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Collins, Albert 1932-1993

Albert Collins 1932-1993

Musician, singer

Relatives Were Noted Blues Guitarists

Established Ice Man Persona

Gained New Popularity with Rock Fans

Selected recordings

Sources

Although he went largely unrecognized by the general public during most of his career, the Texas-born musician Albert Collins eventually was acknowledged as one of the most talented and distinctive blues guitarists of his era. He established his fame by creating a unique sound with his Fender Telecaster guitar that was based on unusual tunings and scorching solos. His nickname Iceman was bestowed on him because his guitar sounds were piercing and could scorch the ears, just as icicles were sharp and could burn.

Peter Watrous wrote in the New York Times that Mr. Collins made his reputation by combining savage, unpredictable improvisations with an immediately identifiable tone, cold and pure. In the Icemans powerful hands, said Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, that battered Tele could sass and scold like Shakespeares fire, jab harder than Joe Louis, squawk like a scared chicken, or raise a graveyard howl.

Musicians ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Canned Heat to Robert Cray have cited Collins as having a major influence on their styles. He was especially known for his frenzied live peformances during which he would often stroll into the audience and dance with the fans, his playing arena extended by a 100-foot extension cord attached to his electric guitar. Often he would start talking a blue streak, regaling his fans with hilarious and lewd remarks.

While his crowd-pleasing improvisations made him an extremely popular performer over the years, his recordings sold erratically until late in his career. His ultimate fame was also delayed by the long-time domination of Chicago blues over the Texas-based version. While the Chicago blues of performers such as Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf emphasized group jam sessions, the Texas variety was more of a showcase for individual talent where guitarists tried to outplay each other. Few could compete with Collins in these bouts, but his talent didnt bring him widespread fame until he was brought to the attention of rock fans in the late 1960s.

Relatives Were Noted Blues Guitarists

After moving to the Houston ghetto as a child, Collins first became interested in music while listening to the

At a Glance

Bom May 3,1932, in Leona, Texas; died November 24, 1993, of lung cancer, in Las Vegas, Nevada; married Gwendolyn Collins, 1968.

Blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Born to a sharecropping family; moved to the black ghetto of Houston, TX, as a child; learned to play piano as a youth and grew up listening to big-band music of Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and Tommy Dorsey; learned to play guitar from cousins Willow Young and Lightnin Hopkins; began playing blues at local clubs with Clarence Gatemouth Brown, 1947; played with his own group, the Rhythm Rockers while working days on a ranch and driving a truck, 1949-51; played with Piney Browns band, early 1950s; became session player, 1953; recorded and performed with little Richard, Big Mama Thornton, and others, 1950s; recorded first single, The Freeze, 1958; recorded million-selling single, Frosty, 1962; released first major album, Trucktn with Albert Collins, for Blue Thumb, 1965; signed with Imperial label, 1968; sang for the first time on an album {Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), 1968; toured extensively throughout California, late 1960s; performed at Newport Jazz Festival and Fillmore West, 1969; stopped performing and began working for a building contractor in Los Angeles, 1971; signed with Alligator record label, and formed the Icebreakers, 1977; performed at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1975; performed with George Thorogood at Live Aid Concert, 1985; was chief attraction at American Guitar Heroes concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1985; performed on Musicruise Dayliner circling Manhattan on opening night of JVC Jazz Festival, 1987; appeared in film, Adventures in Babysitting; was subject of television documentary on PBS, Aint Nothin But the Blues, 1980s.

Awards and honors: W.C Handy Award, best blues album (Dont Blow Your Cool) 1983; Grammy Award, best blues album (Showdown, with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland), 1986; W.C. Handy Award, best blues artist of the year, 1989.

pianist in his church. He took piano lessons at school, then learned about playing guitar from hiscousins, blues guitarists Willow Young and Lightnin Hopkins. His cousins turned out to be major influences on Collinss trademark style. He emulated Youngs style of playing without a pick, and learned to tune the guitar in a minor key from Hopkins. By using his fingers rather than a pick, his playing developed a more percussive sound.

Collins claimed in Guitar Player that he made his first guitar out of a cigar box, using hay-baling wire for strings. Through his teen years he wanted to be an organist, but his interest in that instrument waned after his organ was stolen. While Collins said that his greatest influence was Detroits John Lee Hooker, he spent much of his youth listening to the big band music of artists such as Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, and Tommy Dorsey. At one time he considered becoming a jazz guitarist, and his playing often shifted between blues and the horn-driven sound of a jazz big band.

After Collins switched form acoustic to electric guitar, he began listening to T-Bone Walker, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and B.B. King to refine his talent. Brown was a key influence due to his horn-driven sound that Collins found especially exciting. Collins emulated Brown by starting to play with a capo and a Fender guitar, an insturment that would become inextricably linked to him. Since he couldnt afford to buy the guitar at that time, he started by having a Fender Telecaster neck put on another guitar.

