Carlton Stories - Lyn Collins
July 4th, 1974
I’m seated in the upper tier of Madison Square Garden alongside my mother and my sister Leesa.
The Godfather Of Soul James Brown is onstage and he’s putting on a super dynamite soul show as usual.
The music got so good that I was compelled to get up out of my seat leaving my mother and Leesa behind and I headed towards the front of the stage to soak up some more funk and soul with all the other kids.
At one point during his closing number James Brown looks down at me and pulls me up onstage to dance with him.
I begin to do my thing and dance like him, the crowd goes wild.
After a few minutes some kids in the crowd began to rush the stage and James Brown ran off stage.
I ran off after him and I kept running behind him until I found myself two levels below the stage and the venue.
I was in the basement/bowels of Madison Square Garden but I may as well have been on Mars. That’s how foreign it looked to me.
James Brown who only a few minutes before was standing beside me and smiling broadly as I dance was now safely tucked away in his dressing room. The band was coming offstage and headed towards their cigarettes, alcohol, women or just plain ol’ piece of mind.
Here I was 14 years old and alone in a maze of corridors and hallways that all seemed to lead further away from my mother and sister as well as civilization.
I wound up in one of the dressings rooms assigned to the band. Members of the band and entourage drifted in and out of various rooms and it all seemed like one big circus.
I must have looked confused and bewildered because at one point Lyn Collins came over to me and I can only assume she must have overheard me talking about it to someone because she said, “…don’t worry baby…we’ll get you back out there to your family…”.
She was strikingly beautiful. As opposed to her usual sky high bouffant she was wearing her hair short and cropped close which highlighted her beautiful features even moreso. And with those words I began to relax and believe that I would see my family again one day!
Many years later – 1998 to be exact – after more than a decade of retirement, Lyn Collins resurfaced on the BOBBY BYRD & the FUNKY DIVA’s tour. The tour was put together in support of a CD that Universal records had just released entitled, “JAMES BROWNS ORIGINAL FUNKY DIVA’S”. This CD featured all of the productions that James Brown had done over the years on the different female vocalists in his revue. That meant Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, Martha High, Bea Ford, Yvonne Fair, Tammi Montgomery (who would go on to fame as Motowns Tammi Terrell), Sugar Pie DeSanto and Anna King.
The tour pulled into Trammps and I attended the show with Harry Weinger and Tracey Brathwaite.
As they went inside I waited just in front of the backstage entrance because there was only one person I wanted to lay eyes on. The limousine pulls up and out of the back seat steps Lyn Collins looking like a million dollars.
I actually ran up to the car, extended my hand and helped her out of the limo.
Just prior to the show I went downstairs and after meeting Fred Wesley, and chit chatting with the legendary Bobby Byrd, I went into the dressing room that held Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson and Lyn Collins.
After coming face to face with Lyn I got down on my knees and proposed to her. Marva Whitney yelled out, “….I know that’s right!...” and we all laughed. Lyn and I began to talk and we exchanged phone numbers.
She came out and did a great show with everyone else on the bill. I filmed ALL of this. The show as well as my proposal just prior to showtime!
A few weeks later I got up the courage to call her and after some tentative conversation on both of our parts we began to laugh and joke as if we’d known each other forever. And thus began a great friendship which lasted until she sadly passed away in 2005.
A few weeks after that first phone call she came to New York and we spent as much time together as we could. In fact I produced a song on her that I will get released one day soon.
We ran all over New York and behaved like teenagers. She came back soon after for a performance at Joes Pub with Fred Wesley and I am so honored that she wore a suit of mine – it fit her perfectly and you would have never known.
I love and miss her to this very day.
I have so many voice messages from her so whenever I want to hear her voice I play them and reminisce.
GOD BLESS YOU LYN!