Whatever Happened To Ray Collins?

Check this bittersweet little piece on the current whereabouts of former Mother, Ray Collins:

He moved to Claremont after a modest legal settlement with Zappa over his and other founding members’ contributions to the band, he says. […] Collins turned down several offers to join the Grandmothers, a band made up of graying ex-Mothers. Instead, he’s lived a hand-to-mouth existence, mostly by choice. His only income is Social Security and twice-annual royalty checks from co-writing the doo-wop song “Memories of El Monte.”

That doesn’t appear to have made him a bitter man though:

“If you just enjoy life,” Collins continues, “it’s conducive to not being successful. You know what I mean? I just enjoy life.”

(via)

18 Responses to “Whatever Happened To Ray Collins?”

  1. Roland says:

    “If you will play my music, I will make you rich and famous,” Zappa is said to have told them.

    Zappa had effectively assumed control of the band, leading to tension.

    Under Zappa, the Mothers weren’t the same band Collins had signed up for. Quitting became a running joke.

    “I didn’t like doing that stuff onstage. Too much comedy, too much making fun of stuff.”

    “I wanted to make beautiful music.”

    His music career pretty much ended in 1968.

    Nor has he made much money, having left the Mothers before they became profitable.

    ——————-

    None of the orginal Mothers became rich and famous, because FZ sacked most of them, to go different ways himself. So the secret word is “use and abuse”, isn´t it?

  2. Tjodolf says:

    Beautiful interview!

    Ray Collins might be the least screwed-over member of the Mothers; he got a co-writer’s credit for a song and he does get his royalty check; as a singer, he didn’t participate that much in the improvisations FZ later appropriated, and he left, he wasn’t sacked.

    FZ nearly, sort of, made him rich too; he doesn’t want to sing on stage, but if he wanted to, he could be a professional guest star with every FZ/60’s/doo wop cover band in the world. What a sweet gig! He’s not just an aging doo wop singer, FZ turned him from an unknown to “Ray Collins from the Mothers”, and that’s a marketable thing to be.

  3. voice on the wall says:

    look like all the ex mothers are found to this day in a mission of the salvation army ! bowl a soup for free .

  4. profusion says:

    It’s interesting that he and Frank were so close early on, and yet Ray was the first Mother to leave (well, other than Davy Coronado, of course).

  5. Roland says:

    [quote comment=”6027″] … and he left, he wasn’t sacked …

    … FZ nearly, sort of, made him rich too …[/quote]

    @ Tjodolf: You´re right, he was not sacked, but he left for some good reason (for him). But – as I wrote – m o s t of them were sacked at a certain stage. And you must be kidding: The royalites of this particular song doesn´t make anybody rich. Did we read two different interviews, here? Read it again, please. 😉

    @ voice on the wall: Yeah, seems like it! “Pass the dog food, please”.

  6. Paul Sempschi says:

    a pity he wouldnt have stuck it out or contributed to the Flo and Eddie vocals, he always this very sweet voice that worked well with Zappa’s melodic textures. I know he did contribute to the “Apostrophe’ ” album… his vocals are buried in the choruses of the “Yellow Snow” suite.

    I guess he didnt much care for that ‘comedy stuff’ ala Jeff Simmons in 200 Motels… I wonder if he construed the avant garde/dischordant elements to the music with Frank’s attempt to be funny? I also hear he had a problem with Frank’s cynical lyrics…

    A very eccentric man!

  7. urbangraffito says:

    A trite interview, frankly.

    If I had the opportunity to interview this important early Mother and friend of Frank, I would have asked questions that reveal more than this interview does. I mean, the piece seems more of a judgement of Ray Collins’ choices than his part in Mothers history. Too bad. Opportunity to learn so much, squandered.

  8. Kevin Hoover says:

    Most of Frank’s early musicians suffered from low self-expectations. They didn’t know what he wanted, since no one had done anything like that before. These guys were generally bar band-grade instrument mechanics, and Frank’s vision simply exceeded their capabilities. Was he supposed to carry these guys and their limitations forever?

    It’s nothing against JCB and the rest that they could never, ever have approached something like The Black Page, as one of many possible examples. I’m glad Frank systematically upgraded his musicians to enact the wonderment that he was capable of.

  9. peter says:

    [quote comment=”6035″]A trite interview, frankly.

    If I had the opportunity to interview this important early Mother and friend of Frank, I would have asked questions that reveal more than this interview does. I mean, the piece seems more of a judgement of Ray Collins’ choices than his part in Mothers history. Too bad. Opportunity to learn so much, squandered.[/quote]

    Too harsh! I get the feeling Ray is not someone who would put up with a bunch of questions.

