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Albert Collins

Albert Collins, "The Master of the Telecaster," "The Iceman," and "The Razor Blade" was robbed of his best years as a blues performer by a bout with liver cancer that ended with his premature death on November 24, 1993. He was just 61 years old. The highly influential, totally original Collins, like the late John Campbell, was on the cusp of a much wider worldwide following via his deal with Virgin Records' Pointblank subsidiary. However, unlike Campbell, Collins had performed for many more years, in obscurity, before finally finding a following in the mid-'80s.

Collins was born October 1, 1932, in Leona, TX. His family moved to Houston when he was seven. Growing up in the city's Third Ward area with the likes of Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, Collins started out taking keyboard lessons. His idol when he was a teen was Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff. But by the time he was 18 years old, he switched to guitar, and hung out and heard his heroes, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker and Lightnin' Hopkins (his cousin) in Houston-area nightclubs. Collins began performing in these same clubs, going after his own style, characterized by his use of minor tunings and a capo, by the mid-'50s. It was also at this point that he began his "guitar walks" through the audience, which made him wildly popular with the younger white audiences he played for years later in the 1980s. He led a ten-piece band, the Rhythm Rockers, and cut his first single in 1958 for the Houston-based Kangaroo label, "The Freeze." The single was followed by a slew of other instrumental singles with catchy titles, including "Sno-Cone," "Icy Blue" and "Don't Lose Your Cool." All of these singles brought Collins a regional following. After recording "De-Frost" b/w "Albert's Alley" for Hall-Way Records of Beaumont, TX, he hit it big in 1962 with "Frosty," a million-selling single. Teenagers Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, both raised in Beaumont, were in the studio when he recorded the song. According to Collins, Joplin correctly predicted that the single would become a hit. The tune quickly became part of his ongoing repertoire, and was still part of his live shows more than 30 years later, in the mid-'80s. Collins' percussive, ringing guitar style became his trademark, as he would use his right hand to pluck the strings. Blues-rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix cited Collins as an influence in any number of interviews he gave.

Through the rest of the 1960s, Collins continued to work day jobs while pursuing his music with short regional tours and on weekends. He recorded for other small Texas labels, including Great Scott, Brylen and TFC. In 1968, Bob "The Bear" Hite from the blues-rock group Canned Heat took an interest in the guitarist's music, traveling to Houston to hear him live. Hite took Collins to California, where he was immediately signed to Imperial Records. By later 1968 and 1969, the '60s blues revival was still going on, and Collins got wider exposure opening for groups like the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Collins based his operations for many years in Los Angeles before moving to Las Vegas in the late '80s.

He recorded three albums for the Imperial label before jumping to Tumbleweed Records. There, several singles were produced by Joe Walsh, since the label was owned by the Eagles' producer Bill Szymczyk. The label folded in 1973. Despite the fact that he didn't record much through the 1970s and into the early '80s, he had gotten sufficient airplay around the U.S. with his singles to be able to continue touring, and so he did, piloting his own bus from gig to gig until at least 1988, when he and his backing band were finally able to use a driver. Collins' big break came about in 1977, when he was signed to the Chicago-based Alligator Records, and he released his brilliant debut for the label in 1978, Ice Pickin'. Collins recorded six more albums for the label, culminating in 1986's Cold Snap, on which organist Jimmy McGriff performs. It was at Alligator Records that Collins began to realize that he could sing adequately, and working with his wife Gwen, he co-wrote many of his classic songs, including items like "Mastercharge," and "Conversation With Collins."

His other albums for Alligator include Live in Japan, Don't Lose Your Cool, Frozen Alive! and Frostbite. An album he recorded with fellow guitarists Robert Cray and Johnny "Clyde" Copeland for Alligator in 1985, Showdown! brought a Grammy award for all three musicians. His Cold Snap, released in 1986, was nominated for a Grammy award.

