Albert Collins: A Profile

Posted by The Fretwire on

When I started playing guitar in about 1993,  I wasn't sure what sort of guitar player I wanted to be. I was pretty sure it wasn't country picking, but it was open besides that.  I had listend to Eric Clapton Unplugged  about 8 million times, so I was a fan of that.  But at the time I didn't truly understand Clapton's background. It was about this time that my parents brought home a BB King CD called Blues Summit.  It featured duets with various artists.  The music was adequate.  Then I heard track #8, featuring Albert Collins.  I was blown away.  I declared myself a Blues Man and never looked back.  Its not easy to be a Blues Man when you are a white 14-year-old kid in Utah, but I was up for the challenge. I consider Albert Collins to be one of the great modern blues guitar players, and extremely under appreciated.  He is in my top 5 without a doubt. Albert Collins was born and brought up in Texas, but as a part of Aligator records in the 80's and 90's, I always think of him as a Chicago player. His tone is unmistakable.  They called him the Ice Man, or Mr. Freeze.  His telecaster (customized with a Gibson humbucker in the neck position) had the coldest tone around. Collins played alternate tunings, capo'd, and fingerstyle on the right hand.  If you want to emulate him, fine. If you are hoping to copy him lick for lick, good luck. Collins was a showman, often sporting a 100 foot guitar cord on stage.  During long solos he would leave the stage, mingle with the audience, step outside the club, even boarding a city bus on one occasion, and ordering a pizza on another. Likely his most widely viewed performance is a cameo appearance on Adventures in Babysitting (another Chicago connection). He insists that no one leaves the club without "singin the blues". Then they play a pretty stereotypical blues riff, but at least they tried. Collins passed away due to lung cancer in 1993, just a few short months after making the inspring recording with BB King, and recording the video below.  I wish I'd had the chance to see him live. Check out the video below.  If you don't have the 5 minute attention span it takes to make it through the whole song, start at 3:45 where BB passes Collins the solo. Some of my favorite Albert Collins recordings: