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Cal Collins Dies at 68

Cal Collins, a self-taught guitarist who became widely renowned for his technical skill and distinctive style, passed away Aug. 26 at his home in Dillsboro, Ind. He was 68.

Collins was born and raised on a farm in Indiana and learned to play mandolin with local bluegrass groups; his first gig was at age five. Collins soon became captivated by the jazz he heard on the radio and intrigued by the harmonies possible on the guitar, as opposed to the single-line mandolin. His unorthodox technique, using all his fingers plus a pick in unusual combinations to play a distinct melody, shifting middle chords and a solid bass line, grew out of his attempts to imitate jazz pianists. Records by Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian, brought back to the farm by traveling uncles, also influenced the young Collins. Although he never had any formal training, he was in demand as an educator, especially toward the end of his life.

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