In 1989, Collins signed with the Pointblank subsidiary of major label Virgin Records, and his debut, Iceman, was released in 1991. The label released the compilation Collins Mix in 1993. Other compact-disc reissues of his early recordings were produced by other record companies who saw Collins' newfound popularity on the festival and theater circuit, and they include Complete Imperial Recordings on EMI Records (1991) and Truckin' With Albert Collins (1992) on MCA Records. Collins' sessionography is also quite extensive. The albums he performs on include David Bowie's Labyrinth, John Zorn's Spillane, Jack Bruce's A Question of Time, John Mayall's Wake Up Call, B.B. King's Blues Summit, Robert Cray's Shame and a Sin, and Branford Marsalis' Super Models in Deep Conversation.

Although he'd spent far too much time in the 1970s without recording, Collins could sense that the blues were coming back stronger in the mid-'80s, with interest in Stevie Ray Vaughan at an all-time high. Collins enjoyed some media celebrity in the last few years of his life, via concert appearances at Carnegie Hall, on Late Night with David Letterman, in the Touchstone film, Adventures in Babysitting, and in a classy Seagram's Wine Cooler commercial with Bruce Willis. The blues revival that Collins, Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds helped bring about in the mid-'80s has continued into the mid-'90s. But sadly, Collins has not been able to take part in the ongoing evolution of the music. ~ Richard Skelly
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Deep Freeze (Live At The Fillmore West / Live At El Mocambo Club)

