Tommy Collins' legacy was greater than his success on the charts, which, despite a few Top Ten singles in the mid-'50s, was never sustained. However, he was a king in California, and he exerted considerable influence on Bakersfield country and its two figureheads, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, who frequently cited his importance and recorded his songs. Owens, in fact, was a guitarist in Collins' band, which gave him one of his first big breaks, and he decided to return the favor by recording an album of 12 Collins songs in 1963. Like any tribute by an artist who knows his subject intimately, the song selection is highly individualized, but in the case of a cult act like Collins, this works to his favor, since it captures all sides of his character. Owens doesn't rely only on the silly songs that brought Collins some success, but he does cut "It Tickles," a goofy, annoying song about a moustache. But Owens knows what makes Collins an unheralded great: how he could be silly but also have plaintive weepers like "High on a Hilltop" and rocking juke-joint ravers like "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," popularized by Faron Young. Owens plays up these two sides, slightly favoring the uptempo side, which comes as little surprise to those familiar with the high-octane, high-twang country of his early Capitol records. Owens didn't have hits with this record, but it did go to number one, and it does stand as one of his most consistently satisfying long-players, thanks to the pen of Tommy Collins and the wonderful performances of Buck Owens & His Buckaroos.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine