Albert Collins: Master of the Telecaster

“I didn’t record for six years from 1972 to ’78. For about a year, I stopped playing completely. My landlord was a contractor, and I started doing work with him. My wife told me ‘this ain’t you, you’ve got to keep up with your music’ which I’m proud of her for telling me that.” ~Albert Collins

Late 1978

I remember the time very well… My parents owned a small convenience store and I lived in the two bedroom apartment above. I somehow convinced my mom to let me move up there when I was only 14. By 1978 I was already living there for close to 4 years. It wasn’t a free ride, I worked in the local record shop in addition to helping my parents out with the business. But on the evenings and weekends that pad above the grocery store became party central. I even devoted a whole room so my friends could jam. It wasn’t like the basement rehearsals we had in our house growing up in the sixties, but it did the trick…

It was at this point in time I had my largest collection of vinyl LP’s. Having my own apartment at such a young age was wild, and I remember for the first time really having the freedom to crank up the volume on some of those records in the evening. This is when I started digging the “cool sounds” of Albert Collins. And the album Ice Pickin’ was one of those records that got a lot of spins on the phonograph back then…

Albert Collins

was born on October 1, 1932, in Leona, Texas, but moved to Houston in 1941. A distant cousin of the legendary Lightnin’ Hopkins, Collins was influenced by the blues sounds of the Mississippi, Chicago, and especially Texas. In his early teens Collins gained inspiration listening to keyboardist Jimmy McGriff and began playing piano and organ… Switching to guitar at 18, he entered the blues scene with a unique sound and approach. Influenced by great blues artists such as T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown and John Lee Hooker, Collins formed his own band in 1952 and packed the clubs around Houston.

In the early 1960s, Collins hit the airwaves big time with Frosty. This song was also known for having a young Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin in attendance in the studio while the song was being recorded. Other single releases like Sno Cone and Thaw Out were heavily played on R&B radio stations. In no time Collins was sharing stages with many of his idols.

In the mid 60’s Collins broke into the rock ‘n’ roll scene with three albums produced by members of Canned Heat, and shortly after played the San Francisco psychedelic circuit. Collins really got the recognition he deserved after he signed with Alligator Records and released Ice Pickin in 1978. It won the Best Blues Album of the Year Award from the Montreux Jazz Festival and was nominated for a Grammy.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90s Collins continued to tour worldwide. He gained further recognition and would go on to influence other artists such as Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi and John Mayer.

Collins won the WC Handy Award for Best Blues Album of the Year in 1983 for his record Don’t Lose Your Cool and shared a Grammy with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland for the album Showdown in 1985. He also performed at Live Aid alongside George Thorogood and the Destroyers at JFK stadium and was nominated for another Grammy in 1987 for Cold Snap. Also known as The Iceman and The Razor Blade, Collins feisty appearance in the 1987 movie Adventures in Babysitting, along with various television performances, brought his unique style and tone to an entirely new audience.

Albert Collins recorded his last album Live 92/93 after being diagnosed with cancer. Sadly another great blues master passed away later that fall in 1993. His legacy will forever live on in the music he leaves behind and the artists that he inspired both past, present and long into the future.

One of the greatest things I love about music is its ability to transport you back through time… Listening to Collins’ 1978 release Ice Pickin’ this past weekend after so many years was not only a cool reminder of the music legend’s magic, but a reflective look at some of my crazy teenage daze… Are you familiar with Albert Collins? Any favorite moments in Collins’ rich musical time line that you recall?


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15 Responses to “Albert Collins: Master of the Telecaster”

  1. Susan August 9, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    I was waiting for this! Definitely a night for the blues. And you did not disappoint. I remember listening to him and re-assessing what the blues were all about. Different city, different life, same assessment. Thanks.

  2. Hermitbiker August 9, 2009 at 7:40 pm #

    Guess I’ll never get tired Of the Blues Blogger or his posts…. he always seems to add that “lil’ bit extra” which puts the final “icing” on the cake !! By cake, I mean “whoever” he chooses to “pay a tribute to” each week !! This blog he created to hopefully “honor and give tribute” to the music he loves…. as far as I’m concerned…. he has scored a “slam dunk” !! This week it’s Albert Collins…. a giant legend of the blues guitar !!
    Thanks again BluesBlogger for another great tribute…. and a”personal” story…. from your life !!

  3. bluesemotion August 10, 2009 at 5:01 am #

    thank you so much for this wonderful post… I never get tired listening to him “Master of Telecaster” .
    Thanks again Blues Blogger…you really brighten my days with your shares :))))

  4. Jus.buz.zin August 10, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Awesome as usual! Ah Albert Collins,like a smooth wine. Thank you. My first taste of him was,I believe, Crosscut Saw,Way back in those great sixties.Strangely I had bought that album along with Lightnin Hopkins.I am now going thru my albums to find my Albert collins records and will have,thanks to you,a very mellow enjoyable day of listening to them.Thanks again for your awesome posts

  5. marcel lemieux August 10, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    Indeed a travel in time..awesome stuff…so true and profound in those days….excellent musician..excellent choice…keep up the wonderful work you do with this blues blog…have a nice day

  6. The Blues Blogger August 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Wow!!! Thanks so much for all the great comments. Glad you like the post… So many of the artists I’ve featured have enriched my life and generate some really cool thought waves, not only from the past, but the present as well.. I’m happy I can present these musical moments in a format for you to enjoy…

    Thanks again,

  7. mottvillemama August 14, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    Oh yeah…

    You’ve done it again..
    excellent as always…

  8. MacDaddy August 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    I remember meeting him in the 80’s. He was appearing at a bar called The Church Key and was staying at the Gopher Motel, less than a half a mile from the Church Key. A student living in the area, I was walking to the bar to hear. Then I saw him sitting on the front steps of the motel, waiting for a cab. After I told I was coming to hear him play, we had about a 15 minute conversation.

    He was in a great mood and played great. But he said he was thinking about T. Bone. I can’t remember whether he had just died or whether he had just died. But he played ‘Stormy Monday for a long time, at one time trading licks with A.C. Reed, his sax man.

    After seeing t his show, I didn’t want to listen to any other music but the blues for a long time. I mostly listened to T. Bone Walker and Albert Collins.

  9. MacDaddy August 25, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    I forgot to say that The Church Key was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a student at the U of Minnesota Minneapolis campus at the time.

  10. Fitzgerald November 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    I love Albert Collins, he is truly missed. He is of course one of my guitar heroes. Thanks for a great post as always. 🙂

  11. phyllis November 24, 2009 at 9:29 pm #

    Love this music– so grateful to hear the wonderful music brought back here, thank you .

  12. Bluesemotion November 25, 2009 at 4:28 am #

    I love Albert Collins, I really miss him…his blues ..his voice..his telecaster sound…He is of course one of my guitar heroes. Thanks BlueBlogger for sharing such great posts as always !!!

  13. hollynoel001 November 25, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    i have listened to a lot of music in the past he will be missed thanks for the great blog as always!!!

  14. TJ November 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Steven Seagal I believe has Albert’s iconic Telecaster today as part of his collection….

    He’s a huge blues fan and doing some music himself now on his new show…he has a big guitar collection…really big…

  15. Dale November 25, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    Brother, you have once again blessed us all with another outstanding historical article of one of the best blues talents that ever lived. I don’t know of one person that knows of you and your work here that doesn’t appreciate you a great deal. Keep doing what you do best, informing us and bringing to remembrance some of the most gifted musicians that ever took to the stage. Thank you BluesBlogger.

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