Tommy Collins

Induction Year: 1999

Birth Name: Leonard Raymond Sipes

Birth Date: 09-28-1930

Place of Birth: Bethany, Oklahoma

Death Date: 03-14-2000

Place of Death: Ashland City, Tennessee

Tommy Collins wrote more than 800 songs but is usually remembered as a pioneer of the country scene in Bakersfield, California. At one point in the early 1950s, his band featured Buck Owens as lead guitarist, and Collins befriended a young Merle Haggard in the 1960s. Collins' songs were recorded by such West Coast country music figures as Owens, Haggard, Red Simpson, Wynn Stewart, Jean Shepard, Wanda Jackson, Ferlin Husky, Dick Curless, Rose Maddox and Freddie Hart.

Born Leonard Sipes, he garnered early entertainment experience as a radio performer in Oklahoma City. Following a brief stint in the Marines, Collins settled in California. He broke through as an artist with a series of self-penned, clever, upbeat novelty songs in the early 1950s. One of his earliest classics was "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," recorded by Faron Young in 1955. George Strait sang a hugely popular revival of this song in 1988, scoring a #1 country hit.

The songwriter's tumultuous personal life became almost as notable as the hits he wrote. By 1957, he was disillusioned with show business, underwent a religious conversion, entered a seminary and became an ordained minister. He quit recording in 1960. Old friend Buck Owens kept the songwriter's profile up with the 1963 LP Buck Owens Sings Tommy Collins. Merle Haggard and Claude King both released versions of the Collins tune "Sam Hill" in 1964.

Unfulfilled by his ministry, Collins returned to the country music charts in 1964 and scored a comeback hit in 1966. But by the early 1970s, he had become dependent on drugs and alcohol. His wife and duet partner divorced him, and he sank into depression. Haggard continued to support Collins by recording dozens of his songs, including the #1 hits "Carolyn" and "The Roots of My Raising."

Collins moved to Nashville in 1976 and started over. Haggard wrote and recorded "Leonard" in his honor, and this led to increased interest in Collins when it became a hit in 1981. He signed with Sawgrass, Mel Tillis' publishing company, and Tillis took the Collins tune "New Patches" up the charts in 1984. In 1993, Collins was signed as a songwriter by Ricky Skaggs Music, and he lived to see his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.


Merle Haggard1964 #45 country
Claude King1964 #11 country
Jimmy Dean1967 

"All of the Monkeys Ain't in the Zoo"

Tommy Collins1957 

"Are You Afraid"

Ferlin Husky1952 


Merle Haggard1972 #1 country
Johnny Paycheck1977 
Tommy Collins1980 

"Don't Get Married"

Merle Haggard1967 

"Down, Down, Down"

Rose Maddox1960 
Buck Owens1963 

"Fool's Castle"

Merle Haggard1968 

"Go Home""

Merle Haggard1966 

"High on a Hilltop"

Tommy Collins1954 
Buck Owens1963 
Merle Haggard1966 
The Osborne Brothers1974 
The Seldom Scene1986 
Ronnie Reno2004 
Brand New Strings2010 

"I Can Do That"

Tommy & Wanda Collins1964 #47 country

"I Could Sing All Night"

(written with Ferlin Husky)

Ferlin Husky1966 #27 country
Tommy Collins1972 

"I Made the Prison Band"

Merle Haggard1967 
Tommy Collins1968 #64 country
Rick Lee1995 

"If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')"

Faron Young1955 #2 country
Bull Moose Jackson1955 
Buck Owens1963 
George Strait1988 #1 country
Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers1993 
Lucky Oceans2007 

"If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl"

Tommy Collins1966 #7 country

"It Tickles"

(written with Wanda Collins)

Jean Shepard1954 
Tommy Collins1955 #5 country
Buck Owens1963 

"Just Married"

Faron Young1959 

"Let Me Love You"

Tommy Collins1953 
Maddox Brothers & Rose1957 

"Mixed Up Mess of a Heart"

(written with Merle Haggard)

Merle Haggard1966 
Rick Trevino1995 
Danni Leigh1998 

"My Hands Are Tied"

(written with Merle Haggard, Kay Adams)

Merle Haggard1967 

"New Patches"

Mel Tillis1984 #10 country
George Jones1987 
The Lynn Morris Band1992 

"Roll Truck Roll"

Red Simpson1966 #38 country
Tommy Collins1968 
Tommy Cash1972 #67 country

"Sam Hill"

Merle Haggard1964 #45 country
Claude King1964 #11 country
Jimmy Dean1967 

"Second Chances"

(written with Whitey Shafer)

George Strait1987 

"The Roots of My Raising"

Merle Haggard1976 #1 country


Tommy Collins1955 #10 country

"Whatcha Gonna Do Now"

Tommy Collins1954 #4 country
The Collins Kids1957 
Buck Owens1963 

"Wine Take Me Away"

(written with Merle Haggard)

Merle Haggard1967 

"You Better Not Do That"

Tommy Collins1954 #2 country
Little Jimmy Dickens1955 
Dion & the Belmonts1959 
George Hamilton IV1966 

"You Gotta Have a License"

Tommy Collins1953 
Buck Owens1963 
Porter Wagoner1970 #41 country
Bobby Osborne2002 

"You're a Humdinger"

The Farmer Boys1956 

"You're for Me"

(written with Buck Owens)

Tommy Collins1954 
Buck Owens1963 #10 country

Tommy Collins

Induction Year: 1999