Lyn Collins: Diva Cecil: Humble Friend

Lyn Collins: Diva, Cecil: Humble Friend

By Rebecca Redshaw

I didn’t even know Cecil wasn’t her real name until I had worked at the studio for three months. Our paths rarely crossed when I was first hired.

My job was “Film and Television Supervisor” coordinating sessions with clients involved with recording musical scores primarily at Studio “M” on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. My scoring division only made up one third of business that put the Record Plant, the premiere Hollywood recording studio on the map.

Irene handled the “Remote” trucks, those complex studios on wheels that traveled anywhere in the country to record live performances, everything from rock and roll concerts to solo artist tours to symphony orchestras.

And then there was Rose. Rose was the rock ‘n’ roll diva that juggled egos ranging from Rod Stewart (before his “tuxedo tune” days) to Fleetwood Mac to Neil Diamond to Dolly Parton. Rose’s expertise was keeping the musicians and their entourages happy, a task she frequently performed from a bar stool next door to the Plant where the owner had a phone extension put in so she would be reachable after 4 p.m. until whenever? as she downed her favorite beverage.

Cecil’s desk was in the small billing office that could be found if you weaved the dark halls, passed the front office, the smaller voiceover studio on the right, the Jacuzzi a little further down on the left, another studio entrance or two, passed the four theme bedrooms where famous clients would “relax” between takes or all-night sessions.

There were only three people in the accounting office and Cecil took care of my billing, so whenever a question arose, I’d park myself across from her desk and we’d figure out the problem.

I don’t remember when we became friends. I think it was a lock when we both realized we were Gemini’s.

I remember thinking how beautiful she was and quiet. Talk about keeping a low profile. When I learned she had been a back-up singer for James Brown and toured for years I couldn’t have been more surprised. She sang under the name Lyn Collins and told me she usually went by the name “Gloria”, but the Record Plant’s wife was named Gloria, so she opted for Cecil. Seemed logical to me at the time though I don’t know why.

Most performers are more than eager to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. But it was probably months before I knew she had recorded albums and that B.B. King had once proposed marriage (she turned him down).

I had come to Los Angeles with a suitcase full of songs knowing I’d have a tough time selling them since I wasn’t a performer. Singer/songwriters were all the rage in the early 80’s. Eventually I talked to Cecil about my writing, and she agreed to tape two songs my friend Kyle and I had composed.

Talk about unsophisticated. Kyle set up a tape recorder in his bedroom/studio and he played electric piano as she sang the lyrics I had written. When I think back now, I have to smile at how naïve he and I were and how incredibly kind Cecil was. I mean, this woman that had toured the world, even singing at the major heavyweight boxing event, the “Thrilla in Manila”, was lending her voice in this humblest of recording venues. She never blinked an eye.

Our time at the Record Plant was filled with famous recording artists and bands and Studio “M”, my primary venue, hosted most major composers scoring with film orchestras with as many as 72 musicians. I don’t remember socializing with Cecil much. We did find the time to go to Universal City to hear Patti La Belle in concert. Cecil’s mom came along, and we cheered and laughed and enjoyed the evening.

Cecil never talked about her own singing career. She did talk about her sons and I’m guessing her stint at the Record Plant might have had something to do with being a single parent and offering a stable home as they were growing up.

I was going through a divorce at that time and hadn’t told anyone, thinking it best to keep my personal life out of the rumor mill. But I did talk with Cecil and remember asking her how long it would be to get over the pain. Her response was, “I’ll let you know. Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” is my theme song.” That was 1984.

Now it’s 2013 and sitting at my desk, for no predetermined reason I Googled “Lyn Collins” and an incredible sadness came over me. My friend from so many years ago had died, March 15, 2005. She was singing again and about to go on tour.

Like so many work friends who move on, we hadn’t kept in touch, and I understand that, and I’m okay with that, but she was a special woman. I’m happy I knew her if only for a little while and I miss her.

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