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Tommy Collins

Along with his contemporary Wynn Stewart, Tommy Collins was one of the first country musicians to establish a distinctive Bakersfield, CA, sound. During the course of the '50s, he released a series of hit singles that lightened up the tone of honky tonk with bouncing backbeats, novelty lyrics, and electric guitars. Collins explored a more serious side with his ballads, yet they continued to sound slightly different than his peers -- though they weren't as polished as the countrypolitan coming out of Nashville, they didn't have the grit of honky tonk. Legions of West Coast country performers -- most notably Buck Owens, who played guitar on several of Collins' hit singles, and Merle Haggard -- built on the sound that Collins established in the early '50s. Collins wasn't able to cash in on the Bakersfield craze of the '60s. By then, he had already quit the music business once, and was mounting a marginally successful comeback. Nevertheless, his influence loomed large, particularly on Haggard, who took Collins' "Carolyn" and "The Roots of My Raising" to the top of the charts in the early '70s.

Collins (b. Leonard Raymond Sipes) was born just outside of Oklahoma City, spending his entire childhood in Oklahoma, where his father worked for the county. As a child, he began to sing and write songs, eventually appearing on local radio shows. Following his high-school graduation in 1948, he attended Edmond State Teachers College while he continued to perform music. During this time, he made a handful of singles for the California-based record label Morgan. In the early '50s, he was in the Army for a brief time, before he moved to Bakersfield with his friend Wanda Jackson and her family. Shortly afterward, the Jackson family moved back to Oklahoma, leaving Collins alone in Bakersfield.

In a short time, Collins had begun to make friends and contacts within the city, eventually becoming friends with Ferlin Husky, and the pair roomed together. After recording a handful of Collins' songs, Husky convinced his record company, Capitol, to offer Collins a record contract, and the fledging singer/songwriter signed to the label in June of 1953; at the time of signing, he adopted his stage name of Tommy Collins, since it sounded more commercial than Leonard Sipes. Capitol and Collins immediately assembled a backing band, which featured a then-unknown Buck Owens on lead guitar. Following one unsuccessful single, Collins released the jaunty "You Better Not Do That," which became a huge hit in early 1954, spending seven weeks at number two on the country charts. Since the song was a success, Collins continued to pursue a lighthearted, near-novelty direction with his subsequent hits, and the formula initially worked. Between the fall of 1954 and the spring of 1955, he had three Top Ten hits -- "Whatcha Gonna Do Now," "Untied," and "It Tickles" -- and in the fall of 1955, the double A-sided single "I Guess I'm Crazy" and "You Oughta See Pickles Now," which both reached the Top 15. In addition to these hit singles, Faron Young had a huge hit with Collins' "If You Ain't Lovin'," which was one of many songs that Collins wrote but didn't record that became hits.

Collins was on the fast road to major success, but it stopped just as soon as it began. Collins had a religious conversion in early 1956, and much of the material he recorded that year was sacred music; occasionally, he recorded duets with his wife Wanda Lucille Shahan as well. In 1957, Collins enrolled in the Golden Gate Baptist Seminary with the intention of becoming a minister. Two years later, he became a pastor. During all of his religious teachings, Collins continued to record for Capitol, but neither he nor the label was much interested in promoting his records, and he had no hits. When his contract with the label expired in 1960, he stopped recording and enrolled as a student at Sacramento State College. For the next two years, he studied at the university.

In early 1963, Collins decided he was unfulfilled by the ministry, so he left the church and headed back to Bakersfield with the intention of reentering the music business. Capitol agreed to re-sign him, and in 1964 he returned to the lower reaches of the charts with "I Can Do That," a duet with his wife, Wanda.

With the help of Johnny Cash, Collins switched labels and signed with Columbia in 1965; the following year, he had a Top Ten hit with "I Can't Bite, Don't Growl." For the next few years, he had a string of minor hit singles, none of which cracked the country Top 40. During this time, he also toured with his protégés, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, acting as their opening act. By the early '70s, both Collins' professional and personal lives were on the verge of collapse, due to his increasing dependency on drugs and alcohol. In 1971, Wanda filed for divorce, sending Collins into a deep depression.

Collins began to recover by continuing to write songs, many of which were recorded by Merle Haggard, including the 1972 number one hit single "Carolyn." In 1976, Collins moved to Nashville, where he was able to secure a contract with Starday Records. Later that year, he released Tommy Collins Callin', a collection of his own versions of songs he had provided for other artists. Following the album's release, Collins turned almost entirely to professional songwriting. In 1981, Merle Haggard had a hit single with "Leonard," his tribute to Collins. After the release of "Leonard," the spotlight again turned to Collins, who was now sober. Collins signed a songwriting contract with Sawgrass Music, where his most notable success was Mel Tillis' Top Ten 1984 hit, "New Patches."