By age 15 Collins was playing at local blues club with Brown. Then he formed his own group, the Rhythm Rockers, in 1949, with which he performed at honky tonks in Houstons all-black Third Ward on weekends while working during the week as a ranch hand and truck driver. Next on his career path was three years of touring with singer Piney Browns band.

In the early 1950s, Collinss talent earned him positions as session players with performers such as Big Mama Thornton. He later replaced future guitar great Jimi Hendrix in Little Richards band. By this time Collins had established himself as a great eclectic who could produce unusual sounds with his guitar playing. As David Gates wrote in Newsweek, Collins tore at the string with his bare hands insted of the ostensibly speedier pick, used unorthodox minor tunings instead of the more versatile standard ones and unashamedly clamped on a capo (a bar across the fingerboard, which raises the pitch of the strings), making the already stinging Telecaster sound even more bright and piercing.

Established Ice Man Persona

Collins cashed in on the popularity of instrumentals ushered in by performers such Booker T., Duane Eddy, and Link Wray in the late 1950s. His first recording, an instrumental called The Freeze, featured extended notes played in a high register. Collins told Guitar Player that the record sold about 150,000 copies in a mere three weeks.

Collins lost a chance to play with soul music star James Brown in the late 1950s because he couldnt read music. Meanwhile, he still didnt feel that he could make his living entirely from guitar playing, and he worked as truck drivers and as a mixer of paint for automobiles. Then he hit the blues big time with his recording of Frosty, released in 1962, that sold over a million copies and became a popular blues standard. This song confirmed his reputation as a player of cold blues, and his producer urged him to continue this theme in his song and album titles. He even named his backup band The Icebreakers.

With just his fingers and his capo that he would move up and down the neck of his guitar, Collins produced a wide range of effects ranging from the sound of car horns to footsteps in the snow. He released a series of singles for small record labels such as Kangaroo, Great Scott, Hall, Fox, Imperial, and Tumbleweed that had moderate success at the regional level. He continud playing through the 1960s, but recording very sporadically and was unable to tour because of his day job.

According to Peter Watrous in the New York Times, Collins first significant album was Truckin with Albert Collins in 1965. The album featured what would become famous blues recording of his previously released Frosty, Sno-Cone, and other songs. Following the release of his compilation album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins, he quit his paint job and moved to Kansas City in 1966. While there he met his future wife, Gwendolyn, who would become an important motivator for him as well the composer of some of his best-known songs. Among her compositions for Collins were Theres Gotta Be a Change and Mastercharge.

Gained New Popularity with Rock Fans

Blues music gained in popularity in the late 1960s due to various rock performers such as Jimi Hendrix and Canned Heat stressing the importance of blues as inspiration for their work. A major boost to Collins career came as the result of interest in him by Bob Hite. Hite recommended Collins to the Imperial, which was affiliated with Canned Heats label, Liberty/USA. His understated singing style showed up on a recording for the first time on Love Can Be Found Anywhere Even in a Guitar, the first of three albums that he recorded for Imperial. Later he recorded albums for Blue Thumb, then Bill Szymczyks Tumbleweeed label in Chicago in 1972.

Appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and at Fillmore West in 1969 gained Collins more exposure and acceptance with young rock audiences. He also appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1975. While jamming in the 1970s in Seattle, he met and played with Robert Cray. More than a decade later, he teamed up with Cray and and Johnny Copeland on a Grammy Award-winning blues album, Showdown. As late as 1971, when he was 39 years old, Collins found it necessary to work in construction because he couldnt make a sufficient living from his music.

More comfortable playing for small audiences than mass gatherings, Collins nevertheless agreed to perorma in the 1985 Live Aid Concert which was aired to an estimated 1.8 billion viewers. Right into his fifties, he maintained his flamboyant stage presence. Eventually, Collins was well established as the leading blues celebrarity second to guitarist B.B. King.

Selected recordings

Singles:

The Freeze, 1962.

Frosty, 1962.

Snow-Cone, 1962.

Albums:

Truckin with Albert Collins, Blue Thumb, 1965.

Love Can B Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), Imperial, 1968.

Trash Talkin, Imperial, 1969.

Theres Gotta B a Change, Tumbleweed, 1971.

Ice Pickin, Alligator, 1978.

Frostbite, Alligator, 1980.

Live in Japan, Sonet, 1984.

Showdown, 1985.

Molten Ice, 1992.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Penguin????, pp. 262-263.

Kozinn, Alan, Peter Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar, The History, The Music, The Music, The Players, Quill, 1984, pp. 84-85.

