Songwriter Tommy Collins (1930-2000) was one of the early members of the explosive West Coast country scene that came to be known as "The Bakersfield Sound," writing songs for and playing in bands with buddies like Buck Owens and their pals. Collins had significant success early on as a hillbilly star himself, but he was soon eclipsed by others and fell from the charts as Buck and the Beatles dominated in the early '60s. Although he faltered as a solo artist, Collins blossomed as a composer, providing numerous hit songs, notably the jaunty "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')" (which was a big hit for both Faron Young in 1954 and for George Strait three decades later. Tommy Collins had an on again/off again, love-hate relationship with show business: for a while he dropped out of the country scene and tried his hand at religious ministry, but it was as a novelty-oriented songwriter that he made his mark. Here's a quick look at his work...

Discography - Best-Ofs

Tommy Collins "Leonard" (Bear Family, 1992)
A fab five-CD set exploring the work of Bakersfield Scene songwriter Tommy Collins, a favorite of Buck Owens and others... This is probably more than enough for most casual fans, but it has the advantage of digging deeper into the Collins catalog and getting past the first, most obvious layer of his work, past the novelty material and into some of the more earnest heartsongs and ballads -- as well as his religious material from the 1958 Light Of The Lord album and elsewhere. This is really the Tommy Collins motherlode!

Tommy Collins "The Capitol Collection" (Koch, 2005)
For a more compact, and utterly satisfying, selection of Collins' best recordings for Capitol, this is a real slam-bang set. Well chosen, well-programmed music, with one great song after another. Highly recommended, especially if you're interested in hearing what he had to offer beyond the kooky novelty songs.

Tommy Collins "The Best Of Tommy Collins" (Curb, 2005)

Tommy Collins "Singer, Songwriter, Comedian: 1930-2000" (Gusto, 2004)
A posthumous reissue of Collins' 1971 album on Starday Records, Tommy Collins Callin', (listed below).

Tommy Collins "Think It Over Boys" (BACM, 2005)
Rarities and early works, taken from a variety of sources... Also definitely worth checking out.

Tommy Collins "Black Cat (Shake This Shack Tonight)" (Bear Family, 2011)
A sizzling set of real '50s hillbilly pop from songwriters Tommy Collins, one of the early stars of the rollicking, rowdy Bakersfield scene -- one of Buck Owens' pals, Collins was a popular composer, but he hit a wall as far as his own career as a performer, in part because his born-again religious beliefs made him reject secular music, right when his star was rising on the country scene. This generously programmed collection focusses on his rougher, more rockabilly/hillbilly boogie flavored material, and it's great stuff. A real gas!

Discography - Albums

Tommy Collins "Words And Music Country Style" (Capitol, 1957)

Tommy Collins "Light Of The Lord" (Capitol, 1958) (LP)

Tommy Collins "This Is Tommy Collins" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)

Tommy Collins "Songs I Love To Sing" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)

Tommy Collins "Let's Live A Little" (Tower, 1966) (LP)

Tommy Collins "The Dynamic Tommy Collins" (Columbia, 1966) (LP)

Tommy Collins "Shindig In The Barn" (Tower, 1968) (LP)

Tommy Collins "Tommy Collins On Tour: His Most Requested Songs" (Columbia, 1968) (LP)

Tommy Collins "Tommy Collins Callin' " (Starday, 1971)
A late-vintage album, posthumously reissued on CD as Singer, Songwriter, Comedian in 2004. This disc featured new versions of several songs that Collins had written for other artists, given Collins' own twangy spin. There's also a feeling of desperation and anxiety that runs under the surface; as he was recording this set, Collins' personal life was bottoming out with substance abuse and depression... But still, it's worth checking out!

Tommy Collins "New Patches" (Password, 1986)
(Produced by Ronnie Light)


Buck Owens "...Sings Tommy Collins" (Capitol, 1963)
In the first flush of national fame, Bakersfield demigod Buck Owens paid homage to his buddy Tommy Collins... It's vintage Buckaliciousness, though perhaps not as twangy or distinctive as the self-penned material OWens was recording at the same time...


Hick Music Index

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