What you need is a big fish

What you need is a big fish

When promoter Charles Collins Jr. announced that the Rock-N-Country Music Bash at the Columbia County Fairgrounds scheduled for this weekend was going to feature nationally known artists such as Atlanta Rhythm Section, Ambrosia, Orleans and Juice Newton, people should have started asking some questions.

After all, the event was organized by Turn On Your Radio Music Park, a company that was started by Collins.

That is the same Charles Collins Jr. who planned to have several concerts in south Augusta earlier this year, but those concerts never materialized.

Collins even discussed building an amphitheater on property along Phinizy and Peach Orchard roads.

Guess what? That also never happened.

Well, it looks like he has found his fish. For the weekend at least.

What most Augustans don’t know is Mr. Charles Collins Jr. has a sketchy past. A very sketchy past.

According to an April 23, 2010 article that was published in the Winston-Salem Journal, Charles W. Collins Jr. was convicted in Wilkes Superior Court in North Carolina on eight counts of obtaining property by false pretense and one felony count of passing a worthless check.

He was sentenced to 285 days in jail and given four probation sentences of eight to 10 months each. The newspaper also said Collins was ordered to pay restitution of $11,830.

Collins apparently claimed that he was going to revive the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina that had been dormant since 1996, but he never actually paid his vendors and didn’t stage a single race, according to the Winston-Salem Journal’s article.

“Wilkes County officials didn’t quite know what to make of Collins when he started leasing the speedway in February 2009, because he didn’t seem to have any money and couldn’t answer basic questions about his plan,” the 2010 newspaper article stated. “But he did have the keys to the racetrack and a short-term lease.”

Collins also allegedly claimed that he was developing a reality TV show featuring female race-car drivers, but none of that ever happened.

The newspaper reported that his “legal problems started when one of the female racers who paid him more than $2,200 for a race school that was canceled said that he cheated her.”

Collins provided the woman a refund check, but it bounced.

“The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office arrested Collins in July 2009,” the article states. “After his arrest, investigators found outstanding fugitive warrants for him from Florida and Georgia. The Florida warrant charges him with felony counts of contracting without a license during an emergency and third-degree grand theft. The Georgia fugitive warrant stems from a 2002 probation violation that said Collins owed $15,182 in restitution.”

In 2012, the Winston-Salem Journal did a follow-up story on Collins after he was released from prison.

According to the story, Collins seemed eager to jump back into promotions business.

“He’s out of prison and trying to get the engines revving again for a women’s race series, but don’t expect to see the reality show on TV just yet,” the newspaper wrote. “He doesn’t have any cars or racetracks lined up.”

Collins was even having problems meeting the terms of his probation, the 2012 article stated.

When Collins was first arrested in 2009, The Mountain Times in Boone, North Carolina, did an extensive interview with Wilkes County Sheriff Dane Mastin and his concerns about Collins and his vision for the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

“He started out publishing stories about a space needle with a revolving restaurant, a pro golf course and condominiums at the speedway and all sorts of things,” Mastin told the newspaper in 2009. “Now that’s a little outlandish for this venue I would think, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. However, when we didn’t see anything happening we thought, ‘Well, if he’s got sponsors and things lined up then there’s a chance he might try and bilk some people, because it doesn’t appear that any substantial work is being done at the track.’”

Then, the calls began flooding in, the sheriff told The Mountain Times.

“We began to have folks start to call us asking about events and things he was attempting to promote, such as a televised reality show for women race-car drivers and starting a driving school,” the sheriff said. “Additionally, while he was trying to get sponsors, we began to receive calls asking if he was legit? We would even see folks out on the street and they would ask us, ‘What was going on with this guy?’ So we just started to pay close attention.”

And it quickly became apparent that Collins didn’t have any money to back up his claims, the sheriff told the newspaper.

So, Mastin decided to pay Collins a visit.

“While we were talking, he began telling me about the ice racing series he wanted to bring in and how he was going to dig up the track, after the summer program with the women’s racing reality show, and was going to lay refrigerated pipes under it and have some kind of deal he had cooked up and proposed to Coors beer,” the sheriff reportedly said. “That drew my attention to the television commercial showing a car sliding on an ice track. I thought to myself ‘Guy, it don’t even snow here anymore hardly.’”

The final straw came when Collins began describing a concert to the sheriff that he was planning to bring to the area featuring country artists “The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, and Southern Rock legends .38 Special,” the 2009 article stated.

“You know, they can’t get those folks to Greensboro and Charlotte, so I didn’t think they would be coming to Wilkesboro,” the sheriff told the newspaper.

So the sheriff began contacting the performers‘ agents and, guess what? They had never heard of Collins.

“None of the folks he named to me knew anything about him, not to mention that they were already touring someplace else or not on tour at all,” the sheriff stated. “I knew then that he was pretty bogus.”

Now Collins has his sights on good ‘ol Augusta. A 200-acre, 100,000-capacity amphitheater facility in either Richmond or Columbia County. He says he is looking into buying the former Regency Eight movie theaters and turning them into eight separate music halls, with eight different bands performing simultaneously every night of the week and then beaming it out on the internet.

And also, by the end of next year, a string of 250 amphitheaters across the country.

Pretty big plans for an ex-con.

So how does this ball get rolling? The aforementioned fish. He has apparently found one right here (who will remain nameless, although we know who it is) who is financially backing the event this weekend.

So far, more than $125,000 has been paid up front for a middling lineup with little to no market awareness.

As we scratch our heads to figure out his angle, it becomes clear: “Promoter Fee.” Like everyone doing business with him, he more than likely (like 99 percent more than likely) has received a fee up front.

The local concert and promotions industry has been buzzing the past few weeks about Collins because of his well-documented past. One of the band’s management companies confirmed to the Metro Spirit that he had been contacted in the past couple of weeks by two different investigators with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the FBI.

Yet, with the advances having been covered, the show will go on. At least for this weekend.

One piece of advice: When looking to get involved with someone asking you for a lot of money, fire up the ol’ laptop and do an hour or so of investigation. Make a couple phone calls. It could save you a quarter million or so.

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