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From behind-the-scenes to center stage

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Ritch Collins will bring his band, the Three-O, to Taylor Books for a free show Friday night. The group's lineup varies by show, and this one should include him, fiddler Joe Dobbs and woodwinds player Jeff Carter.
WANT TO GO? Ritchie Collins Three-OWHERE: Taylor Books, 226 Capitol St.WHEN: 7:30 p.m. FridayCOST: FreeINFO: 304-342-1461 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first rule of the Ritch Collins' Three-O is there are no rules."It's whatever I'm doing at the moment," he said.It also doesn't always have to be the same three guys.This Friday, for instance, when the band performs at Taylor Books on Capitol Street, it's probably going to be Collins, Jeff Carter and old-time fiddler Joe Dobbs, who also owns the Fret 'n Fiddle music store in St. Albans. "He plays clarinet, flute and stuff," Collins said of Carter, then added the night's performance might sound a little different from the last time the group played Charleston."It might be a little unusual without a bass player," he said.Bassist Bob Shortridge is staying home this time around -- not that this was cause for alarm, Collins thought."The set list could get a little more varied," he acknowledged. "I'm pretty sure we're going to do Toto's 'Africa,' but after that we might do 'Leavin' Home,' and who knows what? We do a range from Toto to Charlie Poole."Collins said the Taylor Books show is the first time the Rich Collins Three-O has been out in a little while.
"We had a good year," he said. "We played out a couple of times at Taylor Books. We were booked for FestivALL at the Ice Cream Social on the West Side. That's always a great time. It's like they say: the West Side is the best side."
He might have liked to play out more, but 2013 was a busy year. Aside from his day-to-day duties as technical director for the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, Ky., Collins is the monitor engineer for "Mountain Stage." He mixes the sound the performers hear on stage.Collins also has a recording business and produces local artists. He produced Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.'s recent Christmas record."That was a really good time," he said. "I got involved with that through doing live audio with him. We did a series of Christmas shows after he won 'America's Got Talent' and started talking about doing a Christmas record."The album didn't happen as fast as any of them would have liked, Collins said. Originally, they hoped to get the record out by last Christmas, but finding time to record was difficult, and the record just didn't happen."In May, we started again, and it's out now," Collins said, obviously pleased. "It's doing real well, and they keep reordering copies."
Murphy, he added, is a really good guy, and Collins thinks the local music scene has seen a bump in activity in part because of him."He's good," Collins said. "And because of the show and the notoriety he got from being on it, I think a lot of people wonder, 'If he's out playing, I wonder who else is out there?'"It's just very good for the music community, in general."Collins said it doesn't hurt that there's actually a lot of good stuff for people to go hear. For example, he said, there's Bob Thompson.Collins recently worked backstage for Thompson during his annual "Joy to the World" show."You listen to that, and those guys are all local musicians," he said. "They're top-notch players, world-class players, and they play right here in Charleston. It's actually a little humbling to get to work with them."As for his own music, Collins gets to it as he can. He's just about ready to put his third record out."I don't have a title yet," he said. "It'll be original stuff, and hopefully, it will be good enough that I can elbow myself onto 'Mountain Stage' again.""Mountain Stage" is a kind of family, Collins said."I can usually convince crazy uncle Larry if I have anything to say," he said.Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.
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