Larkin, Colin, editor, GuinnesEncylopedia of Popular Music, Volume 1, Guinness Publishing, 1992, p. 531.

Periodicals

Audio, June 1988, p. 148.

Downbeat, February 1992, p. 48; February 1994, p. 14; May 1994, p. 56.

New York Times, November 25, 1993, p. D19; November 26, 1993, p. B23.

Guitar Player, May 1988, p. 87; July 1993, p. 30; April 1994, pp. 69, 70, 72, 75-77.

High Fidelity, May 1987, p. 79.

London Times, November 26, 1993, p. 23.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1993, p. A22.

Newsweek, December 6, 1993, p. 84.

Ed Decker

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Collins, Albert

Albert Collins

Guitarist, singer

Relatives Were Noted Blues Guitarists

Recordings Established Ice Man Persona

Gained New Popularity with Rock Fans

Selected discography

Sources

Although he went largely unrecognized by the general public during most of his career, the Texas-born musician Albert Collins eventually was acknowledged as one of the most talented and distinctive blues guitarists of his era. He established his fame by creating a unique sound with his Fender Telecaster guitar that was based on unusual tunings and scorching solos. His nickname Iceman was bestowed on him because his guitar sounds were piercing and could scorch the ears, just as icicles were sharp and could burn.

Peter Watrous wrote in the New York Times that Mr. Collins made his reputation by combining savage, unpredictable improvisations with an immediately identifiable tone, cold and pure. In the Icemans powerful hands, said Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, that battered Tele could sass and scold like Shakespeares fire, jab harder than Joe Louis, squawk like a scared chicken, or raise a graveyard howl.

Musicians ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Canned Heat to Robert Cray have cited Collins as having a major influence on their styles. He was especially known for his frenzied live performances during which he would often stroll into the audience and dance with the fans, his playing arena extended by a 100-foot extension cord attached to his electric guitar. Often he would start talking a blue streak, regaling his fans with hilarious and lewd remarks.

While his crowd-pleasing improvisations made him an extremely popular performer over the years, his recordings sold erratically until late in his career. His ultimate fame was also delayed by the long-time domination of Chicago blues over the Texas-based version. While the Chicago blues of performers such as Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf emphasized group jam sessions, the Texas variety was more of a showcase for individual talent where guitarists tried to outplay each other. Few could compete with Collins in these bouts, but his talent didnt bring him widespread fame until he was brought to the attention of rock fans in the late 1960s.

Relatives Were Noted Blues Guitarists

After moving to the Houston ghetto as a child, Collins first became interested in music while listening to the pianist in his church. He took piano lessons at school, then learned about playing guitar from his cousins, blues guitarists Willow Young and Lightnin Hopkins. His cousins turned out to be major influences on Collinss trademark style. He emulated Youngs style of playing without a pick, and learned to tune the guitar in a minor key from Hopkins. By using his fingers rather than a pick,

For the Record

Born May 3, 1932, in Leona, TX; died November 24, 1993, of lung cancer, in Las Vegas, NV; married in 1968, wifes name Gwendolyn.

Blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Born to a share-cropping family; moved to the black ghetto of Houston, TX, as a child; learned to play piano as a youth and grew up listening to big-band music of Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and Tommy Dorsey; learned to play guitar from cousins Willow Young and Lightnin Hopkins; began playing blues at local clubs with Clarence Gatemouth Brown, 1947; played with his own group, the Rhythm Rockers while working days on a ranch and driving a truck, 1949-51; played with Piney Browns band, early 1950s; became session player, 1953; recorded and performed with Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton, and others, 1950s; recorded first single, The Freeze, 1958; recorded million-selling single, Frosty, 1962; released first major album, Truckin with Albert Collins, for Blue Thumb, 1965; signed with Imperial label, 1968; sang for the first time on an album (Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), 1968; toured extensively throughout California, late 1960s; performed at Newport Jazz Festival and Fillmore West, 1969; stopped performing and began working for a building contractor in Los Angeles, 1971; signed with Alligator record label, and formed the Icebreakers, 1977; performed at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1975; performed with George Thorogood at Live Aid Concert, 1985; was chief attraction at American Guitar Heroes concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1985; performed on Musicruise Dayliner circling Manhattan on opening night of JVC Jazz Festival, 1987; appeared in film, Adventures in Babysitting; was subject of television documentary on PBS, Aint Nothin But the Blues, 1980s.

Awards: W.C. Handy Award, best blues album (Dont Blow Your Cool ), 1983; Grammy Award, best blues album (Showdown, with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland), 1986; W.C. Handy Award, best blues artist of the year, 1989.

his playing developed a more percussive sound.

