Albert Collins (Albert Gene Drewery) was born in October 1, 1932, Leona, TEXAS, USA and died November 24, 1993, Las Vegas, NV, USA) was an American blues guitarist, singer and (occasional) harmonica player. The very husband of Gwendolyn Collins (married in 1968). His Parents relocated to Houston when he was at the age of seven. Growing up in the city with a love of Johnny, Collins began taking keyboard lessons, he anticipated to becoming a professional organist. Just after his keyboard was stolen, then he began to play guitar. But at age 16 he had formed a trio and began working on a local scene.
Collins was a great figure of the Texas for his blues -guitar style. His style is a non-standard tuning, and slashing out blocked chords and sharp flurries of treble notes to produce an “ice-cold” sound, he had many nicknames such as the “Ice Man”, “The Master of the Telecaster” and “The Razor Blade”. In the mid-’60s Collins broke into the rock ‘n’ roll world, releasing three albums produced by members of Canned Heat, and began playing with a circuit in San Francisco. He (Albert) greatest success came after he signed with Alligator in 1978. The band won the Best Blues Album of the Year Award from the Montreux Jazz Festival, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. His next albums with the Alligators helped him earned every award the blues world had to offer.
Collins went on a tour to the south with Piney Brown in the mid-1950s and played weekend gigs with another upcoming Texas guitarist named Gatemouth Brown. He continued to play on weekends through the mid-1960s. In 1958 he released “The Freeze”/“Collins Shuffle” on the Kangaroo label alongside with Booker T, Duane Eddy, and Link Wray,. “Sold about 150,000 copies in three weeks’ time,” Collins began to get popular name really started to spread was when I cut ‘Frosty.’ “Frosty” became a million seller for Collins and the Hall label in 1962. It also established Collins’s trademark.
The unique ingredients in Collins’s unique tunings is either E minor (E B E G B E) or D minor ( D A D F A D), Collins is able to coax a special effects from this simple arrangement. Amongst his influences include guitarists Lightnin’ Hopkins, TBone Walker, B.B. King, and Gatemouth Brown. After establishing his dynamic cool sound, Collins recorded a string of regional hits for a variety of small labels from 1958 to 1971 (Kangaroo, Great Scott, Hall, Fox, Imperial, and Tumbleweed). He even replaced Jimi Hendrix for a brief spell after the rock innovator quit Little Richard’s band. After 20th Century-Fox released a compilation album.
Almost a year later Bob Hite from Canned Heat band witnessed Collins performing and persuaded Imperial Records of Los Angeles to sign the guitarist. Bob brought him to California to record an album which led to constant touring of psychedelic ballrooms in the latter part of the decade. Collins continued recording a few albums, mainly instrumentals. Collins began his worst years as a blues performer by when he was diagnosed with liver cancer, which he fought till his premature death on November 24, 1993. He was just 61 years old.
Even though he has spent a meaningful time in the 1970s without recording, Collins could sense and had a great hope that the blues music would come back strong in the mid-’80s. Collins enjoyed a great time with some media celebrity in the last few years of his life, through 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.
Albert Collins left behind a blues legacy that continues to amaze, inspire and delight blues fans all over the universe.
1 thought on “Albert Collins”
Saw him for the first time and it was live at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1987. It was Saturday night on June 6th …OMG what a night! I’ve been to over thirty of those CBFs and don’t think I’ve heard music that good or seen a crowd that enthusiastic as it was that night at the Petrillo band shell.