Home New Larry Collins, Renowned Rockabilly Guitarist of the Collins Kids, Passes Away at 79

Larry Collins, Renowned Rockabilly Guitarist of the Collins Kids, Passes Away at 79

by Madonna

Larry Collins, the exceptionally talented child guitarist who, alongside his sister Lorrie, formed the dynamic 1950s rockabilly duo, the Collins Kids, passed away on Friday in Santa Clarita, Calif. at the age of 79. His daughter Larissa Collins announced his death in a hospital, although the cause was not disclosed.

While the Collins Kids may not have achieved widespread record sales, they became television stars in the early years of live country music TV. As regulars on the popular “Town Hall Party,” a TV barn dance hosted by cowboy singer Tex Ritter in Los Angeles, the duo brought an untamed, proto-punk sensibility to the West Coast country and rockabilly scenes.

At the tender ages of 9 and 11, Larry and Lorrie captivated audiences with their matching Western wear and explosive performances. They became known as “Two little bundles of bouncing T-double-N-T!” according to Mr. Ritter’s introduction.

Lorrie charmed the audience, but it was Larry, through his hyperkinetic antics and high vocal harmonies, who often stole the spotlight. His energetic performances, accompanied by headlong guitar riffs, defined the duo’s two-minute bursts of swagger and attitude, as seen in songs like “Hoy Hoy” and “Hot Rod” from 1958.

Larry Collins played a double-neck Mosrite guitar, a gift from his mentor, West Coast guitar virtuoso Joe Maphis. His innovative playing extended beyond rockabilly, influencing artists like Dick Dale, the “king of the surf guitar.” In fact, Dick Dale cited Collins’s staccato fingerpicking as a significant influence on the evolution of surf music.

The Collinses’ 1958 single “Whistle Bait” is hailed by some as anticipating punk rock by two decades, divorcing itself from established musical genres.

Born on October 4, 1944, in Tulsa, Okla., Larry Collins was the only son of Lawrence and Hazel Juanita Collins. The siblings’ musical journey began when Lorrie won a talent contest in 1950, leading the family to move to California to foster their musical careers.

The Collins Kids made their mark on “Town Hall Party” and the Grand Ole Opry’s first televised broadcast in the mid-1950s. Despite releasing rockabilly recordings, their success on the Billboard Hot 100 remained elusive.

After disbanding in 1965, Larry pursued a career as a songwriter, co-writing hits like “Delta Dawn” and “Tulsa Turnaround.” The Collins Kids reunited in 1993 for a rockabilly festival in England, performing together sporadically until Lorrie’s passing in 2018.

Larry Collins is survived by his daughter Larissa, sister Nickie Collins, and two grandsons. Reflecting on his extraordinary life as a child entertainer, Collins remarked, “I just can’t believe I ever had that much energy. I look at those old videos, and I say, ‘The kid’s gone crazy.’”

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