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Top O' The Mornin' Bridget McCue - Arthur Collins

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Arthur Francis Collins (February 7, 1864 -- August 3, 1933) was an American baritone who was one of the most prolific and beloved of pioneer recording artists, regarded in his day as "King of the Ragtime Singers." Born in Philadelphia, Collins moved with his family to Barnegat, New Jersey around 1879 and as a teenager worked as a volunteer lifesaver on the Jersey shore, beginning an enthusiasm for sailing that became a lifelong pursuit. However, his fine baritone voice -- heard in church and in local concert appearances -- convinced Collins' family to send him back to Philadelphia for formal training. After concluding his studies, Collins spent some 15 years touring with various stock companies and appearing in summer opera in St. Louis. None of these ventures turned out any long term prospects for Collins, and when he married actress and singer Anna Leah Connelly in 1895 Collins swore off show business and decided to study for a career in bookkeeping. Taking occasional roles for extra money, Collins enjoyed a star turn in a production given by the DeWolf Hopper Opera Company in 1898, and talent scouts for Edison Records requested Collins audition which, according to his wife, was held May 16, 1898. Within a few years, Collins proved one of the most productive and successful singers in the record business, and in his long career between 1898 and 1925 he worked for literally every record company active in the United States. He specialized in what was then called coon songs, popular African-American dialect numbers associated with vaudeville and minstrel shows. Collins also utilized a large array of vocal effects and caricature voices which gave the impression that there were multiple persons at the horn on his recordings, though it was just Collins. Towards making that end of it more effective, Collins began to work in a duo format with tenor Joe Natus in 1901 and both sang in an Edison group called the Big Four Quartet. It is assumed that Collins first came into contact with tenor Byron G. Harlan within the context of the Big Four Quartet, and from then until the end of Collins' career in the early 1920s, Harlan was Collins' duet partner. Collins and Harlan were probably the most famous and popular male duo on early records. In 1909, Collins joined John H. Meyer, Henry Burr and Albert Campbell in the Peerless Quartet, an enormously successful barbershop harmony type group which toured as The Record Makers, and later as the Eight Popular Victor Artists. However, by 1917 bass Frank Croxton began to replace Collins on some records, a situation that became permanent by mid-1919 as Collins did not get along with Burr, who also served as the group's manager. During a personal appearance at the Princess Theater in Medina, Ohio on October 20, 1921, Collins was badly injured when he fell through an open trap door. While he recovered well enough to resume his singing and recording career, his health began to decline afterward and in 1926, Collins retired, relocating to Florida with his wife. He died at the age of 69 in Tice, Florida on August 3, 1933. For much more information please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Collins_(singer)