Collins claimed in Guitar Player that he made his first guitar out of a cigar box, using hay-baling wire for strings. Through his teen years he wanted to be an organist, but his interest in that instrument waned after his organ was stolen. While Collins said that his greatest influence was Detroits John Lee Hooker, he spent much of his youth listening to the big bandmusic of artists such as Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, and Tommy Dorsey. At one time he considered becoming a jazz guitarist, and his playing often shifted between blues and the horn-driven sound of a jazz big band.

After Collins switched form acoustic to electric guitar, he began listening to T-Bone Walker, Clarence Gate-mouth Brown, and B. B. King to refine his talent. Brown was a key influence due to his horn-driven sound that Collins found especially exciting. Collins emulated Brown by starting to play with a capo and a Fender guitar, an instrument that would become inextricably linked to him. Since he couldnt afford to buy the guitar at that time, he started by having a Fender Telecaster neck put on another guitar.

By age 15 Collins was playing at local blues club with Brown. Then he formed his own group, the Rhythm Rockers, in 1949, with which he performed at honky tonks in Houstons all-black Third Ward on weekends while working during the week as a ranch hand and truck driver. Next on his career path was three years of touring with singer Piney Browns band.

In the early 1950s, Collinss talent earned him positions as session players with performers such as Big Mama Thornton. He later replaced future guitar great Jimi Hendrix in Little Richards band. By this time Collins had established himself as a great eclectic who could produce unusual sounds with his guitar playing. As David Gates wrote in Newsweek, Collins tore at the string with his bare hands instead of the ostensibly speedier pick, used unorthodox minor tunings instead of the more versatile standard ones and unashamedly clamped on a capo (a bar across the fingerboard, which raises the pitch of the strings), making the already stinging Tele-caster sound even more bright and piercing.

Recordings Established Ice Man Persona

Collins cashed in on the popularity of instrumentals ushered in by performers such Booker T., Duane Eddy, and Link Wray in the late 1950s. His first recording, an instrumental called The Freeze, featured extended notes played in a high register. Collins told Guitar Player that the record sold about 150,000 copies in a mere three weeks.

Collins lost a chance to play with soul music star James Brown in the late 1950s because he couldnt read music. Meanwhile, he still didnt feel that he could make his living entirely from guitar playing, and he worked as truck drivers and as a mixer of paint for automobiles. Then he hit the blues big time with his recording of Frosty, released in 1962, that sold over a million copies and became a popular blues standard. This song confirmed his reputation as a player of cold blues, and his producer urged him to continue this theme in his song and album titles. He even named his backup band The Icebreakers.

With just his fingers and his capo that he would move up and down the neck of his guitar, Collins produced a wide range of effects ranging from the sound of car horns to footsteps in the snow. He released a series of singles for small record labels such as Kangaroo, Great Scott, Hall, Fox, Imperial, and Tumbleweed that had moderate success at the regional level. He continued playing through the 1960s, but recording very sporadically and was unable to tourbecause of his day job.

According to Peter Watrous in the New York Times, Collins first significant album was Truckin with Albert Collins in 1965. The album featured what would become famous blues recording of his previously released Frosty, Sno-Cone, and other songs. Following the release of his compilation album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins, he quit his paint job and moved to Kansas City in 1966. While there he met his future wife, Gwendolyn, who would become an important motivator for him as well the composer of some of his best-known songs. Among her compositions for Collins were Theres Gotta BeaChange and Mastercharge.

Gained New Popularity with Rock Fans

Blues music gained in popularity in the late 1960s due to various rock performers such as Jimi Hendrix and Canned Heat stressing the importance of blues as inspiration for their work. A major boost to Collinscareer came as the result of interest in him by Bob Hite. Hite recommended Collins to the Imperial, which was affiliated with Canned Heats label, Liberty/USA. His understated singing style showed up on a recording for the first time on Love Can Be Found Anywhere Even in a Guitar, the first of three albums that he recorded for Imperial. Later he recorded albums for Blue Thumb, then Bill Szymczyks Tumbleweed label in Chicago in 1972.

Appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and at Fillmore West in 1969 gained Collins more exposure and acceptance with young rock audiences. He also appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1975. While jamming in the 1970s in Seattle, he met and played with Robert Cray. More than a decade later, he teamed up with Cray and Johnny Copeland on a Grammy Award-winning blues album, Showdown. As late as 1971, when he was 39 years old, Collins found it necessary to work in construction because he couldnt make a sufficient living from his music.

More comfortable playing for small audiences than mass gatherings, Collins nevertheless agreed to perform in the 1985 Live Aid Concert which was aired to an estimated 1.8 billion viewers. Right into his fifties, he maintained his flam boyant stage presence. Eventually, Collins was well established as the leading blues celebrity second to guitarist B.B. King.

Selected discography

Albums

Truckin with Albert Collins, Blue Thumb, 1965.

Love Can B Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), Imperial, 1968.

