Over the weekend, my kids and I ventured into a local deli. The piped-in music at this place is usually pretty lame with mostly pop hits from the late '80s to the early '00s. So when I heard the chorus of "Don't Misunderstand Me," by the Rossington-Collins Band, I must have gasped out loud because the kids all turned to look at me like I was about to hit the floor.
"It must be the song," my older son said, smirking. "Mom always acts like this when she hears some old rock song that nobody else knows."
It's true that Rossington-Collins is fairly obscure to the general rock radio public these days, mostly because the majority of terrestrial classic rock stations are likely staffed by no one over the age of 30.
But a lot of, shall we say, "seasoned" Southern rockers well remember the day in October 1977 when Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down, killing band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Steve's sister Cassie Gaines, who was a backup singer. Surviving members, including Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, were badly injured.
Two years later, Rossington and Collins formed their own band. Their debut album in 1980, "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere," included the radio hit, "Don't Misunderstand Me." Its driving beat and catchy refrain sung by a woman with a powerful voice garnered it plenty of airplay at the time. Their lead vocalist was Dale Krantz who'd been a backup singer for .38 Special.
The success of RCB was short-lived, however, and they've largely faded into obscurity. Collins suffered a series of setbacks including the death of a spouse, alcohol addiction, and paralysis following a car accident that left him unable to play guitar. He died in 1990. Rossington married Krantz and they continued to perform together as the Rossington Band in the mid to late '80s. They have two daughters.
Gary Rossington still performs with a re-formed Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup from time to time. He is the last surviving member of the original band still playing under the name.
RCB never wanted fans to confuse them with Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they did make a point to perform an instrumental "Free Bird" at the end of every show in tribute to their lost bandmates. Across the decades, Van Zant and Co. have taken on almost mythical proportions and Lynyrd Skynyrd remains today one of the best loved rock bands of the 1970s. As for RCB? You'll find their material languishing in the has-been bin.
The writer Virginia Woolf said it plainly: "While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist."