The Texas bluesman known as ¨The Ice Man¨
The ¨master of the telecaster¨, Albert Collins was more than just a phenomenal blues guitarist. He was also a true showman, and he would routinely go out of his way to please the crowd. At times, this would entail making use of an absurdly long guitar cable (this was long before wireless adaptors first appeared) that would allow him to make his way out into the crowd while he played. There´s even a story where Albert Collins walked off the stage while he was in the middle of a guitar solo, and walked straight out of the venue and into a neighboring pizzeria. He ordered pizza, and all the while his bluesy licks continued to emanate from his amplifier on stage.
Albert Collins was born in 1932 in Texas, and he was a distant relative of blues legend Lightning Hopkins. In fact, it is widely believed that Collins first became interested in learning how to play guitar after seeing Hopkins wow everyone in attendance at reunions of his extended family. Collins himself also cited Hopkins as a principle influence on his playing, in addition to John Lee Hooker, Guitar Slim, and others.
Albert Collins began playing professionally in 1952, and within three years he was headlining most of the major blues clubs in Houston. He began recording in 1958 for Texas based labels like ´Kangaroo´ and ´Holloway´. He scored a major commercial hit with an instrumental called ¨Frosty¨. This single sold well over a million copies.
Upon moving out west to California in 1967, he quickly fell into favor with a happening and incandescent rock scene. He regularly played at revered rock and roll venues like ¨The Filmore West¨ and ¨The Winterland Ballroom¨ . In 1968, he signed with Imperial records. This record deal came into being thanks in large part to the band Canned Heat, who were one of Rock´s biggest chart toppers and Imperial´s flagship act at the time. Canned Heat insisted that Albert Collins be added to Imperial´s roster.
He also appeared in a number of television specials, including a documentary on his life. He also played himself in the 1983 movie ¨adventures on main street¨. He performed at the live aid concert in Philadelphia in 1985, the only black blues artist to do so. In 1992 he was invited to play at the ¨Legends of Guitar Festival¨ as part of the world of Expo. After falling ill after playing in Switzerland in 1993 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died shrtly there afterwards at the age of 61.