Trash Talkin, Imperial, 1969.

Theres Gotta B a Change, Tumbleweed, 1971.

Ice Pickin, Alligator, 1978.

Frostbite, Alligator, 1980.

Live in Japan, Sonet, 1984.

Showdown, 1985.

Molten Ice, 1992.

Sources

Books

Kozinn, Alan, Peter Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar, the History, the Music, the Music, the Players, Quill, 1984, pp. 84-85.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, volume 1, Guinness Publishing, 1992, p. 531.

Periodicals

Audio, June 1988, p. 148.

DownBeat, February 1992, p. 48; February 1994, p. 14; May 1994, p. 56.

Guitar Player, May 1988, p. 87; July 1993, p. 30; April 1994, pp. 69, 70, 72, 75-77.

High Fidelity, May 1987, p. 79.

London Times, November 26, 1993, p. 23.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1993, p. A22.

Newsweek, December 6, 1993, p. 84.

New York Times, November 25, 1993, p. D19; November 26, 1993, p. B23.

Ed Decker

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"Collins, Albert." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/collins-albert-0

Collins, Albert

Albert Collins


Guitarist, singer


Although he went largely unrecognized by the general public during most of his career, the Texas-born musician Albert Collins eventually was acknowledged as one of the most talented and distinctive blues guitarists of his era. He established his fame by creating a unique sound with his Fender Telecaster guitar that was based on unusual tunings and scorching solos. His nickname "Iceman" was bestowed on him because his guitar sounds were piercing and could scorch the ears, just as icicles were sharp and could burn.

Peter Watrous wrote in the New York Times that "Mr. Collins made his reputation by combining savage, unpredictable improvisations with an immediately identifiable tone, cold, and pure." "In the Iceman's powerful hands," said Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, "that battered Tele could sass and scold like Shakespeare's fire, jab harder than Joe Louis, squawk like a scared chicken, or raise a graveyard howl."

Musicians ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Canned Heat to Robert Cray have cited Collins as having a major influence on their styles. He was especially known for his frenzied live performances during which he would often stroll into the audience and dance with the fans, his playing arena extended by a 100-foot extension cord attached to his electric guitar. Often he would start talking a blue streak, regaling his fans with hilarious and lewd remarks.

While his crowd-pleasing improvisations made him an extremely popular performer over the years, his recordings sold erratically until late in his career. His ultimate fame was also delayed by the long-time domination of Chicago blues over the Texas-based version. While the Chicago blues of performers such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf emphasized group jam sessions, the Texas variety was more of a showcase for individual talent where guitarists tried to outplay each other. Few could compete with Collins in these "bouts," but his talent didn't bring him widespread fame until he was brought to the attention of rock fans in the late 1960s.

After moving to the Houston ghetto as a child, Collins first became interested in music while listening to the pianist in his church. He took piano lessons at school, then learned about playing guitar from his cousins, blues guitarists Willow Young and Lightnin' Hopkins. His cousins turned out to be major influences on Collins's trademark style. He emulated Young's style of playing without a pick, and learned to tune the guitar in a minor key from Hopkins. By using his fingers rather than a pick, his playing developed a more percussive sound.

Collins claimed in Guitar Player that he made his first guitar out of a cigar box, using hay-baling wire for strings. Through his teen years he wanted to be an organist, but his interest in that instrument waned after his organ was stolen. While Collins said that his greatest influence was Detroit's John Lee Hooker, he spent much of his youth listening to the big band music of artists such as Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, and Tommy Dorsey. At one time he considered becoming a jazz guitarist, and his playing often shifted between blues and the horn-driven sound of a jazz big band.

After Collins switched form acoustic to electric guitar, he began listening to T-Bone Walker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and B.B. King to refine his talent. Brown was a key influence due to his horn-driven sound that Collins found especially exciting. Collins emulated Brown by starting to play with a capo and a Fender guitar, an instrument that would become inextricably linked to him. Since he couldn't afford to buy the guitar at that time, he started by having a Fender Telecaster neck put on another guitar.

By age 15 Collins was playing at local blues club with Brown. Then he formed his own group, the Rhythm Rockers, in 1949, with which he performed at honky-tonks in Houston's all-black Third Ward on weekends while working during the week as a ranch hand and truck driver. Next on his career path was three years of touring with singer Piney Brown's band.

In the early 1950s, Collins's talent earned him positions as session players with performers such as Big Mama Thornton. He later replaced future guitar great Jimi Hendrix in Little Richard's band. By this time Collins had established himself as a great eclectic who could produce unusual sounds with his guitar playing. As David Gates wrote in Newsweek, Collins "tore at the string with his bare hands instead of the ostensibly speedier pick, used unorthodox minor tunings instead of the more versatile standard ones and unashamedly clamped on a capo (a bar across the fingerboard, which raises the pitch of the strings), making the already stinging Telecaster sound even more bright and piercing."

