11 Songs, 30 Minutes

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About Bill Collins

Busy Bill Collins started out on drums as a child and went through almost every instrument in the rhythm section before realizing what he really wanted to do was stand up front and sing. As a vocalist, he was behind a series of solo releases on the Chestnut and Zah Zah labels and was also part of the duo act Collins & Collins with his sister, a vocalist who goes by the stage name of Tonee. Many people hear Collins' voice in the course of daily business, however, without even knowing it. Someone listening to the voice on a corporation's recorded answering machine "program" in 2002 might very well hear Collins reciting the options. It was their father, Mickey Collins, who can be credited with inspiring the brother and sister with music, though he undoubtedly couldn't predict all the possible resulting career opportunities.

As a young whippersnapper, Bill Collins was often featured whipping and snapping the beat in his dad's group, the Mickey Collins Orchestra. Maybe picking up the electric guitar was a form of teen rebellion; at any rate, it landed Bill Collins gigs with several Philly R&B groups. Collins developed an interest in bass during this period, so he decided to create his own combo and fill the role of the bassist himself. This way, there would be no bandleader to shout, "Hey, you! Get back on guitar! Or better yet, drums." The same rules applied to his efforts as a vocalist. Somebody must have liked what he was doing, more precisely, someone with fake bunny ears attached to their heads. The multi-instrumentalist and bandleader signed a deal with Playboy during the '70s when the corporation had a string of busy clubs spread around the country. The new Collins band played every single one of these "bunny" clubs. Tonee, reportedly not wearing bunny ears, lured her brother away from this scenario for the Collins & Collins project, attracting the attention of A&M. One self-titled album came out, which would later attract the attention of reissue labels such as the Japanese P-Vine. Around 1982, Collins joined the Lester Lannin Orchestra based out of New York City and started touring on an international basis. Collins was the show's featured vocalist.

The ensuing decade was reportedly quite delightful, Collins chumming up to Monte Carlo royalty and playing private gigs for the jet set in their palaces, or measly villas on a slow day. This lifestyle, combined with the era of servitude to Hugh Hefner, put him in the mindset to begin writing songs, although only a seer would be able to determine the proportions of guilt and pleasure. By the late '90s, full albums of his original tunes began to appear, meticulously produced. He has also done session work from time to time for other artists, including both background vocals and drums. In 2002 he began playing in the 16-piece Joe Sudler Swing Machine, a Philadelphia jazz big band. Collins also continues to lead his own band, featuring a repertoire of his original material. His baritone voice, once a background sound for swingers, is now for hire on television and radio ads and even voice mail and business telephone directories. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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