The name Bill Collins is at the center of a scattering of imbroglios involving songwriting credits. One of several biographies available under this name is that of the Bill Collins who managed the British rock band Badfinger beginning in the late '60s. He is apparently an example of how easy it is for a band manager to get songwriting credits without actually writing a song. The same practice and variations thereof were in place in the music business decades earlier, with the name Bill Collins in cozy company. Come across this name in songwriting credits from the era of World War II or the smooth '50s and it might very well be a Bill Collins who didn't even really exist. In many cases, it is a pseudonym for Bertha Kapp. She could also be Billy Collins and Bert Kapp, obviously, but might not be so easily recognized as Howard Richards, Rinky Scott Jones, Glenn Gibson, and Adrienne Garblik.
Phoebe Snow? Eventually there was a well-known singer and songwriter by this name who sometimes wondered why her publishing statements would include strange titles she knew she didn't write. That's because Kapp, on a non-Bill Collins-type day, had used Phoebe Snow as a pseudonym years before. While there is no record of her breaking down and using Bertha Kapp on a songwriting credit, the surname is actually well-known in the record business. Brothers Dave and Jack Kapp were A&R powerbrokers for Decca in the '40s and the owners of several indie labels, one of them called Kapp. Bertha Kapp was the second wife of Joe Davis, whose activities in the music business included management, A&R, running record labels, publishing, and songwriting. It is sensible to speculate that hubbie's hobbies influenced Kapp's rise in the shadowy world of names behind names.
Davis had been an innovator in the businesses of both songwriting and publishing, beginning in the days of sheet music. By the late '20s, there was something of a stampede in progress to not only publish but copyright all manner of public-domain material, such as folk songs. The creation of pseudonyms had nothing to do with a performer's desire for personal privacy. Rather, it was simply a way of collecting publishing money without revealing whose pocket it went into. In the case of Kapp, this was a handy way to help collect publishing funds in a series of smaller pools rather than an enormous one that might be heavily taxed. It also tidied appearances, meaning nobody could look at a record sleeve and comment, "Hey, the producer's wife wrote seven of the songs!"
The relationship between Davis and Kapp was an incredible mess, at least as far as the issue of songwriting credits. When Decca evolved into MGM in the '50s, Davis was also using the name
Bert Kapp, as well as Bert Davis. When Bertha Kapp began signing in as Glenn Gibson, she was usurping a fake name that classic blues singer Irene Higginbotham had been using. Having wisely fled the Davis dominion, it is at least possible to tell the Kapp Bill Collins from the previously mentioned Badfinger Bill Collins. For one thing, the latter Bill Collins actually lived and breathed. Another important difference is that Kapp, by whatever name, actually did write some of the material she is credited for. In fact, she had some heavyweight co-writers. "Let's Keep Our City Clean" has to be her masterpiece, written to promote a Milwaukee mayor, Frank P. Ziedler. Lawrence Welk came up with the melody for this number, no doubt approving highly of the lyrics, a sample of which follows as an example of, well, some of Kapp's crap: "For cleanliness will bring good health/And health is worth much more than wealth/You wouldn't wear a dirty shirt/So let's not walk around in dirt."