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      Country / Dance / Rock
      BRIAN COLLINS HIS HEART'S IN THE LONE STAR STATE by Leon Beck When Texas singer/songwriter Brian Collins hit Nashville in ’68, he landed a six-month gig as a member of the three-piece house band at The Wheel, which was located in the Music Row area next door to Linebaugh’s Cafeteria and ac... read more
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      by Leon Beck
      When Texas singer/songwriter Brian Collins hit Nashville in ’68, he landed a six-month gig as a member of the three-piece house band at The Wheel, which was located in the Music Row area next door to Linebaugh’s Cafeteria and across the street from the famed Tootsie’s.
      David Allan Coe was a member of that band and he offered the young Texan some advice -- not about music – but just about survival in Music City. And Brian, who went on to record the No. 1 hit record, “Statue of A Fool,” a few years later, and penned the Urban Cowboy classic, “Hello Texas,” recorded by Jimmy Buffett, was eager to listen to whatever advice was offered.
      After all, he was only 18, and had just arrived in Nashville with “50 bucks and a Texaco card.” When he was on the road to Nashville from his home in Texas City, Texas, he stopped in Texarkana, Texas, to call his mother. She told him straight-out, “No, son. You turn around and come home.” But Brian didn’t listen to his mother. “I said, ‘Mom, I can’t. If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I’ll be OK.’”
      He continued his journey to the Country Music Mecca. “And Buddy, I’ve never looked back.”
      Brian really didn’t know anyone in Nashville, but was lucky enough to land a gig right away at The Wheel.
      So, when David Allan Coe talked, Brian listened.
      “We’d go over to Linebaugh’s and get a cup of soup for 35 cents,” Brian recalls of those early lean days in Nashville. “David Allan Coe told me one time, ‘Man, eat a lot of crackers. When you eat that soup, the crackers fill your tummy up.’”
      And Brian was determined to tough it out in Nashville until he got a break. After all, one of country music’s emerging queens, Dolly Parton, encouraged the young Texan to try his luck in Nashville. “I knew that I could knock around in Texas and something might happen – or something might not.”
      A defining moment in his career came in ’67 when he attended a Porter Wagoner/Dolly Parton concert at the Moody Civic Center in Galveston, Texas, just down the highway from his home in Texas City.
      Brian “sneaked backstage” to Dolly’s dressing room, and he told the blonde honky-tonk angel that he wanted to go to Nashville. “Well, play me some music,” she told Brian.
      “So, I grabbed her acoustic guitar and played her a couple of tunes. She said, ‘Son, you do need to come to Nashville,’ and she gave me her phone number and address and said, ‘When you get to Nashville, you call me.’ And that really inspired me to make the move.”
      When Brian did make that move to Nashville, he called Dolly, but she was on tour with Porter in Canada. He never did get a chance to see her again until a few years later when he had a couple of hit records under his belt. This time Brian was a guest star on the Porter Wagoner TV show – and Dolly made the introduction.
      “I carried the note she gave me with her name and address and, when she introduced me, I gave it back to her and said, ‘Thanks for the inspiration.’ It blew her away. She’s a sweetheart; she’s the real deal.”
      Thanks to the efforts of a friend from Houston, music producer Billy Carr, Brian landed a recording contract with one of Nashville’s top independent labels, Mega Records, which had just released Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”
      On Mega Records, Brian scored with several chart records, including “There’s A Kind Of Hush” and “Time To Spread My Wings.” In ’71, Brian was offered a recording contract with Dot Records but he was still under contract with Mega Records. When Brian asked the Mega Records president Brad McKuen to release him from his contract, the label head supported Brian’s move. “He said, ‘Sure, son. I want the best for you.’ This was the most precious man in the world,” Brian states. “He knew I had an opportunity.”
      The move to Dot Records, which later merged with ABC Records and was known as ABC-Dot, and later just as ABC Records, was a major career move for Brian. His first single released by Dot Records, “I Wish You Had Stayed,” became a Top 20 record and his third release, “Statue Of A Fool,” hit No. 1.
      Brian credits fellow Texas country singer Johnny Lee of “Looking For Love” fame for inspiring him to learn “Statue Of A Fool,” that had formerly been a major country hit for Jack Greene. At that time in the early ‘70s, Johnny was working as a member of Gilley’s house band, the Bayou City Beats.
      “Johnny Lee taught me that song,” Brian says. “I was gigging around and I played Gilley’s one time and we were just sitting around and playing songs. Johnny said, ‘Man, the way you sing, here’s a song you really need to sing.’ And he played ‘Statue of A Fool’ for me. Of course I was familiar with the Jack Greene cut, but when Johnny did it, it just kind of hit a nerve. I said, ‘Cool, man. Play it again.’ He played it again. ‘Here’s the chord progression. Here’s how it goes.’ Thanks to Johnny Lee, I had a No.1 record.”
      But Brian really didn’t plan on recording the song until his producer, Jim Foglesong, heard his version. “We had a get-together at Jim Foglesong’s house and some of the artists were around and they had a guitar pull. They passed the guitar around and I said, ‘Jim, here’s one that I’d really like to sing.’ And I did ‘Statue Of A Fool.’ He said, ‘We’re putting that on your album.’ The next week we went into the studio and cut it.
