Very sorry to learn of the death on Christmas Eve of Ray Collins, one of the original Mothers of Invention, at the age of 76. Collins was born in November 1936 (some reports say 1937), grew up outside Los Angeles and had been a singer in various R&B bands around LA, including Julian Herrera and The Tigers, before befriending Frank Zappa, who joined Ray's group The Soul Giants (Ray, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black and Davis Coronado), which changed its name to Captain Glasspack & His Magic Mufflers before shifting personnel and leadership and transmuting into the Mothers.
Ray was recorded by Zappa singing ‘Louie Louie' at the opening night party when Frank bought his Cucamonga Studio back in 1964; he and Frank co-wrote the Penguins' single ‘Memories of El Monte'; and Ray was the Baby Ray of Baby Ray & The Ferns who made ‘How's Your Bird?' c/w ‘The World's Greatest Sinner' ahead of his settling into Motherhood.
Ray was there on Freak Out!, Absolutely Free and Cruising With Ruben & the Jets, and his live performance highlights included, arm in arm with Roy Estrada, a memorable send-up of the Supremes' ‘Baby Love' at the wonderful Royal Albert Hall concert of September 1967. He remained one of the Mothers until almost the end of the fourth line-up, though he was absent on 1967's We're Only In It For The Money and disappeared after the Uncle Meat album of 1968. It was rumoured that he had quit at least four times in this period; he quit formally in January 1969, though he re-surfaced as a guest artist on Apostrophe (') in 1974. I asked Zappa what Ray had done in the interim, and he told me: “He went back to being a carpenter, which is what he'd been before he was a full pro musician in the first place."
Collins left with nothing, and never performed again after the mid-1970s. He washed dishes to help support his daughter while she was a community college student in Maui, Hawaii, where he slept on the beach. (For much more on his later life see David Allen's article in The Daily Bulletin (from which this photo is taken).
|© Patrick Brayer|