Collins, Lee(ds), New Orleans-style jazz trumpeter, singer; b. New Orleans, La., Oct. 17, 1901; d. Chicago, III July 3, 1960. His father was a trumpeter; his uncle was a trombonist. He started on trumpet at 12, with lessons from his father and “Professor” Jim Humphrey. At 15 he did his first regular playing at the Zulu’s Club, then with Pops Foster organized the Young Eagles. In 1917–18 Collins worked with the Columbia Band and the Young Tuxedo Orch., while he continued playing with the Young Eagles. He played with Bud Roussel’s Band, Papa Celestin, Jessie Jackson’s Golden Leaf Orch., and Zutty Singleton (1919–22); had a residency at the Cadillac Club, then toured Fla. with his own band (1923). In 1924 Collins moved to Chicago to join King Oliver, recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, and then returned to New Orleans. He played with several local leaders through the end of the decade, except for a brief tour with “Professor” Sherman Cook’s Revue. Collins co-led band for Jones-Collins’ “Astoria Hot Eight” recordings (1929). In 1930 he moved briefly to N.Y., worked with Luis Russell Band replacing Henry “Red” Allen who was vacationing in New Orleans. From 1931 through 1950, he mostly did club work in Chicago, working with many different New Orleans-style bands. In 1951 he toured Europe with Mezz Mezzrow, but had to leave the tour due to illness; he returned to Chicago and then played with Joe Sullivan’s band in the summer of 1953 in San Francisco. He went again to Europe with Mezzrow in fall 1954, and was again sidetracked by illness. He returned to Chicago, then suffered a stroke. For the last years of his life Collins was musically inactive due to chronic emphysema.
Jones-Collins: “Astoria Hot Eight” (1929).
L. Collins, M. Collins, F. J. Gillis, J. W. Miner, Oh, Didn’t He Ramble: The Life Story of Lee Collins (Urbana, 1989).
—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter