I didn’t do Ray Collins yet? No? How the hell did that happen?
First of all, there’s an exercise I always have to perform when talking about this fellow.
This is an important distinction and one I often find difficult to recall. Ray, Roy, you know. Not to mention that they both sang in kind of high voices. But Ray Collins did so rather more adroitly than did Roy Estrada. And, not to mention that Ray Collins will not be in jail until age 93 as a convicted child molester, as, sadly, will Roy Estrada.
No, Ray Collins was the Original Voice. And, he had the added benefit of actual doo-wop cred. Check him out with Little Julian Herrera & the Tigers:
If you reviewed the Jimmy Carl Black interviews previously referenced, you know what the Indian of the Group thought of Ray Collins. “…in my opinion, one of the best singers I’ve ever heard in my whole life.” Hotcha. In fact, he couldn’t confirm it, but JCB’s idea about “Cruising with Ruben & the Jets” was that it was a tribute to Ray Collins “…’cuz it’s all Ray Collins’ trip, man.”
Here is, I think, the best example of what Ray Collins was capable of.
Or this. Or basically anything off of the “Cruising” album.
From the Miles biography, Zappa had some pretty high praise for Collins:
At this time, I was working with Ray Collins, who could sing all this kind of stuff. If you’re a composer, you need a vehicle to bring your music to life. If you write for instruments, you need someone who can play it, and if you write vocals, you need somebody who can sing it. It’s fortunate that I had Ray Collins, because if I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have had any way to move into the kind of songwriting.
In other words, no Collins, no Freak Out!, and no Mothers.
A 2009 news article places Collins in Claremont, California, going kind of Rodriguez style, no fame, no riches, just a vibrant musical past. He gets enough to survive, he says, “But not enough to pick up women.”