Songwriter Tommy Collins --Haggard's "Leonard" -- Dead at 69
By Edward Morris
Songwriter Tommy Collins -- whose life Merle Haggard
celebrated in his 1981 hit "Leonard" -- died Tuesday (March
14) at his home in Ashland City near Nashville. He was 69 years
old and had long been suffering from emphysema. Last
September, Collins was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall
of Fame.
Born Leonard Raymond Sipes in Bethany, Okla., on Sept. 28, 1930,
Collins moved to California in the early 1950s to pursue a music
career. He soon began performing on the "Town Hall Party"
radio show and in 1953 signed to Capitol Records. His first hit
for the label was "You Better Not Do That," one of his own
compositions. It held the No. 2 spot on the Billboard charts for
seven weeks.
Collins continued to chart singles over the next 14 years, his last
five for Columbia Records. His Top 10 successes were:
"Whatcha Gonna Do Now" (1954), "Untied" (1955), "It Tickles"
(1955) and "If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl" (1966).

One of the first to recognize the talents of Buck Owens, Collins
used Owens as his lead guitarist on several Capitol recording
sessions and for his first appearance at the Ryman Auditorium in
1954, In early 1955, Faron Young's recording of Collins' "If You Ain't
Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')" climbed to No. 2. George Strait cut the
same song in 1988 and boosted it to No. 1.
Unfulfilled by the music business, Collins enrolled at Golden
Gate Baptist Seminary in 1957 to study for the ministry. He
subsequently worked as a Southern Baptist pastor for five years
before returning to music full time.
Merle Haggard recorded his first Tommy Collins song -- "Sam
Hill" -- in 1964 and then moved on to such Collins-penned hits as
"Carolyn" (1971) and "The Roots of My Raising" (1976), both
of which went No. 1. Mel Tillis scored a Top 10 in 1984 with
Collins' "New Patches."
Collins is the second member inducted into the Nashville
Songwriters Hall of Fame last year to die. A. L. "Doodle" Owens
passed away on Oct. 4.
Collins is survived by his wife, Hazel, three daughters and two
sons. Music News

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