Who was/is Tommy Collins ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
TOMMY COLLINS OBITUARY
The recent death of Tommy Collins (March 14, 2000) was hardly unexpected because he had been ill with emphysema for a long time, but was sad nonetheless. Not long ago, in September 1999, he was admitted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Along with his contemporary Wynn Stewart, Tommy Collins was one of the first country musicians to establish the Bakersfield Sound. Legions of West Coast country performers built on the sound that Collins established in the early '50s. Although his hits were relatively few in number, his influence loomed large.
Collins (Leonard Raymond Sipes) was born just outside of Oklahoma City, spending his entire childhood in Oklahoma. As a child, he began to sing and write songs, eventually appearing on local radio shows. During his time at the College, he continued to perform and made a handful of singles for the Morgan label. In the early '50s, he was in the army for a brief time, before he moved to Bakersfield, California.
Collins became friends with Ferlin Husky. Husky convinced his record company, Capitol, to offer Tommy a record contract. At the time of signing, in June 1953, he adopted his stage-name of Tommy Collins.
Following one unsuccessful single, Collins' released the jaunty You Better Not Do That, which became a huge hit in early 1954. Since the song was a success, Collins continued to pursue a light-hearted, near-novelty direction. Between the fall of 1954 and the spring of 1955, he had three Top 10 hits -- Whatcha Gonna Do Now, Untied, It Tickles -- and in the fall of 1955 I Guess I'm Crazy and You Oughta See Pickles Now both reached the Top 15. In addition, Faron Young had a huge hit with Tommy's If You Ain't Lovin', which was one of many songs that Collins wrote but didn't record.
Tommy Collins seemed to be on the fast track to major success, but it stopped just as soon as it began. He had a religious conversion in early 1956. For the following six years not much was heard from him in the field of music.
In early 1963, Collins left the church and headed back to Bakersfield. Capitol agreed to re-sign him and in 1964, he returned to the charts with I Can Do That, a duet with his wife Wanda Lucille Shahan. Collins switched labels and signed with Columbia in 1965; the following year, he had a Top 10 hit with I Can't Bite, Don't Growl. For the next few years, he had a string of hit singles.
By the early '70s, 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 a divorce, sending Tommy into a deep depression.
Collins began to recover by continuing to write songs, many of which were recorded by Merle Haggard, including the '70s hits Carolyn and The Roots Of My Raising. 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. Tommy resumed professional songwriting and his most notable success was Mel Tillis' Top 10 1984 hit, New Patches.
Throughout the '80s, Collins kept a low profile, though his songs continued to be recorded. George Strait took his new version of If You Ain't Lovin' to number one on the country charts. Collins continued to write songs throughout the mid-'90s.
In 1992, Bear Family released a highly-praised 5-CD set, LEONARD (BCD 15577 EI), which included his complete Morgan, Capitol and Columbia recordings.
Tommy Collins Black Cat - Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight
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