Aka “The master of the telecaster”, Albert had a distinctive guitar playing style. He was noted for the use of an altered tuning and capo. Born in Leona, Texas, Albert took to the guitar from an early age. His first mission was to learn and master Boogie Chillen by John Lee Hooker and by the age of 18 he set up his own band, the Rhythm Rockers.
In 1952 at the age of 20, after seeing Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown playing a Fender Esquire, he had to get himself one. The Esquire was all Albert could afford at the time, but his choice guitar was the Telecaster. Due to its high cost, Albert opted for the cheaper model.
By the age of 22 Albert was still playing in his band and without a record to their name. It wasn’t till 1964 Albert recorded his first record “Frosty” at the Gulf Recording Studio, Beaumont, Texas for Hall Records. The owner of the label Bill Hall had been recommended to sign Albert by Cowboy Jack. Cowboy Jack was lead engineer for the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. Albert released his debut album “The Cool Sounds of Albert Collins” under TCF in 1965.
Albert made a name for himself on the blues scene, playing clubs like the whiskey GO GO and the Ponderosa Club. In 1968 Canned Heat introduced Albert to an agent and secured him a record deal with Imperial Records in California. Collins got regular work from the label, he was hired by Bob Krasnow in the same year to play on Ike and Tina Turner’s album The Hunter and by 1970 he re-released his debut album under the name Truckin’ with Albert Collins.
Over the years Collins struggled in his career to make any kind of a big break, in the early 70’s he was doing construction work on the side just to make a living, he even remodeled a house for Niel Diamond. Through all his ups and downs in his music career he played alongside some of the most influential musicians to date. Including Etta James, Eric Clapton and BB King.
Albert Collins died at the age of 61 in 1993, after a three-month battle with lung cancer, an interview with Robert Cray in Guitar World Magazine, Robert said,
“Seeing Albert Collins at a rock festival in 1969 really turned my head around. Two years later, Collins played at my high school graduation party in Tacoma, Washington, and the ice-pick sound really sunk in deep.
That was it,” Cray recalls. “That changed my whole life around. From that moment I started seriously studying the blues.”
Albert Collins (Oct/1/1932-Nov/24/1993)