Collins grew up in Pomona, California singing in his school choir, the son of a local police officer. He quit high school to get married.
He started his musical career singing falsetto backup vocals for various 'doo-wop' groups in the Los Angeles area in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including Little Julian Herrera and the Tigers. In 1964, Collins, drummer Jimmy Carl Black bassist Roy Estrada saxophonist Dave Coronado and guitarist Ray Hunt formed The Soul Giants. Upon Hunt's departure, he was replaced by Frank Zappa on guitar. Under Zappa's leadership, the Soul Giants turned into the Mothers of Invention. Ray was the lead vocalist on the Mothers early albums, including Freak Out!, Absolutely Free and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets. He contributed to other Zappa projects through the mid-1970s.
Collins resided in Claremont, California, until his death on December 24, 2012. He was 76 years old.