Larry Collins — a West Coast based rockabilly musician, country singer-songwriter and one half of the duo the Collins Kids — has died, according to a statement from his daughter Larissa.
He was 79 years old.
He holds a special place in country music history as the co-writer behind “Delta Dawn,” a song that would become Tanya Tucker‘s very first hit in 1972, and crossed genre borders when Helen Reddy subsequently had a hit with her version on the pop charts. Collins was also the pen behind “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” which David Frizzell and Shelly West recorded as part of the soundtrack for the 1980 Clint Eastwood film Any Which Way You Can.
Collins was born in Tulsa, Okla., in 1944, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was nine years old, according to Music Row. Shortly thereafter, he and his older sister Lorrie formed a musical duo, with Lorrie singing lead while Larry accompanied her on guitar and backing vocals. They got their first taste of fame as regular performers on the California-based country television show Town Hall Party, and began to be known as the Collins Kids — a moniker that would stick with them for the rest of their career.
Through their work on the show, the Collins Kids met their mentor Joe Maphis, a country guitarist who performed with acts like Wanda Jackson, Johnny Cash, Bob Wills, Gene Autry and more. Maphis’ signature instrument was a double-necked electric guitar, and he gave one to the young Larry Collins, who adopted it as his chosen instrument for the rest of his career.
The Collins Kids became one of the staples of the rockabilly genre, helping cement the style throughout the ’50s with hits like “Hoy Hoy,” “Beetle Bug Bop” and “Hop Skip and Jump.” But their career didn’t last far beyond the decade: In 1959, when she was just 17 years old, Lorrie eloped with Johnny Cash’s manager Stu Carnell, according to the Seattle Times. For the next couple of years, the Collins Kids performed occasionally, but Lorrie gave birth to her first child in 1961 and elected to retire from the music business in order to focus on family.
It wasn’t their last time onstage — they mounted multiple reunion shows and appearances, especially in the ’90s — but Larry Collins move on to a solo career, growing his status as a songwriter as well as fostering his golfing talents.
Lorrie died in 2018, and according to her obituary, published in the New York Times, Larry remembered their childhood career together fondly.
“We grew up with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Carl Perkins. Everybody that came to California when they first started did Town Hall Party,” he reflected. “All those acts, Lorrie and I got to meet them, know them, travel with them, work with them … Lorrie and I had the luckiest childhoods of anyone you can imagine.”
According to Music Row, Larry Collins died in Santa Clarita, Calif., of natural causes. He is survived by his sister Nicki Collins, as well as daughter Larissa Collins and two grandsons.
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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes
Country Music News – Taste of Country