joined them and they rode the high wave until 1977’s plane crash. Powell was considered lucky and only suffered (severe) injuries to his face in a crash that took lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and their road manager, Dean Kilpatrick.

1980’s was a difficult time for him, none of the line-ups he played with (Alias, The Rossington – Collins Band, Allen Collins Band or Vision) managed gain any major success and Billy was neck-deep in debt to the IRS.

Lynyrd Skynyrd made a comeback in 1987 and Billy Powell continued to play with them until his untimely death. On 27th of January, he had an appointment with heart specialist, but never showed up. On 28th of January he called an ambulance, complaining breathing difficulties and was found dead by the paramedics.

Billy Powel was only 56 at the time of his death. He is survived by his son Brandon Powell, also a musician, who plays guitar in the band called Syntenic.

William Norris Powell  June 3rd, 1952 – January 28th, 2009

Berry Oakley was one of the founding members of southern rock pioneers The Allman Brothers Band. Berry was born in Chicago, but after dropping out of high school, he joined a band and soon found himself from Florida, where he played with Dickey Betts in a band called The Second Coming in late 60’s.

In Florida, he met Duane Allman, who persuaded Berry to join a new band he was forming with his brother, Gregg. The Allman Brothers Band released self-titled debut in 1969 and started their never ending tours. Their concerts often grew into extended jam session, held together by Berry’s bass.

The Allman Brothers Band opened doors for new generation of southern rock bands, including The Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd and released two more studio albums along with famous double live album At Fillmore East and before Berry’s untimely death.

Death of Berry Oakley

On November 11th, Berry Oakley was taking a ride on his ’67 Triumph motorcycle along with friend Kim Payne, when he crashed into a bus on Inverness Avenue, only three blocks from Duane Allman’s fatal crash site a year earlier. Berry was thrown off from his bike, but afterward claimed to be OK and declined medical treatment. Oakley was later taken to hospital, where he soon died from cerebral swelling caused by skull fracture. Bodies of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley are buried side by side in Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia.

Raymond Berry Oakley III  April 4th 1948 – November 11th 1972
…And the road goes on forever

Allen Woody broke into music scene with Artimus Pyle Band, but made his name in The Allman Brothers Band and especially in Gov’t Mule. Allen was widely respected bass player among musicians and avid collector of bass guitars.

Allen Woody was born and raised in Nasville, Tennessee and majored in music at at Middle Tennessee University. Allen started as a guitar player, but later on switched to bass. After graduating, he worked at local Guitarshop in Nashville for eight years, where he met Artimus Pyle, ex-drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd , who gave Allen his first big break by giving him a job as bass player for APB.

After short stint in The Artimus Pyle Band, Allen joined The Allman Brothers Band in 1989 and recorded five albums with them. In 1994 Allen Woody and Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes put together Gov’t Mule to release some of the songs they had written.

Gov’t Mule was a strongly southern rock influenced power-trio and jam-band that catered a large cult following fron the very beginning. Woody and Warren Haynes finally left The Allman Brothers Band in 1997 to concentrate on Gov’t Mule full-time. Haynes however went back to the Allman Bros Band when Derek Trucks, Butch Trucks nephew joined as slide guitar player until ABB’s last concert at the Fillmore Esast in October 2014.

Allen was a enthusiastic bass collector with almost 500 different instruments and he was also widely known for his custom-made bass guitars, including double-necked combination of guitar and mandolin and a sitar-like bass.

Gov’t Mule recorded three albums with Allen Woody and they were enjoying growing success when disaster strucke in summer of 2000.

Death of Allen Woody

Allen Woody was found dead in a Marriott Courtyard motel in Queens, New York on Saturday Aug. 26th in 2000. He was 44 at the time of his death. The cause of his death has not been publicly confirmed, which has caused a lot of speculation among Gov’t Mule fans, but is widely believed to be drug related.

Allen Woody is survived by his wife Jenny and daughter Savannah.

Douglas Allen Woody   October 2nd 1955 – August 25th 2000

Allen Collins got start in music by learning to play the guitar when he was twelve years old. After paying dues with his first band “The Mods”, he joined Lynyrd Skynyrd and never looked back. Allen never took any music lessons, but will always be remembered for unique songwriting and guitar playing skills.

As original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, most unforgettable rock band that came from the south, Allen Collins co wrote some of their most memorable songs, including “Free Bird” and “Gimme Three Steps”.

While at the peak of their career, Skynyrd’s plane crashed into Mississippi swamp, killing six people onboard, including front man Ronnie Van Zant. Allen Collins was badly injured in that accident. He suffered from a severe damage to his right arm and two broken spinal columns. An amputation was recommended for him but his father disapproved.

Collins recovered physically from the injuries and during the 80’s he continued performing on the stage with The Rossington – Collins Band and later with his own Allen Collins Band which released one album, “Here, There, & Back”, in 1983, but broke up soon after that.

Allen Collins life went on a slope from there. In 1985, he was involved in a car accident that took the life of his girlfriend Debra Lizama Watts and left him paralyzed from the waist down. With little choice, Allen pleaded guilty to DUI charges. No longer able to play guitar, Collins’ career was over.

As Lynyrd Skynyrd got back together, Collins participated as a consultant on the tour, helping select set lists and he also made appearances on stage, talking about dangers of driving under the influence.

After the Tribute Tour, Allen disappeared from the music scene and led reclusive life until his death.  After few months in the hospital in late 1989, Allen Collins passed away due to chronic pneumonia as a result from complications of his earlier accidents in January 23, 1990. He was buried in Jacksonville, Florida.

Allen Larkin Collins:  July 19th 1952 – January 23rd 1990

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