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"Innerviews With Barrylee Harwood"

"Rossington-Collins, The Allen Collins Band and Beyond"

By: Scott Greene
Gritz Magazine (
Edited by Julia Free

Last month Barry Lee Harwood shared his story from his humble beginnings to the end of the Allen Collins band and this month we pick up where we left off and let you see just how life changed for Barry Lee and where he is at today. We also want to set the stage for an announcement about the new project Barry has coming up.

[SG] What did you do after that band ended?

[BLH] I stayed in Jacksonville and got a day job. We really do reap what we sew and I had sewn seeds of rebellion against God’s love for me. I made bad decisions in my career and personal life and, I made poor business choices, which left me in financial straits when it was all over. I could have approached MCA records with my material and secured a deal; I’m sure of that. I could have started another band, I could have continued on with Music but that wouldn’t have healed my heart, that wouldn’t have fixed the problem. I had to walk away from a childhood “dream come true” and do what I knew in my heart, was my only option. Every time I hung a gold album, every time I signed an autograph, I was more miserable than the day before. Sometimes I’d cry while I was on stage ‘cause I was livin’ a double life and I knew it. Even if RCB had been preachin’ the gospel, it still was not the dream that God put in my own heart. Everybody has a place to shine; this wasn’t mine. I didn’t belong there. Sad commentary on my ability to choose and commit; but that’s what I’m in the process of correcting still. I had to just lay my music down and find my way back to where God wanted me to be. I did play a little with Randall Hall and Derek Hess and some of the other guys in town but I felt like my music had become my God, guitars were wooden idols and I used them to get glory for myself and I knew that was wrong so I had to find the peace in my heart that was missing.

[SG] That’s a powerful thing - to have to handle God's call and give up all you know how to do in order to answer it.

[BLH] Yes, it is, but I’ve spent most of my life out of God's will. All through my playing days I felt God's tug on my heart and never answered it with a firm commitment and as I look back, I see the misery it caused, for me and everyone connected to me.

[SG] Can you tell me where this all led?

[BLH] Well, Scott I have a lot more to share and I want folks to know where I am now and what I have going on. The years that make up the interim period that everyone wonders about are pretty “dark” and I’d just as soon “forget those things that are behind”… but if it helps people understand, and if it opens a door to Heaven in anyone’s life, then it's all part of God’s plan for my life, so, I’ll pull back the curtain. At every concert, Jesus was the “best kept secret” in my heart. wildbearsm.jpg - 18129 BytesGod gave me an audience of millions of people, but they never heard me say a word about the Gospel. After RCB & ACB, I remember telling the Lord that I was sorry for blowing the opportunity and that if He ever gave me the stage again (like Samson between the columns) this time, I’d tell the story of Jesus, I’d preach the gospel. I have the blueprint to a vision that no one else can build and, “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” My dreams are bigger than my trials and situations.

[SG] That had to weigh heavy on your mind and add that to the fact that of the musical life you had been living was changing I bet you were mixed up.

[BLH] Mixed up is an under statement, I was so distracted, running from what I knew was right. I had given in to ways of “numbing myself out” as I tried to move forward and that’s what caused all the trouble. My life became a battle ground, between churches and living by faith, and compromising my integrity through bouts with drugs and alcohol. I was able to play some and maintain my writing / playing skills but mostly I was searching for a way to get back to where I knew God wanted me and where he was calling me to be. It’s one thing to not “see” your purpose; it’s quite another to see it, and not do it. Dave Hlubeck and I formed the Hlubeck/Harwood Band around 1988. I did quite a bit of session work, I had a bit part in a movie with Rob Lowe I co-wrote and produced the theme song for the “Rainbow Drought Relief” effort for the farmers in the Heartland.timepcsm.jpg - 30431 Bytes Tim Lindsey and I co-founded the bands “TimePiece” and “The Little Maggie Band.” I also played benefits and club gigs w/local artists in and around Jacksonville. The songs I wrote during that time were like a diary; it boils down to "the process" I was going through to build my testimony; the drama that takes place; the learning curve that puts the "test" in testimony. Pursuing a dream requires character, not only to make it happen, but to keep it. Like Moses, next in line to the throne of Egypt one day, herding sheep the next, but God didn’t take his talent and ability away … He used it to free His chosen people but because Moses had “been there, done that,” he was the man for the job. God didn’t want me to give my talent up, He wanted me to give it to Him. I also worked as a session guitarist on the Mercury album release "Contraband" by "Alias". But still, I didn’t wanna’ “leave the party” so I was taking two steps closer to God and then one-step back into the world. Ya’ can’t move forward with one foot in the grave, and, the Most High God will not party down with ya’. It was strange, I went from playing to huge stadium's full of people to working in a warehouse and only playing here and there but it was all in God's plan and timing for me to find my way back to him and his purpose for my life. A lot of my pain came from the “man in the mirror” because I felt guilty and ashamed for living a lie and I couldn’t forgive myself …and I wouldn’t change.

[SG] Did I not hear at one point that you were offered the 3 guitar spot in on the Tribute tour in 1987?

[BLH] Yes and as hard as it was I knew that if I took it I would be right back where I was trying so hard to get away from. I had so many people mad at me for turning them down; even close friends who couldn’t understand “what I was lookin’ at.” I mean, who in their right mind would say “no” to Lynyrd? But in my heart I knew it was the right thing for me and that God would honor my decision.

[SG] Tell me about your mind set and mood at this time.

