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Phil Collins talks about his book on Alamo at McMurry

Phil Collins discusses his book, "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey," at McMurry University Phil Collins discusses his book, "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey," at McMurry University Eric J. Shelton
"Drums and the Alamo for me have been there all my life," musician-turned-historian Phil Collins mused in front of an elite crowd gathered to hear the author of "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey" speak at McMurry University on Friday evening.

"They both came (on) at the same time, and I was infatuated with both," Collins recalled of his love affair with the symbol of Texas independence, birthed through an admiration of Fess Parker's famous portrayal of Davy Crockett in various Walt Disney productions, and the instruments that would launch his musical career.

Collins was "gripped straight away" by Parker's portrayal of the frontiersman, soldier and politician — not to mention, most important to Collins' later life, hero of the Alamo.

"By the next week, I had an outfit," he said, recalling watching Parker, whose Crockett was famous for his coonskin cap, as a young man.

The final, fatal conclusion of Crockett's life had a deep affect on Collins that reverberates still.

"The shape of the Alamo, and what was going on there, just really flipped a huge button for me," he told a group of donors gathered in McMurry's Rollins Library who paid about $400 to attend the question-and-answer session and book signing in support of history scholarships.

Collins' obsession with Alamo artifacts would form the basis for his book, and while he insisted Friday he was "not an educated man" compared with the professors and scholars who provided contextual essays for the text, Collins' genuine love of Texas' history and heritage was readily apparent.

"It's something that has been in my life, all my life, to the point where now I can't really play the drums anymore, I can't really play the piano anymore, so it's become more important in my life," said Collins, whose career took a turn as a result of spinal injuries caused by years of playing.

But it's obvious that for Collins, who currently lives in Switzerland, the book that resulted from his lifelong love of the Alamo and Texas history was a fresh chapter in his life.

"I have a book out, and I can't believe that," he said of the volume, a look of wonder and pride crossing his face.

It was with some initial caution that Collins began his collection, he noted, recalling his mother's admonitions to always save for a rainy day.

"Eventually, I just said 'To hell with the rainy day,' " he joked.

His first piece was a gift from his third wife, a saddle receipt from John W. Smith, San Antonio's first mayor.

"The things that I bought, I loved," he said. "Some of them are (historically) significant, some of them are insignificant."

Each item forms an important part of a collection that Collins wants to see kept together.

"What I don't want to happen is for it to be split up," he said. "I'd like for it to stay as my collection, and not be thrown away in boxes with a few choice items up on display. So I've started to look into that."

Collins will receive an honorary doctorate at McMurry's commencement ceremonies today (May 12).

© reporternews, by Brian Bethel
Last modified onSaturday, 12 May 2012 18:58

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