Throughout the '80s, Collins kept a low profile, though his songs continued to be recorded. George Strait recorded some Collins compositions during the decade, taking a new version of "If You Ain't Lovin'" to number one on the country charts. European record companies like Bear Family began reissuing his recordings, which led to an appearance at the 1988 Wembley Country Music Festival in England. In 1993, Collins signed a new publishing contract with Ricky Skaggs Music and continued to write songs professionally throughout the mid-'90s, dying at his home in Ashland City, TN, on March 14, 2000. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Capitol Collection

1. You Better Not Do That

2. High On A Hilltop

3. What'cha Gonna Do Now

4. I Guess I'm Crazy

5. It Tickles

6. I'll Never, Never Let You Go

7. You Gotta Have A License

8. How Do I Say Goodbye

9. Untied

10. You're For Me

11. You Oughta See Pickles Now

12. Little June

13. Black Cat

14. All Of The Monkeys Ain't In The Zoo

16. Oh, What A Dream

17. Don't Let Me Stand In His Footsteps

18. If I Could Just Go Back

x

Track List: Leonard

Disc 1

1. Campus Boogie

2. Too Beautiful To Cry

3. Smooth Sailin'

4. Fool's Gold

5. You Gotta Have A License

6. Let Me Love You

7. There'll Be No Other

8. I Love You More And More Each Day

9. Boob-I-Lak

10. You Better Not Do That

11. I Always Get A Souvenir

12. High On A Hilltop

13. Untied

14. Whatcha Gonna Do Now

15. Love-A-Me, S'il Vous Plait

16. You're For Me

17. I'll Be Gone

18. Wait A Little Longer

19. Let Down

20. It Tickles

21. It's Nobody's Fault But Yours

22. I Guess I'm Crazy

23. You Oughta See Pickles Now

24. Those Old Love Letters From You

25. I Wish I Had Died In My Cradle

26. I'll Never, Never Let You Go

27. I'll Always Speak Well Of You

Disc 2

1. What Kind Of Sweetheart Are You

2. No Love Have I

3. All Of The Monkey's Ain't In The Zoo

4. That's The Way Love Is

5. Smooth Sailin'

6. How Do I Say Goodbye

7. A Man We All Ought To Know

8. Are You Ready To Go

9. Think It Over Boys

10. I Think Of You Yet

11. Upon This Rock

12. The Feet Of The Traveler

13. Don't You Love Me Anymore

14. Retirement In Heaven

15. All The Monkeys Ain't In The Zoo

16. What Have You Done

17. A Love Is Born

18. I'm Nobody's Fool But Yours

19. O Mary Don't You Weep

20. Did You Let Your Light Shine

21. In The Shadow Of The Cross

22. When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

23. Who At My Door Is Standing

24. My Saviour's Love

25. Where Could I Go But To The Lord

26. What A Friend We Have In Jesus

27. Each Step Of The Way

28. Softly And Tenderly

29. That's Why I Love Him

30. Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross

Disc 3

1. Amazing Grace

2. The Old Rugged Cross

3. Heart's Don't Break

4. You Belong In My Arms

5. A Hundred Years From Now

6. Little June

7. My Last Chance With You

8. Sidewalks Of New York

9. The Last Letter

10. Oklahoma Hills

11. The Great Speckled Bird

12. Broken Engagement

13. Wreck Of The Old 97

14. I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail

15. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You

16. It Makes No Difference Now

17. Let's Live A Little

19. I Overlooked An Orchid

20. I Wonder If You Feel The Way I Do

21. Juicy Fruit

22. Black Cat

23. We Kissed Again With Tears

24. Keep Dreaming

25. Don't Let Me Stand In His Footsteps

26. Summer's Almost Gone

27. Take Me Back To The Good Old Days

28. Oh What A Dream

29. Let Her Go

30. When Did Right Become Wrong

Disc 4

1. If I Could Just Go Back

2. I Got Mine

3. You'd Better Be Nice

4. I Can Do That

5. I Got Mine

6. Shindig In The Barn

8. Goody Goody Gumdrop (Klippa Kloppa)

9. The Clock On The Wall

10. The Bee That Gets The Honey

11. It's A Big Jump

12. It's A Pretty Good Ol' World After All

13. Don't Let Me Stand In His Footsteps

14. All Of The Monkeys Ain't In The Zoo

15. Black Cat

16. Take Me Back To The Good Old Days

17. Oh What A Dream

19. If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl

21. Man Machine

23. Poor, Broke, Mixed Up Mess Of A Heart

24. Be Serious Ann

25. The Fool's Castle

26. A Little Time For A Little Love

27. I'm Not Gettin' Anywhere With You

28. The Two Sides Of Life

29. You're Everything To Me

Disc 5

1. Big Dummy

2. Shindig In The Barn

3. There's No Girl In My Life Anymore

4. Skinny

5. I'm Not Looking For An Angel

6. Don't Wipe The Tears That You Cry

7. Birmingham

8. Put Me In Irons, Lock Me Up (And Throw Away The Key)

9. You Better Not Do That

10. Sam Hill

11. I Got Mine

12. It's Too Much Like Lonesome

13. Whatcha Gonna Do Now

14. No Love Have I

15. Wine Take Me Away

16. High On A Hilltop

17. When Did Right Become Wrong

19. Roll Truck, Roll

20. If That's The Fashion

21. Piedras Negras

22. Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)

23. Branded Man

24. Cincinnati, Ohio

25. Break My Mind

26. I Made A Prison Band

27. The Best Thing I've Done In My Life

28. Woman You Have Been Told

30. He's Gonna Have To Catch Me First

Comments

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❤❤❤❤❤him❤
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janine.roble s
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great artist

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