“Delta Dawn” Writer and Rockabilly Legend Larry Collins Dies

He wrote “You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma,” which hit #1 for David Frizzell and Shelly West, and was also nominated for the CMA’s Song of the Year. He wrote “Home” with Mac Davis, which was recorded by Nancy Sinatra before Mac himself had a hit with it. He also wrote Tanya Tucker’s signature song “Delta Dawn” with songwriter Alex Harvey, which shot a 13-year-old Tanya into stardom. But before any of this, Larry Collins had his own career as a child prodigy that helped influence country and rock n’ roll on a grand scale.

Larry Collins was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 4th, 1944, so when he wrote “You’re The Reason God Made Oklahoma,” it came straight from the heart. But after winning a talent contest in Tulsa with his sister Lorrie at the ripe age of nine, they decided to move to California to pursue stardom in 1953. The legendary steel guitar player for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Leon McAuliffe, made the suggestion to the young performers.

It turns out that Leon’s suggestion was a good one. With the 10-year-old Larry picking away on a double neck Mosrite guitar, and his 12-year-old sister Lorrie singing, they became a sensation on the Los Angeles-based TV show Town Hall Party in 1954, hosted by Tex Ritter. Little Larry was dwarfed behind the massive double neck guitar with his name engraved in the fretboard, but he became much more than a novelty. Mentored by Joe Maphis, Collins developed a fingerpicking style that became influential throughout country and rock.

Paired with his sister, they became known as The Collins Kids. They signed to Columbia Records and released numerous singles such as “Hop, Skip and Jump” and “Hoy Hoy.” In 1956 when the Grand Ole Opry made its first televised broadcast, The Collins Kids appeared as guests. Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party TV show found syndication in the late ’50’s, beaming The Collins Kids into homes nationwide.

Despite his age, Larry Collins was talented enough to record an instrumental album with Joe Maphis in 1958 called Fire on the Strings. Dick Dale, Bob Dylan, and even metal guys like Lemmy of Motorhead, and punk icon Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennedys were said to have been influenced by Larry Collins and The Collins Kids due to the frenetic, youthful, and high-octane performances they pulled off during an otherwise repressed moment in music.

As Larry and Lorrie Collins grew older and the uniqueness of the act eroded, they both split off in the mid ’60s into solo projects. Though he continued to play guitar, Larry Collins found second life as a songwriter as well, penning songs for both country and rock n’ roll acts. He found a particular kismet with Mac Davis, and the pair co-wrote “Woman Crying,” “Yesterday and You,” and “You’re Good For Me” from the Mac Davis catalog.

Larry and Lorrie Collins would reunite over the years, and the pair was revered in the rockabilly world.

Larry Collins died on January 5th at the age of 79 according to his daughter Larissa Collins. He passed away of natural causes at the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Santa Clarita, California. His sister Lorrie Collins passed away in 2018.

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