Disc 1

1. Introduction (Instrumental) (Live)

2. How Blue Can You Get (Live)

3. Thaw Out (Live)

4. So Tired (Live)

5. Funky (Live)

6. Deep Freeze (Live)

7. Baby What Do You Want Me To Do ? (Live)

8. Mustang Sally (Live)

9. Backstroke (Live)

Disc 2
x

Track List: Deluxe Edition

1. I Ain't Drunk

2. If You Love Me Like You Say

3. Blue Monday Hangover

4. Melt Down

5. Master Charge

6. Too Tired

7. If Trouble Was Money

8. T-Bone Shuffle

9. Get To Gettin'

10. But I Was Cool

11. Cold Cuts

12. When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You

13. Good Fool Is Hard To Find

x

Track List: The Complete Imperial Recordings

Disc 1

1. Do The Sissy

2. Collins' Mix

3. Let's Get It Together

4. Got A Good Thing Goin'

5. All About My Girl (Left Overs)

6. Stump Poker

7. Let's Get It Together Again

8. Ain't Got Time

9. Turnin' On

10. Whatcha Say (I Don't Know)

11. Pushin'

12. Doin' My Thing

13. Harris County Line-Up

14. Conversation With Collins

15. Jawing

16. Grapeland Gossip

17. Chatterbox

18. Trash Talkin'

Disc 2

1. Baby What You Want Me To Do / Rock Me Baby

2. Lip Service

3. Things That I Used To Do (Talking Slim Blues)

4. Back-Yard Back-Talk

5. Tongue Lashing

6. And Then It Started Raining

7. Soul Food

8. Jam It Up

9. Do What You Want To Do

10. Black Bottom Bayou

11. Junkey Monkey

12. 69 Underpass Roadside Inn

13. I Need You So

14. Bitsey

15. Cool 'N Collards

16. Bland Down And Jam

17. Sweet 'N Sour

18. Swamp Sauce

x

Track List: Cold Snap

1. Cash Talkin' (The Workingman's Blues)

2. Bending Like A Willow Tree

3. A Good Fool Is Hard To Find

4. Lights Are On But Nobody's Home

5. I Ain't Drunk

6. Hooked On You

7. Too Many Dirty Dishes

8. Snatchin' It Back

9. Fake I.D.

x

Track List: Live In Japan

1. Listen Here (Live In Japan)

2. Tired Man (Live In Japan)

3. If Trouble Was Money (Live In Japan)

4. Jealous Man (Live In Japan)

5. Stormy Monday (Live In Japan)

6. Skatin' (Live In Japan)

7. All About My Girl (Live In Japan)

x

Track List: Don't Lose Your Cool

1. Get To Gettin'

2. My Mind Is Trying To Leave Me

3. Broke

4. Don't Lose Your Cool

5. When A Guitar Plays The Blues

6. But I Was Cool

7. Meltdown

8. Ego Trip

9. Quicksand

x

Track List: Frozen Alive

1. Frosty

2. Angel Of Mercy

3. I Got That Feeling

4. Caldonia

5. Things I Used To Do

6. Got A Mind To Travel

7. Cold Cuts

x

Track List: Frostbite

1. If You Love Me Like You Say

2. Blue Monday Hangover

3. I Got A Problem

4. The Highway Is Like A Woman

5. Brick

6. Don't Go Reaching Across My Plate

7. Give Me My Blues

8. Snowed In

x

Track List: Ice Pickin'

1. Honey, Hush! (Talking Woman Blues)

2. When The Welfare Turns Its Back On You

3. Ice Pick

4. Cold, Cold Feeling

5. Too Tired

6. Master Charge

7. Conversation With Collins

8. Avalanche

Comments

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To Mr, Albert Collins: THANK YOU for playing the Blues for a long time.
NOW I can just listen!!!!
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I ain't drunk was my theme song in the 90's
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I also saw Albert with Robert Cray at the Rialto Theatre in Joliet. It was an unforgettabl e experience as Albert jumped off of the stage with a corded telecaster and walked up and down the aisles playing lead guitar with the guitar cord behind!
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Get it !!!
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Up jammin at 6am .ready to do the oochie
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Wow never heard of this guy is he new?
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I thought I was her husband 'stead o' her maid....RIP, Albert. Saw him once. Unforgettabl e .
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Albert and coco Montoya need to jam together on nonstop they rule.
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You got me wonderin' baby.... who's making dirty dishes with you??? wooooooooo!
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One of the greatest of the original Bluesmen!! Had his own style...Than k goodness his music still lives on!!! James L Cooper II
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wcrossware
Saw him in Milwaukee in the early 80s. Just a chance. I was a young horny kid and some girl asked me if I wanted to go back to her hotel room. I remember looking at her and listening to Collins. It took a few seconds, gave a kiss and said no, I'm staying for this
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He is awesome!!!! Never heard him before.... I love him!!!!
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Awesome !!!!
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May God keep you comfortable Albert
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FIRST TIME HEARDING THIS KIND OF MUSIC. THIS STUFF IS GREAT. WISH I HEARD IT YEARS AGO. THANKS PANDORA
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One of the greatest. No others like him
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djomara
Love this guy. Similar artist: Vincent Hayes. But Albert's guitar is HOT.
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I'm not drunk, I'm just drinking
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marlenaharri s _ b r c
Ahgel
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Talk about getting the goose bumps!! Love it!
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Miss you Albert!
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Albert has always been one of my biggest influences as a guitarist! One of a kind!
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Thanks
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yessir
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Passion is hard to come by
Albert always had it
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oh, yeah good bluz
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jtny786
Too Many Dirty Dishes, too great. Collins it hitting that axe!
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haha
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The Master of the Telecaster, Mr. Frosty my 2nd fave Blues Guitarist after B.B. and Buddy (tied at 1st place)
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FROSTY!!! RIP AC...
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yup
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very good
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oh yeah
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Radical. Ain't no doubt ‘bout it. A true blue BLUES musician- epic talent. ‘nough said.
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ouch
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H-TOWN is Blue too. 3m 14y
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the man!!!
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Sweet loving Blues
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mstania739
Ooppppp
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Collins showed what that Telecaster was for!!!
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Dude put you right there in a bar room at the bar with bout 8 hard drinks under your belt an can get up
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He is definetly in a class!
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no one leaves this bar with out singing the blues,
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Best album eva showdown
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Didn't seem like no walk at all
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A true original. Gotta love the Iceman.
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Taste, hit me.
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One of the best, I was lucky to meet hlm at the Fillmore. R.I.P. ALBERT
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Just awesome.
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I saw this guy once in Joliet, IL @ the (newly renovated at the time)
Rialto Theatre. Also, Robert Cray performed. It was truly one of the best concerts that I ever attended. I love this man's music!
Show more

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