August 13, 2011

Old growler

Walt said that he didn't "like to make sequels to my pictures. I like to take a new thing and develop something." "Disney," however, now turns out sequels on top of sequels, so I'll go ahead and follow up my last post with another look at one of the original artists behind the songs in Disneyland's Country Bear Jamboree.

Terrance had a short solo in Bear Country's flagship attraction, crooning about a night on the town that didn't turn out as expected:

One night I left the wife at home
and went out with the boys.
I was actin' like a Don Juan
and makin' a lotta noise.
A go-go girl called my hand,
I said, "I can't, I'm a married man."
She said, "If you ain't gonna steal,
ya better not prowl."
"Don't do-si-do with a go go,
if ya can't bite, don't growl."

His twangy vocals carried a tune recorded originally by Tommy Collins, who you can see in an old live performance here. Tommy, who was born Leonard Raymond Sipes and died in 2000, recorded "If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl" in 1965. According to his page on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website, by the early '70s, his "professional and personal lives were on the verge of collapse, due to his increasing dependency on drugs and alcohol." In 1971, his wife filed for a divorce, sending Tommy into a deep depression.

Tommy's hall of fame entry goes on to note that he "began to recover by continuing to write songs, many of which were recorded by Merle Haggard, including the 1972 number one hit single, 'Carolyn.' In 1976, Tommy moved to Nashville, where he was able to secure a contract with Starday Records. Later that year, he released 'Tommy Collins Callin,'' a collection of his own versions of songs he had provided for other artists. Following the album's release, Tommy turned almost entirely to professional songwriting. In 1981, Merle Haggard had a hit single with 'Leonard,' his tribute to Collins. After the release of 'Leonard,' the spotlight again turned to Collins, who was now sober. Tommy signed a songwriting contract with Sawgrass Music, where his most notable success was Mel Tillis' Top 10 1984 hit, 'New Patches.'

Throughout the '80s, Collins kept a low profile, though his songs continued to be recorded. George Strait recorded no less than two of Tommy's compositions during the decade, taking his new version of 'If You Ain't Lovin'' to number one on the country charts. European record companies like Bear Family began reissuing his recordings, which led to an appearance at the 1988 Wembley Country Music Festival in England. In 1993, Collins signed a new publishing contract with Ricky Skaggs Music and continued to write songs professionally throughout the mid-'90s."

I'm glad to learn that Tommy made something of a comeback, and I'm glad to put a little spotlight on him here. As Melvin the moose used to say as guests headed out after the show, "the welcome mat is always out. Seein' you is fine."

2 comments:

JG said...

Fascinating.

I always thought those songs were written by Disney staff just for the attraction. No wonder they sounded so "real".

This wasn't a sequel, it was another chapter...

Thank you very much.

JG

Kevin Kidney said...

I LOVE, love , love your blog. You write about all the things that nobody else writes about. I wanted to make one little note on this post, because I'm an old Tommy Collins fan and love his song in the Country Bear show. Terrance (Shaker) actually performs "How Long Will My Baby Be Gone?" - an old Buck Owens tune. "If You Can't Bite, Don't Growl" is performed by Ernest the Dude.
I was sorry to hear that Tommy Collins had a rough life, but very grateful to be reading about him here on your blog. Keep up the phenomenal work!