Family ties: Second-generation musicians join forces

The Good Lookers are South Lake Tahoe’s Britney “Bert” Collins and Joseph Decker.
Photos by Liz Nellums
A second-generation South Lake Tahoe musician is about to head out on her debut tour, alongside her beau and bandmate. After just eight months playing together, the Good Lookers are headed out for a spate of live shows around Oregon in April and May at venues that include wineries, bars and restaurants, and even a radio show broadcast from a farmers’ market. This musical duo is Britney “Bert” Collins and Joseph Decker. “We just counted them up. We have about 10 booked right now and a few more we are waiting on, so probably 15 shows total,” Collins said. Self-professed aficionados of blues, jazz, country and other roots music, the Good Lookers play a wide repertoire of covers and original music, with both contributing guitar, vocals and a variety of percussion. [pullquote]Joe didn’t want to come in because his boss was there, so he climbed a tree to watch my show.”[/pullquote]“We kind of do a little bit of everything,” Collins said. “I feel like we cater a little bit to the older crowd. We don’t do a whole lot of modern music. We play everything from 1930s blues up till now. I would say most of our stuff is ’60s, ’70s a little bit of ’80s. We do have a lot of originals. People tend to request our originals, we need to get an album made.” Both bandmates were raised around music from a young age, Collins in South Lake Tahoe and Decker in Missouri. “I grew up with a musical family, my dad is a guitar teacher,” Collins said. “Music was always just there kind of. I played my first paying gig when I was 21 on the East Coast. I just came back to Tahoe at some point, started playing a little bit up here. Then I moved up to Oregon and played a few gigs up there, and then came back to Tahoe and Base Camp was my first solid gig here in town.” Liz NellumsHer father, Roger Collins, is a guitar instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College, and a fixture on the live music scene around South Lake Tahoe. Collins the younger also credits one of her father’s close friends and fellow music instructors as instrumental in guiding her toward live performances. “Eric Hellberg, who is the drum teacher here in town, he was like the person that made me a musician, I would say,” she said. “He’s incredible. I took his ensemble class at the college, which got me playing with other musicians, which I had never really done before. I’ve taken private drum lessons from him and vocal lessons, and he’s just my hero in the sense of someone who knows what’s going on, him and my dad.” Hailing from a family of farmers, Decker also enjoyed the benefits of an early musical education. “I started playing piano when I was 4 years old,” he said. “I have four older sisters who all played instruments, so again, musical family. Joined the military, got out of the military and went back to playing music for a period of time. My focus has always been with roots music, blues, jazz, the beginnings of those genres really. My first real musical experiences were with blues, Muddy Waters, when I was like 8 years old.” The two met in 2017 in Langlois, Oregon. Decker was working on a cranberry farm at the time, and Collins had moved there to help her mother open a coffee shop. “Joe walked into the coffee shop one day,” she said. “I had my guitar sitting there, because that’s what I would do when there was nobody in the coffee shop, just sit around and play and sing.” “She had a Gretsch Tennessean just sitting there,” he recalled. “He was like, ‘oh god, a girl that has a nice guitar? I wonder if she can play it,’” Collins said with a chuckle. “Anyways, he kept coming in every day, talking to me for longer and longer, he wouldn’t leave.” Intrigued, Decker would soon secure quite a unique seat from which to take in one of Collins’ performances. She was playing at a restaurant called The Spoon in a fenced-in outdoor area for a local audience, of which some of the members precluded Decker’s willingness to attend. Undeterred, Decker soon secured an alternative approach. “Joe didn’t want to come in because his boss was there, so he climbed a tree to watch my show,” Collins said. “It was my boss, his brother, and my landlord,” Decker said. “I just didn’t want to sit around and drink with my boss and landlord.” From this lofty arboreal vantage, Decker liked what he saw, and decided to keep pestering the young lady. “Finally after Joe coming into the coffee shop for four months straight, I was like, ‘Do you want to play guitar or something?’” Collins said. “So we sat on the porch one day and we played guitar and I asked him if he wanted to be in a band with me and he said ‘OK,’ and I was like, ‘OK, well I’m going to go back to Tahoe because I know I have gigs there,’ and he was like, ‘OK.’” The Good Lookers play almost daily around South Shore, and can be found variously at Base Camp Pizza Co., South Lake Brewing Company, Outpost Brewery, California Burger, Cabo Wabo, and the Rendezvous Lounge at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. Less than a year into their career together, they are highly appreciative of the local music scene and the openings that it has afforded them. “This is a really unique place, even with as many problems as there are with staying in a resort town. There’s some negatives to being in a town that changes population so often,” Decker said. “But playing for the Tahoe Restaurant Group was the only reason that we decided to do what we do. Because of that we had the opportunity to come down here and pick up a bunch of gigs and sort of solidify our sound and figure out which directions we really wanted to move into.” “We’re just super happy to be playing music for a living,” Collins said, smiling.

– Josh Sweigert

Liz Nellums

ABOUT Josh Sweigert

Josh Sweigert
Josh grew up on the California coast with a deep appreciation for bluegrass and string band music as well as the great outdoors. A guitarist and singer, he plays solo acoustic gigs in South Lake Tahoe.

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