Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I read your column here in Lakeland and have learned many things about music, thanks to you. Now I would like some information on Tommy Collins, an artist from your part of the country.

Collins was a songwriter and country artist on the west coast in the 1950s and '60s. He was based in Bakersfield, California.

He wrote and recorded many songs, including “You Gotta Have a License; High on a Hilltop, It Tickles, You Better Not Do That,” and many others. His sister performed with him for some years.

I am aware that Buck Owens played lead guitar in his band, and his guitar styling is featured on many of Collins' records. Tommy also helped Merle Haggard get started in the music business.

However, the bottle was Tommy's downfall. He tried to overcome its influence and went into the ministry for awhile.

That's all I can remember, I hope it's accurate enough for you to get a lead on him.

Now I can't find any records or CDs by Tommy Collins. At least no one advertises them. I would like to have at least a greatest hits-type CD collection, if one is available.

Has anyone issued any of Tommy's music, or is he lost forever?
—Floyd Davis, Lakeland, Fla. (

DEAR FLOYD: I really can't add too much to the Tommy Collins story, beyond what you have provided, except that you do not seem to be aware that Tommy died March 14th of last year.

From 1957 through '66, Collins averaged about one LP per year, but the ultimate collection of his works is on compact disc — just what you wished for.

Far better than a “hits” collection, look for a German import titled “Leonard” (Tommy's real name was Leonard Sipes), an elegant, five-CD boxed set from Bear Family (BCD 15577). Among the 147 tracks are all of Tommy's Capitol and Columbia recordings, plus a few bonus selections.

DEAR JERRY: Your mention in a recent column of Annette Funicello prompts me to ask about a Mickey Mouse Club item that I got in the '50s, and still have.

It is a little booklet titled “Mickey Mouse Club Magic Manual,” which contains “dozens of tricks you can do with everyday objects like handkerchiefs, spoons, toothpicks, coins, pencils.”

What might something like this be worth?
—Millie Bryant, Cleveland, Tenn.

DEAR MILLIE: As you no doubt know, this is an advertising premium made for the Mars Candy Company. Though the book is quite rare, the demand for it has yet to push its price to triple digits. In like new condition, I would estimate the value to be $50 to $75.

One of Mars' favorite magic tricks was teaching you how to make a Snickers bar disappear. The solution: Eat it!

DEAR JERRY: I was in the military in southern California in the late '50s. At that time, the station of choice for many of my friends was XEAK in Los Angeles, which had their transmitters in Mexico (thus the “X” call letters).

There was a song that they played frequently that I liked but haven't heard since. The only lyrics that I can remember are: “Dig my grave with a silver spade … send my remains to my best friend and let me rest in my hole in the ground.”

These words may or may not be close, but look at the time that has elapsed!
—Franklin Futrell (

DEAR FRANKLIN: I see that time has not diminished your recollection of these lyrics.

Your mystery song is “I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself,” a mid-1959 hit for Buddy Knox (Roulette 4140).

You will be pleased to know this track is available on the compact disc, “The Best of Buddy Knox” (Rhino R2-70964).

IZ ZAT SO? Merle Haggard's 1981, Top 10 hit, “Leonard,” is the fellow-Bakersfieldian's tribute to Tommy Collins.

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