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Lee Collins (October 17, 1901 – July 3, 1960) got his start on the trumpet playing with brass bands in New Orleans as a teenager. He played in Pops Foster’s Young Eagles, and in orchestras around town. In 1924 he went North to replace Louis Armstrong in King Olivers Creole Jazz Band, after Armstrong quit to join Fletcher Henderson in New York. While in Chicago, Collins played on an early recording date with Jelly Roll Morton’s Kings of Jazz.

He was a close friend of Jelly Roll, but the two had a falling out when Collins claimed that Morton stole the song “Fish Tail Blues” from him. In 1930 Collins moved to New York to play in Luis Russell’s Orchestra, but only stayed with the band for 6 months, before returning to Chicago for a year and then moving back to New Orleans for a brief while, then once again returning to Chicago.

Lee Collins
Photo: John Miner (1951)
Hogan Jazz Archive

He played trumpet on dozens of Blues records, backing up singers like Victoria Spivey, Lil Johnson and Chippie Hill. During the Dixieland revival of the 1940s, Collins recorded and toured with Mezz Mezzrow.

band or session leader

Jones & Collins Astoria Hot Eight

Oh, Didn’t He Ramble, The Life Story of Lee Collins, edited by Frank J. Gillis and John W. Miner, University Of Illinois Press, 1974


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