THE COLLINS KIDS
Lorrie Collins :
Larry and Lorrie Collins, originally from Oklahoma, were a brother-sister rockabilly duo. Although they never had a hit, the siblings were very well known in the second half of the 1950s, thanks to their frequent appearance on television.
The Collins family lived in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lorrie was born in Talequah in 1942, Larry in Tulsa in 1944. They grew up in a little town called Pretty Water. Lawrence Collins Sr. was a dairy farmer for a while, then operated a crane in a steel mill. His wife, Hazel, was an amateur singer and mandolin player. Lorrie's talent was recognized from an early age. Kay Starr and Teresa Brewer were her favourites. In 1950 she won a talent contest hosted by western swing bandleader Leon McAuliffe, who encouraged Lorrie's parents to relocate to California to develop her talents, which they did in 1953. A career for Larry as part of his sister's act wasn't even considered then. He had been given a guitar for Christmas 1952 and practiced endlessly, up to 8 hours a day. Both kids started entering talent contests individually and then teamed up at the suggestion of Lawrence Sr. Larry taught his sister some basic guitar chords.
In February 1954 Larry and Lorrie entered a Town Hall Party contest and were hired to perform on television the following day. Town Hall Party had started as a radio show in Compton, California in 1951, made the move to television in 1953 and later went into syndication in 26 half-hour episodes as Ranch Party. Together and individually the Collins Kids were on every episode. The pair were noted for colourful costumes and more colourful performances. They harmonized while Larry bounced around like a mosquito on speed, playing a double-necked guitar. By 1955 Larry had become a real guitar wizard, trained by Joe Maphis, who had been on Town Hall Party almost from its inception and who played the same double-neck Mosrite.
The Collins Kids were signed by Don Law of Columbia Records in July 1955 and had their first session on October 4. It yielded the single "Hush Money"/"Beetle-Bug Bop". Larry said later that he believed that Columbia was scared of rock n roll. Don Law wouldn't let them do as many rockabilly numbers as they would have liked. There were some good ones sandwiched among the teen and pre-teen novelties, though, like Clyde Stacy's "Hoy Hoy", "Just Because" and "Mercy". Songs like "Hot Rod", "Whistle Bait" and "I'm In My Teens" spoke directly to the teen generation of the fifties. Larry also recorded guitar instrumentals with Joe Maphis, most notably "Hurricane". Until 1959, the sessions were held at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, with musicians from the Town Hall Party crew. Though there were no national hits, the records must have sold well enough, because Don Law renewed their Columbia contracts consistently until 1963.
In late 1957 Lorrie (an attractive brunette) started dating Ricky Nelson and she appeared as Ricky's girlfriend in an episode of "The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet", where Ricky and Lorrie duetted on "Just Because". Though the two had a lot in common and feelings were strong, neither set of parents was particularly encouraging. A surprise ending came when, during a tour of the Collins Kids with Johnny Cash in 1959, Lorrie eloped to Las Vegas to marry Stu Carnall (Johnny Cash's road manager), who was 19 years older than his teenage bride. A shocked Nelson found out about it through a newspaper gossip column. Brother Larry was also devastated. "Everybody thought I knew what was happening, but I didn't know a damn thing about it. She just went out the window. It put a damper on the act".
The Collins Kids split up for five months or so and reunited in Edmonton, Canada, soon followed by a session in Nashville (November 1959). This produced an excellent version of "The Lonesome Road" and Lorrie's first solo single. Now that they were a little older, their song material became more mature. They continued recording together until June 1961. Lorrie had her first child in February that year, and the Collins Kids essentially ground to a halt then, although they continued to make occasional public appearances, for instance on "Shindig!" in September 1965.
Larry Collins cut several solo sessions for Columbia in 1959-62, mainly as a guitarist. Later in the 1960s he recorded for Lawn and Monument before he was signed as a writer to Metric Music (a subsidiary of Liberty Records). As a songwriter Larry has two big hits to his credit, both nominated for a Grammy. "Delta Dawn" was a # 6 country hit for Tanya Tucker (then 13 years old) in 1972 and a # 1 pop hit for Helen Reddy in 1973. "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" topped the country charts in 1981, sung by David Frizzell and Shelly West. Larry's songs have been recorded by Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Sonny James, among many others.
In 1993, Larry and Lorrie reunited for an appearance at the Tenth Hemsby Weekender festival in England, where they were backed by the Dave and Deke Combo. Performing before a rapturous audience of more than 3,000, the Collins Kids proved that they were still dynamic performers. Since then they have appeared at many other festivals, including Viva Las Vegas and Deke Dickerson's Guitar Geek Festival in 2008.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/CollinsKids1.html
Discography / sessionography :
Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, William P. Davis, Craig Morrison.
Dik, May 2014
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