ARTHUR COLLINS and BYRON HARLAN: The Edison label recorded songs popularized on the vaudeville stage and many times used vaudeville performers for the recording. Collins and Harlan, for example, recorded The Aba Daba Honeymoon, which was originally introduced by Ruth Roye at the Palace Theatre in New York.
Arthur Collins was born in Philadelphia on February 7, 1864, the oldest of ten children. When he was seventeen, his parents sent him from New Jersey to Philadelphia for voice lessons. He joined a couple of touring companies (which failed), and sang opera. His first real success was with Francis Wilson, with whom he toured for ten years.
Collins married in 1895, and retired from music for a while. He eventually returned to music, and in 1898, Collins got an invitation from the Edison company to make a trial recording.
Most Collins' recordings were "coon songs", sung by white performers putting on black stage accents. Most of these songs are embarrassing by today's standards. At the time, though, few people saw anything wrong with these types of songs.
Collins' biggest solo hit was The Preacher and the Bear, which he first recorded in 1905. He also teamed with Byron G. Harlan on many recordings, and recorded as part of the Peerless Quartet (one of the most prolific male quartets popular up through the 1910s).
Collins retired in 1926, and moved to Florida, where he died in 1933.
George Byron Harlan (born August 29, 1861; died September 11, 1936 was probably best known as half of the comic duo Collins and Harlan. However he made many records without Arthur Collins.
As a tenor soloist he specialized in sentimental ballads such as "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie." He also recorded many rube numbers such as "They Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dawg Aroun'" "How 'Ya Gonna Keep "Em Down on the Farm."