      “Jim Foglesong (who signed the likes of Garth Brooks, Barbara Mandrell, Don Williams, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Ronnie Milsap to recording contracts) is one of the greatest record men that the industry has ever known. This man had a musical ear that was just incredible – and still does. My hat’s off to Jim Foglesong for hearing what I did with that song vocally and for putting one of the greatest arrangements around on it. All the success of the record is due to him.”
      And the message in the song struck a nerve with country radio and country music fans. “Here’s a guy who really messed up. ‘Somewhere there should be, for all the world to see, a statue of a fool.’ He was a fool. ‘An image of a man, who let love slip through his hands.’ We’ve all been there.”
      Other hits that Brian had during this time included “That’s The Way Love Should Be,” that was later covered by Dave & Sugar, “Sweet Memories,” “I’d Still Be In Love With You” and “Queen Of Temptation.” One of the biggest songs he ever recorded was a song that he penned with his bass player, Robby Campbell, which was never a hit for him. Jimmy Buffett cut the song, “Hello Texas,” that was immortalized in the John Travolta film, Urban Cowboy, which depicted life at Gilley’s, the legendary honky-tonk on Spencer Highway in Pasadena, Texas. And his old friend, Johnny Lee, scored his career record, “Looking for Love,” in the film.
      “I worked a club up in Chicago in ’79 and I had a gig two days later at Dance Town in Houston. I just drove straight through to Houston and I was so wired up from the drive and 18 cups of coffee that I couldn’t sleep. I grabbed my acoustic guitar at the Motel 8 on I-45 and started singing a song that I had on a little Houston independent label called ‘Hello Mama.’”
      Brian switched Mama for Texas and wrote a new song. “I was in Texas and just happy to have made it,” Brian says, “so I just wrote ‘Hello Texas.’ ‘Well, we just pulled out of Chicago, we partied old Chi-town down, we’re rollin’ down this interstate and Lord knows we’re Texas bound. I said ‘Hello Texas. It’s good to see you again.’”
      “What’s so cool about Texas,” Brian notes, “is that Texas audiences love anything you do. I don’t care if you want to do a Willie Nelson song or if you want to do a Lynyrd Skynyrd song -- Texas audiences just love music. There are a lot of great venues in the nation and I thank God for all of ‘em where you get to go and play your music, but Texas has always had this different feel and it’s home. I was 60 miles from my mother down in Texas City, so it was like coming home, and knowing that the next night you’re going to work at Dance Town where they didn’t care whether you did rock ‘n’ roll, country or whatever, they were just happy you were there. ‘Hello Texas’ is just a song talking about the state that has my heart.”
      Brian recorded the song as a demo at Jack Clements Recording Studio in Nashville and sent a copy to his friend Bruce Nelson, the music director of KENR in Houston. “He really liked it and he said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I play this on the radio?’ and I said, ‘Not at all.’”
      At the time, Brian “was on the verge of moving from ABC to RCA and I did record it at RCA with a full-blown studio band. We released it on RCA, but we were going through some contractual differences, so it really didn’t get a promotional push.”
      But thanks to receiving airplay in Houston, the song was brought to the attention of producer Irving Azorff who contacted Brian about Jimmy Buffett recording the song for Urban Cowboy.
      In addition to having John Travolta dance to the song in the movie, which “was a thrill, an honor, it established my credibility as a writer. Jimmy Buffett is a great writer and it just blew me away that he’d do it.”
      After Brian left RCA, he recorded for an independent Texas label, Primero Records. “We had a couple of chart records; nothing that really blew the doors down.
      “I left the music business in ’83, when I found my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Brian says. “I just felt that with all that I had gone through in the music business that it was time just to shut it down and kind of regroup spiritually and emotionally. So, I was on the road preaching for about four years and singing gospel music.”
      Brian, who is now regional sales manager of Genworth Financial, recently moved back to the Lone Star State and is starting the second phase of his music career.
      “When I moved back to Texas and started getting in touch with old friends and people that I hadn’t seen in years, they said, ‘You really need to be out there singing or you need to be recording.’ So, one door opened another – and here we are.”
      Where Brian is now is on the verge of releasing his brand new CD, CANNED GOODS, and reintroducing himself to country radio with songs like “Farewell Mr. Guitar Man,” “A Lady Like You,” “Nickel’s Worth of Heaven,” “Crying,” “Devil in the Bottle,” “Then Love Came Along” and “Since You’ve Said Good-bye.” The CD is a mixture of country, gospel, blues, pop and standards. “Something for everybody.”
      The first single, “Farewell Mr. Guitar Man,” that Brian co-wrote with Ron Oates and Bill Hullett, is a tribute to Chet Atkins, as well as other guitar legends who have passed away, including John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Harrison. “It’s just a tribute to those that have paved the road that we’re traveling on.”
      It’s been about eight or 10 years since Brian has been in the recording studio, he says, “and I had all these great songs in the can. Hence the name CANNED GOODS.”
      Brian Collins started his music career when he was 13, singing at Duffy’s Tavern in Texas City. “I told my mother that I was going to football games in Texas City and I’d sneak off in the other direction and go to a place called Duffy’s Tavern. I’d hang out at the back door and then one night a guy who was playing in the band said, ‘Come here, son.’ He called me up on stage – and that was all it took.”
      Brian Collins is back home in Texas – and embarking on his new music career. As Brian says, “Texas is the state that has my heart.”

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