His grandfather was Reverend Joseph Perry, and his father was Captain Arthur Collins. He was the oldest of 10 children. He had one son, Sergeant Arthur Perry Collins. He grew up and lived in New Jersey, breeding horses and cattle. When he retired in 1926, he and his wife moved to Tice, Florida, where he grew oranges. He died of old age.
Known as "The King of Ragtime Songs".
Though he was one of the most prolific singers of the cylinder and early record market, and thus had many hits, he was most famous for "The Preacher and the Bear", which he recorded many times for various labels. That song is often credited for composition to Joe Arizona, but correctly credited to George Fairman. Fairman, a pianist, sold the rights to the song to Arizona, the owner of the cafe in which he played, for $250 in either 1902 or 1903. (Fairman's recollection, in 1955, was hazy as to the exact date of the sale of the song.)
Unlike most other artists of his time, who used various pseudonyms depending on the label and/or type of song being sung, Collins never used a pseudonym for any of his solo releases, regardless of the label.
On October 20, 1921, while touring as part of the duo of Arthur F. Collins & Byron G. Harlan for Edison Records' Test Tone recording demonstrations, he was walking off-stage when he fell through a trapdoor accidentally left open. This left him bedridden and unable to travel, perform, or record until mid-1923, when he had recovered sufficiently that he again was able to tour and record with Harlan for Edison.