February 9

Tommy Collins, “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)” by George Strait

Tommy Collins and His Friend Merle Haggard

Tommy Collins had been a valuable source of songs for many, especially his good friend Merle Haggard. Collins had written two number one hits for Haggard, 1972’s “Carolyn” and 1975’s “The Roots Of My Raising”. Haggard and Collins were especially close. Merle wrote and recorded a special biographical song about Tommy’s life and career called “Leonard”, Collins’ real name. The song became a No. 9 hit in 1981.

Hear the story of Tommy Collins’ life below, Leonard by Merle Haggard.


Tommy Collins’ first major successes as a recording artist and a songwriter came during the mid-1950s. He registered four Top Ten singles in 1954-55. The best known among the songs was “You Better Not Do That” which spent seven weeks at #2 on Billboard’s country chart. After a promising start, Collins left the music business to become a minister. However, he came back strong in 1966 with a song called “If You Can’t Bite, Don’t Growl” which reached No. 7.

When George Strait Took One for Himself and Took it to No. 1

The main forte of Tommy Collins’ was songwriting and George Strait took one of Tommy’s old classics. The king of country music made one of Collins’ songs his in 1988. George Strait took it taking it to number one in the process. The song was “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)”. Collins wrote the s the tune back in 1953. It wasn’t based on any particular event, however, it was about the idea Tommy had that love is more important than riches and possessions. He would hear about people becoming wealthy in the music business, but he wasn’t really that impressed. Tommy thought the best thing in life was to find love or to have someone.

Collins had signed with Capitol Records at the time. However, he wasn’t recording yet, so he submitted the song to Cliffie Stone at Central Songs, Stone’s publishing company. Faron Young got the first crack at it and his original version of “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)” spent three weeks at No. 2 in early 1955.

Watch Faron Young’s Version of the song below.

George Strait considered the song while recording an album with producer Ray Baker in 1983. Ray secured a copy of it from Collins and Strait recorded it then. However, it was shelved when he decided to run with a different producer. Strait and his new producer Jimmy Bowen put the song off for a few albums, but eventually “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)” came back around again. George re-recorded it for a 1987 package, even using the song’s title as the name of the album. The “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)” collection produced three number one singles.

So what do you say folks, ain’t that a wonderful story? Leave a comment below and don’t forget to share this story with friends and family. God Bless Your Heart!


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