Skynyrd’s Guitar Lineup Explains How Allen Collins’ Unmatchable Talent Gave ‘Free Bird’ Its Wings

Leonard M. DeLessio / Corbis via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then we don’t need to tell you that “Free Bird” showcases some of the best instrumental work in the history of rock music. The driving force behind the power of “Free Bird’s” instrumentals was Allen Collins, who played lead guitar on the song and also wrote the initial chords.

Allen’s part in “Free Bird” has a status just as iconic as the song itself. Because of that, many have wondered exactly what Allen did to make his part in “Free Bird” soar.

Thanks to Skynyrd’s current guitar lineup, consisting of Rickey Medlocke, Sparky Matejka, and founding member Gary Rossington, we know part of the answer.

Back in 2009, Rickey, Sparky, and Gary all sat down with Guitar World for an in-depth interview about all things Skynyrd. During the interview, which appears in a four-part series on YouTube, the three guitarists broke down their parts to some of the band’s most recognizable songs, including “Free Bird.”

While Gary and Sparky looked on, Rickey slowly played Allen’s part, and explained how he executed a special technique that gave it a unique and interesting sound.

That’s what was really great about that,” Rickey said. “Allen had a way of pedaling each note…He pedaled, he rolled the notes, and it’s really cool.

Then Rickey explained how the things Allen did in “Free Bird” fit perfectly with the rest of the band. It was this perfect fit, he said, that added even further to the “cool” factor of the song:

“That’s what’s so great about the little inner workings of the tune. That coupled with what he does,” he said, gesturing toward Gary, “and what [keyboardist] Billy [Powell] did, it just worked man, it just did.”

It definitely worked, because “Free Bird” is considered to be one of the best rock songs of all time. You can watch Rickey, Gary, and Sparky’s full interview here, and when you’re done, see Allen work his magic in the live performance of “Free Bird” in the video below.

There’s no doubt about it, Allen was a huge reason why “Free Bird” earned its wings.

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