John Collins

Jazz guitarist John Collins, known for his work with Nat “King” Cole, died Oct. 4 at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in West Los Angeles. He was 83.

Montgomery, Ala., native grew up in Chicago and played in a band led by his mother, pianist Georgia Gorham. He then moved to New York and played with Roy Eldridge, Art Tatum and others. In the 1940s, he accompanied singer Billie Holiday and saxophonist Lester Young and played in bands led by Benny Carter and Fletcher Henderson.

After serving in several Army bands during World War II, he rejoined Tatum and also played with Errol Garner and Billy Taylor.

He joined Cole in 1951 and worked with him for 14 years, ending with Cole’s death in 1965. Collins went on to work with Patti Page, Bobby Troup and his own group. Later he worked as a private teacher.

He is survived by wife Naomi, two daughters, five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

More Scene

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content