Sail enthusiasts who love the sea shanties that are part of our island heritage will be sad to learn of the death on July 6th in Gdańsk, Poland, of Johnny Collins. He was there on a singing tour. Born in May 1938, Johnny was a London based, Norfolk born folk singer specialising in traditional maritime music`.
In 1983 Johnny with Jim Mageean, won the ‘Intervision Song Contest’ in Rostock, East Germany. In 1987 the duo were invited to perform at a sea shanty festival in Berlin commemorating the foundation of the city. Although recent health problems had caused him to restrict his activities he continued to tour world-wide. He had performed in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland and France. In the UK he appeared at the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Races and maritime festivals, including Hull, Lancaster, Bristol, Dundee, Maldon, Portsmouth, Gosport, Greenwich and Chatham. A welcome singer at many maritime venues he made guest appearances in the USA, notably at Maine Maritime Museum, Kendall Whaling Museum, Newport News and Mystic Seaport. He was also the resident shantyman at ‘Expo 88 ‘ in Brisbane Australia.
I have happy memories of his lusty leading of impromptu shanty singing sessions in informal venues such as the bar at the National Folk Song Festivals. I feel privileged to have recorded Johnny in our studios as guest singer with The Mollyhawks, a shanty group from his own county of Norfolk. Those who worked with him will long remember his great good humour, his patience and especially that powerfully rich bass-baritone voice with its Norfolk accent. Like countless others, my life has been enriched by knowing him.
Shanty enthusiasts, tall ship devotees and his many friends and fans will miss Johnny Collins but none more than his partner Joyce.
For more information visit http://www.johnnycollins.net