Collins cashed in on the popularity of instrumentals ushered in by performers such Booker T., Duane Eddy, and Link Wray in the late 1950s. His first recording, an instrumental called "The Freeze," featured extended notes played in a high register. Collins told Guitar Player that the record sold about 150,000 copies in a mere three weeks.

For the Record . . .

Born on May 3, 1932, in Leona, TX; died on November 24, 1993, of lung cancer, in Las Vegas, NV; married Gwendolyn Collins, 1968.

Born to a sharecropping family; moved to the black ghetto of Houston, TX, as a child; learned to play piano as a youth and grew up listening to big-band music of Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Louis Jordan, and Tommy Dorsey; learned to play guitar from cousins Willow Young and Lightnin' Hopkins; began playing blues at local clubs with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 1947; played with his own group, the Rhythm Rockers while working days on a ranch and driving a truck, 1949-51; played with Piney Brown's band, early 1950s; became session player, 1953; recorded and performed with Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton, and others, 1950s; recorded first single, "The Freeze," 1958; recorded million-selling single, "Frosty," 1962; released first major album, Truckin' with Albert Collins, for Blue Thumb, 1965; signed with Imperial label, 1968; sang for the first time on an album, Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), 1968; toured extensively throughout California, late 1960s; performed at Newport Jazz Festival and Fillmore West, 1969; stopped performing and began working for a building contractor in Los Angeles, 1971; signed with Alligator record label, and formed the Icebreakers, 1977; performed at Montreux Jazz Festival, 1975; performed with George Thorogood at Live Aid Concert, 1985; was chief attraction at American Guitar Heroes concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1985; performed on Musicruise Dayliner circling Manhattan on opening night of JVC Jazz Festival, 1987; appeared in film, Adventures in Babysitting; was subject of television documentary on PBS, Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, 1980s; released albums until his death, 1993.

Awards: W.C. Handy Award, Best Blues Album for Don't Blow Your Cool, 1983; Grammy Award, Best Blues Album for Showdown (with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland), 1986; W.C. Handy Award, Best Blues Artist of the Year, 1989.

Collins lost a chance to play with soul music star James Brown in the late 1950s because he couldn't read music. Meanwhile, he still didn't feel that he could make his living entirely from guitar playing, and he worked as truck drivers and as a mixer of paint for automobiles. Then he hit the blues big time with his recording of "Frosty," released in 1962, that sold over a million copies and became a popular blues standard. This song confirmed his reputation as a player of "cold blues," and his producer urged him to continue this theme in his song and album titles. He even named his backup band The Icebreakers.

With just his fingers and his capo that he would move up and down the neck of his guitar, Collins produced a wide range of effects ranging from the sound of car horns to footsteps in the snow. He released a series of singles for small record labels such as Kangaroo, Great Scott, Hall, Fox, Imperial, and Tumbleweed that had moderate success at the regional level. He continued playing through the 1960s, but recording very sporadically and was unable to tour because of his day job.

According to Peter Watrous in the New York Times, Collins' first significant album was Truckin' with Albert Collins in 1965. The album featured what would become famous blues recording of his previously released "Frosty," "Sno-Cone," and other songs. Following the release of his compilation album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins, he quit his paint job and moved to Kansas City in 1966. While there he met his future wife, Gwendolyn, who would become an important motivator for him as well the composer of some of his best-known songs. Among her compositions for Collins were "There's Gotta Be a Change" and "Mastercharge."

Blues music gained in popularity in the late 1960s due to various rock performers such as Jimi Hendrix and Canned Heat stressing the importance of blues as inspiration for their work. A major boost to Collins' career came as the result of interest in him by Bob Hite. Hite recommended Collins to the Imperial, which was affiliated with Canned Heat's label, Liberty/USA. His understated singing style showed up on a recording for the first time on Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), the first of three albums that he recorded for Imperial. Later he recorded albums for Blue Thumb, then Bill Szymczyk's Tumbleweed label in Chicago in 1972.

Appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and at Fillmore West in 1969 gained Collins more exposure and acceptance with young rock audiences. He also appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1975. While jamming in the 1970s in Seattle, he met and played with Robert Cray. More than a decade later, he teamed up with Cray and Johnny Copeland on a Grammy Award-winning blues album, Showdown. As late as 1971, when he was 39 years old, Collins found it necessary to work in construction because he couldn't make a sufficient living from his music.

More comfortable playing for small audiences than mass gatherings, Collins nevertheless agreed to perform in the 1985 Live Aid Concert which was aired to an estimated 1.8 billion viewers. This exposure, as well as appearances in a Seagram's Wine Cooler commercial, on Late Night with David Letterman, and in the film

Adventures in Babysitting ensured Collins' recognition as a leading blues guitarist. His popularity and discography continued to grow until his untimely death from liver cancer in November of 1993.

