b. Calvin Collins, 5 May 1933, Medora, Indiana, USA, d. 26 August 2001, Dillsboro, Indiana, USA. Collins was born and raised in an atmosphere of bluegrass and country music. Although he had taken up the guitar, he began listening to jazz piano players, particularly Art Tatum, Fats Waller, George Shearing and Nat ‘King’ Cole. In the 50s he settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, playing guitar in local clubs where he sometimes accompanied visiting jazzmen including Andy Simpkins and Harold Jones. It was not until the mid-70s that he achieved wider recognition when he joined Benny Goodman, an engagement that lasted almost four years. This exposure led to a recording contract with Carl Jefferson’s Concord Records where he was teamed with Warren Vaché Jnr. , Buddy Tate, Al Cohn, Marshal Royal and Scott Hamilton. Collins was also recorded by Helen Morr of Mopro Records, who allied him with John Von Ohlen and the rest of the excellent house band’s rhythm section at Cincinnati’s Blue Wisp Club.
During the 80s and early 90s Collins worked regularly with all-star groups, as a solo and also as an accompanist to jazz-orientated singers, notably Rosemary Clooney, played numerous club, college and festival engagements across the USA and in other countries. Collins was also in demand as a teacher and clinician. In 1991 he was a member of the Woody Herman All Stars led by Terry Gibbs on a tour of Germany and was featured at a series of concerts in California under the generic title, ‘Masters of the String Guitar’. Although he drew his early inspiration from jazz pianists Collins was also influenced by country music’s Merle Travis. His jazz guitar mentors were Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and some of the latter’s flowing single-line artistry is echoed in Collins’ best work, especially when he played the blues. His interest in pianists led to his developing an unconventional style of playing in which he used his left thumb to create a walking bass line while playing intricate patterns with all five fingers of his right hand.