  10. Paul Sempschi says:

    [quote comment=”6036″]Most of Frank’s early musicians suffered from low self-expectations. They didn’t know what he wanted, since no one had done anything like that before. These guys were generally bar band-grade instrument mechanics, and Frank’s vision simply exceeded their capabilities. Was he supposed to carry these guys and their limitations forever?

    It’s nothing against JCB and the rest that they could never, ever have approached something like The Black Page, as one of many possible examples. I’m glad Frank systematically upgraded his musicians to enact the wonderment that he was capable of.[/quote]

    Well Collins left on his own but my problem was how he had disbanded the Mothers with no warning. It also may be moot but was their any possibility of leaving them the band name and pursuing a solo career or would that have been too risky? Considering that Zappa was synonymous with the Mothers, you’d think that he should have been able to keep the fanbase + sales, while allowing them some sort of steady income.

  11. Roland says:

    [quote comment=”6035″]I mean, the piece seems more of a judgement of Ray Collins’ choices than his part in Mothers history. Too bad. Opportunity to learn so much, squandered.[/quote]

    Yep, well analysed. Too bad, chance missed.

  12. Kevin Hoover says:

    “If I had the opportunity to interview this important early Mother and friend of Frank, I would have asked questions that reveal more than this interview does.”

    Yeah, there’s a vague hint of condescension running through the interview.

    “Look at this relic! It talks!”

    Personally I would have asked more questions about the technical aspects of working with Frank – his methodology for rehearsing and recording, etc.

  13. urbangraffito says:

    Here are links to a three part interview with Ray Collins (transcribed from several sources) courtesy of United Mutations:

    http://www.united-mutations.com/c/ray_collins_interview_1o3.htm

    http://www.united-mutations.com/c/ray_collins_interview_2o3.htm

    http://www.united-mutations.com/c/ray_collins_interview_3o3.htm

    FZ as Bandleader:

    “I don’t know– maybe I kind of think, sometimes, that– Frank used to say, I heard him actually say it to other people that, in conversation, that “Yeah, Ray” (talking about me) “gets all these great ideas and then I use them, I do them.”  But I noticed over the years that, either someone told him or he realized it himself, that that’s not a good thing, to go around telling somebody else that somebody else has a lot of ideas that you had.  So it could be, possibly, that Frank doesn’t want to say anything, and sort of keep it cool, keep it quiet, keep it down, and then he can be “Francis Vincent Zappa, genius of Laurel Canyon,” you know. But who knows?  I don’t know that that’s it.  I do know that he says a lot of good things about me, too.  So I got to look at both sides of it.”

  14. pet a llama says:

    beer

  15. Kevin Hoover says:

    So many people who have worked with Frank claimed that he stole their cleverness. If that’s the case, he must have worked with an extraordinary streak of undiscovered geniuses who supplied him with his material.

    There’s no doubt that he took germs of ideas from his band and made something out of them – something that would not have otherwise turned into anything worth listening to.

    I’ve read Frank speaking bitterly about how musicians strive to get into his band, then (some of them) get all fluffed up and go solo, talking smack about him while they make a career out of having played with Zappa.

  16. metafunj says:

    I think Frank took some small ideas, but wrote most of the compositions himself, its hard to say since he rarely credited other peoples ideas. Some examples are the 5 beats of rest at the beginning of “Echidna’s Arf of You,” the chords Arthur Barrow suggested for “The Radio is Broken” I think thats the part where they sing, “The giant knobs.” Mike Keneally suggested that ooo ooo ooo ooo ahh ahha ahh ahh part for the 88 “torture never stops” and Scott Thunes wasn’t credited for arranging the bartok and stravinsky pieces or for creating the bassline for “Promiscuous. Who knows how many more examples there are.

    But I think when it came to writing melodies like “Penis Demension” “Dog Breath” ” A Pound For a Brown” Frank used his own ideas and sometimes allowing the performers to add the eyebrows. I doubt Frank was stealing compositions as he did occasionally give writing credits to other players.

  17. profusion says:

    I’ve often wondered how much “stealth composition” George Duke did for Frank. George’s ’70s solo albums all had a huge resemblance to the Roxy band, and I have to the think that the creative connection there runs both ways.

  18. Thinman says:

    [quote comment=”6069″]… Scott Thunes wasn’t credited for arranging the bartok and stravinsky pieces …[/quote]
    On my copy of Make Jazz Noise Here he is in fact credited for the arrangements.

    Th.

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