Selected discography

Singles

"The Freeze," 1962.

"Frosty," 1962.

"Snow-Cone," 1962.

Albums

Truckin' with Albert Collins, Blue Thumb, 1965.

Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar), Imperial, 1968.

Trash Talkin', Imperial, 1969.

There's Gotta Be a Change, Tumbleweed, 1971.

Ice Pickin', Alligator, 1978.

Frostbite, Alligator, 1980.

Frozen Alive!, Alligator, 1981.

Don't Lose Your Cool, Alligator, 1983.

Live in Japan, Alligator, 1984.

Showdown, 1985.

Cold Snap, Alligator, 1986.

Ice Cold Blues, Charly, 1991.

Molten Ice, Cass, 1992.

Iceman Cometh, Collectables, 1996.

Deluxe Edition, 1997.

Rockin' with the Iceman, Culture Press, 1998.

The Hot "Cool" Sound of Albert Collins, M.I.L. Multimedia, 1998.

Live at the Fillmore West, Catfish, 2000.

If Blues Was Money, Catfish, 2002.

Kangaroo Shuffle, P-Vine Japan, 2003.

Thaw Out at the Fillmore (live), Snapper Music Group, 2004.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of PopularMusic, Penguin, 1991.

Kozinn, Alan, Peter Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar, The History, The Music, The Music, The Players, Quill, 1984.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Guinness Encylopedia of Popular Music, Guinness Publishing, 1992.

Periodicals

Audio, June 1988, p. 148.

Downbeat, February 1992, p. 48; February 1994, p. 14; May 1994, p. 56.

Guitar Player, May 1988, p. 87; July 1993, p. 30; April 1994.

High Fidelity, May 1987, p. 79.

London Times, November 26, 1993, p. 23.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1993, p. A22.

New York Times, November 25, 1993, p. D19; November 26, 1993, p. B23.

Newsweek, December 6, 1993, p. 84.

—Ed Decker

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Collins, Albert

Albert Collins

Guitarist and songwriter

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Albert Collins was born on a Texas farm and moved to Houston when he was 9. Although he is known as one of the most ferocious guitarists in contemporary blues, Collins started out on piano and actually wanted to become a professional organist. It wasnt until high school, after his keyboard was stolen, that he started to play guitar. But by age 16 he had formed a trio and began working the local scene. From 1949 to 1951 he fronted the Rhythm Rockers, an eight-piece unit fashioned after those of his idols. I was listenin to the big bands: Jimmie Lunceford, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, he told Larry Birnbaum in down beat. I used to love the big band sound. And I had some jazz musicians playin with me. I was playin blues, but they taught me my timin.

Collins went on to tour the south with Piney Brown in the mid-1950s and played weekend gigs with another infamous Texas guitarist, Gatemouth Brown. He returned to Houston to work outside of the music world while continuing to play on weekends through the mid-1960s. In 1958 he jumped on the instrumental wave, brought on by Booker T., Duane Eddy, and Link Wray, and released The Freeze/Collins Shuffle on the Kangaroo label. Sold about 150,000 copies in three weeks time, he recalled to Dan Forte in Guitar Player. Thats what started getting my name halfway out there. But when my name really started to spread was when I cut Frosty. I didnt follow it up until then because I had a good day job. I was playing at night and driving a truck in the daytime. And I mixed paint for automobiles for six years.

Frosty became a million seller for Collins and the Hall label in 1962. It also established Collinss trademark, the cool sound. He explained to Ellen Griffith in Guitar Player, One night a friend of mine and I were driving through a town called Corpus Christi, Texas, and it started raining and the windshield fogged up. My friend said, Why dont you turn on the defroster? I didnt think too much about it at the time, and then the next day I thought to myself, I ought to put me out a tune called Defrost. I looked at my dashboard and it said freeze, too, so I put out the tunes Defrost and The Freeze, and then went on to do Frosty. After that my producer said he was going to keep me in the icebox, and we recorded more tunes with names like that. The motif continued through a long line of tunes with names like Sno-Cone, Deep Freeze, Dont Lose Your Cool, Hot n Cold, Shiver and Shake, and Thaw Out. Each contained the ice pick sound of Collinss Fender Telecaster guitar blasting out a storm of high-powered licks.

The impossible-to-duplicate tone can be attributed to many factors. The main ingredient being Collinss unique tunings of either E minor (E B E G B E) or D minor (D A D F A D)

For the Record

Born October 3, 1932, in Leona, Texas; married 1968; wifes name, Gwendolyn. Education: Attended a local high school in Houston, Texas.