[BLH] Scott, I was angry and bitter / happy and enthused but there was no guarantee which emotion would be in control on any given day! Drugs and alcohol caused me to miss opportunities. I went through the obligatory car crashes, hospitals, and jail; suicide attempts and of course, divorces. Does this happen to everyone who answers God’s call? NO. Only to those who, like myself, who give in, give up and quit. I’m pretty stubborn and it's taken so long to come home because … I’ve taken my time trying to justify my actions and ways.. But, know this, God WILL bring His plan to pass; you can do it the easy way, or you can do it the hard way but either way, you will honor your commitment. A lot of the substance abuse started in RCB, continued through ACB and when it was all over I was left alone with some addiction demons to deal with. I had been running from God for so long through drugs and alcohol that my memory of ACB is very vague. One thing I want to make clear Scott, as I said last month, I accepted Jesus in 1971. I was “churched” from childhood. I was a child of God through it all so this is not a new thing in my life. Now my service and willingness to be used by God is a new thing but God has always been in my heart and I have always been his child.

[SG] How did you get from this point to where you at least had an idea where God wanted you?

[BLH] I had the vision. I had the blueprint. I was clear on what needed to be done, so that part was easy. How did I learn to play guitar? I got off by myself and practiced, over and over. I knew how to play; I didn’t know how to pray. I needed to learn, so I just dropped out of sight because anytime I had a guitar in my hand it became my God and I lost all the ground I had gained. I was reaping the negative rewards from my actions. We all plant seeds, good and bad and when they grow we gotta’ deal with the harvest of both and that’s where I was at this time, dealing with seeds I had sown.

[SG] How did you move forward from there?

[BLH] I had took my acoustic guitar and played churches and rehab centers, youth groups etc; sharing my testimony and experience, what God had done for me. I exposed my life; where I came from, where I was and where I was going and the most amazing thing happened. People got saved and started giving their lives over to God and I knew right there that God's plan for me was to take my gift and share it with the masses and help them see God through me. I started going to New Life Christian fellowship in Jacksonville and was ask to play in their worship band. It was there that I first saw the total power of music in its relationship to God and his moving in his people.

[SG] How did you come to be in that church?

[BLH] Well Jack Grondin (original drummer for 38 special) was a close friend and he was a part of that family of believers. Jack came from the same “school” and his own commitment to Jesus was a challenge to me. He and his wife Beverly were like a compass in my life and helped me see just what I needed to do to stay in Gods will. Jack had been just like me only when he felt the call on his life he turned and walk right to it and never looked back. I see now where he is a shining star and witness in my life to what God wants and where God wants me to be.

[SG] So you were doing that ministry and seeking where God would have you be full time and then what happened?

[BLH] I went home to Lenior, N.C. to be close to family and while there I felt like God wanted me to be in Nashville. I was talking to some friend's in Nashville and they said that Ed King had asked about me in relation to a project that he wanted to get going. They gave me Ed's number and I jumped on a bus and rode over and hung out with Ed for a few days. He gave me some music and I took it back to NC with me and wrote the lyrics and headed back to Nashville. Ed had some health issues and the project never happened but God used it as a stepping-stone, a “carrot” dangling in front of me to lead me to Nashville, which is where the big picture would begin to unfold.

[SG] So what about now, what are you doing and what do you have coming up?

blstudiosm.jpg - 20142 Bytesblstudiosndsm.jpg - 17937 Bytes[BLH] I am in the studio both in my home and in Nashville with my new band. Billy Prince, a lifelong best bud and brother in the Lord is engineering the project. Remember in the 1st innerview I was in a Christian rock n’ roll band in Jacksonville … 1972? Well, God wants to “finish” what we started then! The music is everything that RCB / Skynyrd fans will love because the “taproot” is still there so the branches are gonna’ be from the same tree. But also, I believe this is where RCB was headed; if we could’ve just made the turn. I mean, Skynyrd’s “Street Survivor” album showed a more vulnerable side, a more controlled and disciplined side of themselves. RCB took it a step further. “Prime Time” was good ol’ southern rock; but then ya’ had “Tashauna” a very tender picture; “One Good Man” was straight outta’ the Bible. I’m 20 years older, but so are the RCB fans and I believe we’ve all dealt with our demons and done some growin’ up and THAT is why I’m sure this new music will not only bring you to your feet but, it’ll bring you to your knees. You know, I listen to the old stuff and as good as it is, I know I’m a better player, singer, writer, producer and performer so I can’t wait for everyone to get a taste. A release date is not set Scott but you’ll be the first to know! This ain’t “Barry Lee got religion,” this is “Barry Lee following a vision!”

The name of the new band is “Chariot” and it’s a full on ministry. This project is a combination of all phases of my musical life. It will have something for every heart; from pure Southern Rock to songs of worship that would be at home in any church. blbrampsm.jpg - 23497 Bytes My goal and prayer is to bring this band out soon and allow people to see what God is doing; to make dreams come true for a world of people. Hopefully, Chariot will be at the Final Tribute event in Jacksonville this coming October but the arrangements for that are not yet final so we’ll see. In the mean time I hope people will read my story and see the power of God in their own lives and continue to seek the dream He’s put in their heart. We’ve lost too many good hearts over the last 20+ years .. It’s time to take a closer look at “us” who remain.

Scott, there’s so much more to be said and I don’t want this to be the end of the story. I appreciate the “inner-view” of a blessed lifetime and … I ain’t scared no more!

[SG] I’d like to check in from time to time and I’ll keep you and your readers posted about the future of Chariot

I want to thank Barry Lee for his time and willingness to share both the good and bad times he has had with us. I join so many others in prayer for this new endeavor and we will be there in October to share the story with the world should God allow you that stage to bring it to life.

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