Tony Collins to be remembered at event
Tony Collins, (back, right) posed here with his musical group, Visions.
Just about anyone from around this area is familiar with the musical name of the Collins family.
There’s his son, Kevin, nephews Gene, Wayne, and more.
Much of the Collins’ musicality can likely be traced to Tony Collins, who in his day was a legend in these parts.
To help celebrate his memory, family members are organizing a musical tribute to the well-known local musician, who passed away suddenly at age 55 in 1990 on Canada Day.
Alice O’Keefe is one of the organizers of the tribute that will take place 7 p.m. at the Star of the Sea Hall on August 12.
“Tony left a legacy of music, not only to his own children but to his nephews and friends,” explained O’Keefe, Collins’ sister. “It was very widespread actually.”
She said she’s been thinking about him a lot lately and thinking she should do something to keep his memory alive.
O’Keefe presents Irish Country music on an Irish Internet radio station and said she plays a lot of Kevin’s music, and plenty of other Newfoundland acts.
“Tony did have a couple of records, 45s, which his brother in the States gave to Kevin. It was all warped and that and Kevin had to put a book on it to straighten it out. Kevin did a cover on one of them on his ‘Jump in and Swim’ album. He did have another one and I have the two songs off them. There was a lot of tapes of Tony but there wasn’t much recording done in those days.”
But, said O’Keefe, Tony was a real star in these parts, and played at the base a great deal.
“I was very young, maybe only 16 at the time, but back then down on the base (Argentia) they used to bring in the USO shows. Of course, Johnny Cash was coming and Tony was a big fan of Johnny Cash and everybody called him Johnny Cash. He sounded a lot like him, or really, he sounded a bit like all the artists of the day, not trying to, but his style was powerful and he had a deep voice and his guitar playing could stand behind any artist in Nashville as far as I’m concerned.
“Anyway, he used to open his shows with ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,’ and the place would go up. I went to every dance before I was of age just to get to see the shows. But this night down on the base, Johnny was supposed to play, but couldn’t make it out onstage. So, Tony opened. I remember he was full of sequins and I was so proud of him and he was up there and opened with one of Johnny Cash’s songs and he got a standing ovation. It ended up he had to continue all night. The crowd just loved him.”
O’Keefe said for the tribute show there will be a slideshow of his family and friends and of him playing. Russ Murphy from CHCM radio will host the evening. Tony was a favourite of local radio stations in his day and made appearances on CJON, VOCM, CHCM in Marystown, VOUS at Argentia and on television on CJON television’s talent shows.
“Russ used to come to the regatta every year and would see Tony sitting on the car near the boathouse with his guitar, and he couldn’t get away then. Tony would make him go to his house. Anyone who knew Tony would tell you that. He was quite the lad.”
O’Keefe said there was a small cover charge at the door to cover costs, and any extra money made would go to the regatta, because the regatta was a favourite of Tony’s.