Formed and led his first band c. 1948-51, the Rhythm Rockers; first toured in the mid-1950s with Piney Brown; 1958, released first single, The Freeze/Collins Shuffle; extensive club and festival appearances, mid-1960s.

Addresses: Record company Alligator Records, P.O. Box 60234, Chicago, IL 60660.

taught to him by his cousin, Willow Young. He also straps a capo (a moveable bar that attaches to the fretwork of the guitar) halfway up the neck in order to change the pitch. I met up with Gatemouth Brown, and thats where I got the capo from: that gives me that special tone that I have, cause I dont play with no pick, he told Gene Santoro in Guitar World. I always wanted my own thing, didnt want to play like anybody else. Collins snaps the strings off the neck (as opposed to picking them) of his Telecaster which is strapped over his right shoulder like the old gunslingers wore their pistols: low at the hip, ready to fire, as Guitar Players Jas Obrecht described it. The guitar is connected to a 100-foot cord, which enables Collins to stalk his crowd freely, and then into a 300-watt Fender Quad Reverb amp cranked up to 10. In a small club setting this setup produces a sound which is similar to having a jet land on your temple.

Collins is able to coax a barrage of special effects out of this simple arrangement. For example, the cut Snowed In (from the Frostbite LP) contains simulated car horns, an engine turning over, footsteps in the snow, and the obligatory flurry of notes. Using just his bare thumb and fingers, Collins relies on unpredictable shifts in volume and attack to separate his sound from that of his colleagues.

His influences include guitarists Lightnin Hopkins, TBone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, and B.B. King, but horn players and organ sounds are vital elements also. You know, Jimmy McGriff has been my idol since 1965thats when I first met him, in Kansas City, Missouri, Collins said in Guitar World. I sat in with him and Wes Montgomerythat was some fun, man. See, I always wanted to be an organ player: when I started out, I started on piano. I wanted to be like Jimmy McGriff or Jimmy Smith. After establishing his 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 Richards band. After 20th Century-Fox released a compilation album, The Cool Sound of Albert Collins, he quit his paint job and moved to Kansas City in 1966 where me met and married his wife, Gwendolyn.

A year later Bob Hite of the group Canned Heat saw Collins performing and persuaded Imperial Records of Los Angeles to sign the guitarist. Hite 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 instrumentais, while playing the better part of the 1970s up and down the west coast with various pickup bands. I learned a lot playing with those young kids: power, for instance, I like power when I play, man, he told Guitar World. Ive heard so many blues players just playing, stop to take a drink play a little againthat aint my type of blues, man. I go to sleep like that.

It would take six years, however, after his last Tumbleweed LP in 1972 before Collins would find another interested label. In 1978 he released Ice Pickin on a small, young Chicago label run by Bruce Igualer called Alligator. It was one of the hottest blues records in recent memory and launched a career on Alligator that has seen six more albums since, including Showdown!, a collaboration with two other guitarists, Johnny Copeland and Robert Cray. Their compatibility can be attributed to Collins influence on both and it is Collins who dominates the session, setting the tone with his stinging guitar work and nearly managing to hold his own as a singer, wrote Larry Birnbaum in down beat. The album went on to win a Grammy award.

Collins cut back on his ten-month yearly touring schedule during the late 1980s and is now in semi-retirement. He stole the show at Live-Aid with George Thorogood; appeared in the movie Adventures in Babysitting; played in a Seagrams Wine Cooler commercial with actor Bruce Willis; and was the focus of a PBS television documentary, Aint Nothin But The Blues. One thing about the blues, youve got to keep moving, he told Guitar Player. Ive been touring as long as Ive been playing, but I enjoy traveling I play the blues because Ive lived it I dont want to play any of this other stuff; it may sound good, but its just not my style.

Selected discography

Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even In A Guitar), Imperial, 1968.

Trash Tal kin, Imperial, 1969.

Theres Gotta be a Change, Tumbleweed, 1971.

Ice Pickin, Alligator, 1978.

Alive & Cool, Red Lightnin, 197?.

Frostbite, Alligator, 1980.

Frozen Alive, Alligator, 1981.

Dont Lose Your Cool, Alligator, 1983.

Live in Japan, Sonet, 1984.

Sources

Books

Christgau, Robert, Christgaus Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

Harris, Sheldon, Blues Whos Who, Da Capo, 1979.

Kozinn, Allan, Pete Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar: The History, The Music, The Players, Quill, 1984.

Periodicals

down beat, May 1984; July 1984; September 1986; May 1987.

Guitar Player, April 1979; August 1979; July 1980; February 1981; March 1981; July 1983; May 1984; August 1986; February 1987; June 1987; May 1988.

Guitar World, April 1987; November 1987; April 1988; September 1988.

Calen D. Stone

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