The Gibson Firebird was Allen Collins guitar of choice from the late 1960s until he switched to a Gibson Explorer purchased from Eric Clapton in 1976. Collins used four different 1964 Firebirds over this period - his first Firebird I the most extensively modified and two Firebird III’s acquired circa 1974/1975. At the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Boston show on 7th April, 1976, Collins destroyed the third Firebird, throwing the pieces into the audience. The day before the next show in New York on 10th April, roadie Joe Barnes located another Firebird I, Collins fourth Firebird, and spent the day setting it up like the others, installing a dog-eared P90 pick up at the bridge, moving the stock mini humbucker at the neck and swapping out the stock combination tailpiece for a vibrato. As the standard Firebird I was a single pickup model, Barnes told us I had to route the cavity for the neck pickup. The wiring channels for the switch and the second pick up were routed at the factory and concealed under the pickguard.
We can surmise that the fourth Firebird was used on stage from 10th April onwards. Photographs exist of Collins using the fourth Firebird as his stage guitar for a show in Florida in late July, and during the recording of Skynyrd’s live album One More for the Road at the Fox Theatre, Atlanta on 7-9th July 1976. This guitar closely matches the wood grain of Collins’ fourth Firebird, with its distinctive double stripe down the centre of the body. There are signs that this guitar was modified twice, with existing screw holes closely matching the location of the pickups and tailpiece seen on the fourth Firebird following Barnes’ original modification. The addition of a third strap button at the base of the neck matches another Collins modification that we see on at least two of his other Firebird’s, likely to counter a balance problem.
At some point after the mixing sessions for the live album on 9th August, the fourth Firebird was retired as Collins’ main stage guitar. By the next time there is any photographic record of the band, at their legendary performance at Knebworth on 21st August, Collins is playing the Gibson Explorer, which became his primary stage guitar from then on, the Firebird relegated to a spare. It is not clear when the fourth Firebird could have been re-modified with the DiMarzio pickups and Vibrola tailpiece. Barnes left the band in November 1976 and roadie Craig Reed has no recollection of this modification. Reed recalls, however, that Skynyrd signed an endorsement deal with DiMarzio at this time, so it is possible the guitar was set up for Collins to test the DiMarzio pickups in early 1977.
Having supported Lynyrd Skynyrd on a number of US tours in the mid 1970s with Climax Blues Band, Birmingham local Pete Haycock joined Skynyrd on stage for a couple of songs when they played the Birmingham Odeon on Wednesday 2nd February, 1977, as part of the UK leg of their Street Survivors tour. In Rock Fever, a memoir of 70s rock in Birmingham, Pete Turvey confirms They did a 14-minute version of Freebird and just in case someone in the crowd had though they were a bit light on guitarists... a guest guitarist called Pete came on from the aptly named Climax Blues Band. In existing footage of a gig in Habach, Germany in April, 2009, Pete Haycock explains to the audience that ...Allen Collins... by that time he was playing a Gibson Explorer... This was his spare then, so I played this with them in Birmingham and after the show he said "Peter, take it home with you."
Christie’s would like to thank Joe Barnes and Sean McMahon for their assistance in researching this lot.