Jason Collins

Jason Collins

There's been an emotional ripple across my Facebook page this morning as news of Jason Collins' death spread to family, friends and the Waco music community.

Collins, 50, died Wednesday morning in hospice care at his home, ending a 12-year fight with multiple sclerosis.

Collins was known for his involvement with several rock bands over the years, most notably the band Flashback, which he fronted in the 1980s and '90s. The energy and enthusiasm he brought to his music was contagious and more than a few Waco musicians, such as Brian Brown, lead singer for the band Sloppy Joe and a partner in The Backyard, consider him an influence.

He's remembered, too, as someone unfailingly positive, with a healthy sense of humor and deep love for his wife Tina, their five kids and two grandkids.

I met Jason back in the late '80s when I first took over the arts and entertainment beat. Flashback was one of the top local bands and a regular at Chelsea Street Pub, the bar and restaurant chain with a Richland Mall location that hosted a healthy amount of the live rock, rhythm-and-blues and pop played in town. 

He was always upbeat about whatever was at hand — a band gig, a benefit, a reunion show — and I never heard him backbite any Waco band or venue. I did hear a story, however, where he turned down an aspiring rock guitarist because of a lack of charisma. The guitarist? Vernon Howell, better known as David Koresh.

Jason's love for rock and performing started early. He and classmate Jeff Masiongale won their Tennyson Junior High talent show with their band Zbec and created other bands in the years that followed: Paradox, Mad Hatter and then Flashback with Jay Fletcher on lead guitar.

When several of Flashback's players moved on, Jason sat in with bands like Whirling Dervish and Third Street Chaos. Then he and Fletcher reunited in Catdaddy-O (sorry, but I can't remember exactly how that was spelled), with Jason later bringing back Flashback with a new lineup. Longtime friend Todd Gibson joined Jason in an acoustic duo that played places like Cricket's and Casa de Castillo.

In 2005 came the news that changed his life: a diagnosis of MS and the start of 12 years of declining health. Jason took it in stride, even as the disease slowly eroded his ability to perform. Typically, he put his experience into a song, "24 Hour Alamo," with the idea that it might help others facing the disease.

He was quick to praise those who helped him through this time, friends, support organizations and, most of all, Tina. The two married in 2003, bringing her two kids and his three into a blended family of their own.

She was always with him and, when his health kept him largely at home, took him out every Friday night to places where he could either hear live music or eat Mexican food — two things far more enjoyable than the doctor visits and hospital stays that tended to dominate Jason's last months.

Jason was in hospice care when he died from complications from MS, with family, friends and music gracing his final hours.

Our pop culture tends to glorify the famous simply because they're famous and not necessarily because they're generous, compassionate, friendly or encouraging. I found myself thinking today of Waco rock guitarist David Zychek, who died a little more than a year ago and was remembered for his personal qualities as well as his considerable musical talent.

Jason wasn't famous, but he brightened the lives of those around him, both with his music and himself.

"He wanted to be remembered fondly," Tina told me. I think he will.

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at Calvary Chapel Waco, 702 N. 18th St.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor