Born: October 1, 1932 | Died: November 25, 1993 Primary Instrument: Guitar, electric
They called him The Iceman, The Razor Blade, and The Master of the Telecaster. Albert Collins earned these nicknames for his sharp, cool guitar playing, and the Texas bluesman lived up to every one of them. Along with his band, The Icebreakers, Collins' live shows -- driven by his kinetic stage presence -- were legendary testaments to the power of the blues.
Albert Collins was born on the 1st of October, in 1932 in Houston, Texas. Being exposed to music at a very early age, his first guitar heroes soon came to be his cousin Lightnin' Hopkins and the nowadays legendary, John Lee Hooker. In 1941 the Collins family decided to move back Albert's birthplace, Houston. From the beginning he was mostly interested in the organ and the piano, but soon he found a lot bigger interest in the guitar, which he had started to play at the local church. However he didn't become really serious about his guitar playing until he in the beginning of the 50s, started to tour the black juke joints in Houston's black areas. In 1952 he formed his own group, Albert Collins & the Rhythm Rockers, which included musicians like Eddie Guitar Slim Jones, and Little Milton Campbell.
His first recording, “The Freeze,” quickly gave him the reputation as one of the premier blues guitarists around, and his cool and funky guitar trademark came to mark his career permanently. Between 1958 and 1971, Albert recorded mostly instrumental Texas blues, influenced by artists as T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Lightning' Hopkins.
During the 60s he recorded for several independent labels like Kangaroo, Great Scott and TCF Hall. Many of his songs were given titles as “Frosty,” “Snocone,” and “Defrost.” Together with his band he also toured with different performers as blues guitar player Albert King, vocalist Little Richard and guitarist and harmonica player Jimmy Reed. In 1965 he dissolved his group and settled in Kansas City. By 1968 he was persuaded by Bob Hite, from the famous blues/rock band Canned Heat, to move to California were Hite had arranged a record deal for Albert with Imperial Recordings, with whom he cut three albums.
From 1972 to 78 Collins was quite tired of music and played seldom, also during these six years he completely stopped recording. The whole matter went so far that he during 1974 and ‘75 totally quit playing the guitar. Albert decided to return to his music career in the late 70s.
In 1978 Collins got a contract with the Chicago based Alligator records. The years with Alligator, backed by his own band the Icebreakers, generated in some of his best recordings ever, as his first for the label “Ice Pickin.” His other albums for Alligator include “Live in Japan,” “Don't Lose Your Cool,” “Frozen Alive!” “Frostbite,” and “Cold Snap.” Many of his recordings on Alligator became Grammy nominated, but it was not until the record Showdown from 1985 with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland, that Collins finally got the big respect and acknowledgement that he so well deserved.
In 1991 he moved to the Virgin owned record company Pointblank. His first record was “Ice Man,” then in 1993 Collins released a collection titled Collins Mix which included prominent guest stars as Gary Moore, B.B King, Branford Marsalis and harmonica player Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
In 1993 when Albert Collins was at his peak of his career, he received the tragic diagnose that he was suffering from incurable liver cancer. Despite the cancer he continued to play and tour clubs and different festivals with his band the Icebreakers until his imminent death. The last recordings with the Icebreakers resulted in his last record, “Live 92-93,” which was released in 1995.
On the 25th of November, 1993, at the age of 61, Albert Collins passed away in peace at his home in Las Vegas, California.
With his peculiar, original and funky guitar trademark Collins established himself as one of the worlds leading blues guitar players. Collins who since the 50s had been a devoted Fender Telecaster player, has also been honored by Fender with a Fender Telecaster Signature model.
Source: James Nadal