Are you a fan of Albert Collins? He’s this week’s featured artist!
Born as Albert Gene Drewery, and known as Albert Collins and the Ice Man (October 1st 1932 – November 24th 1993), he was an American electric blues guitarist and singer with a distinctive guitar style. He was noted for his powerful playing and his use of altered tunings and a capo. His long association with the Fender Telecaster led to the title “The Master of the Telecaster”.
Collins took piano lessons when he was young, but when his piano tutor was unavailable his cousin Willow Young would lend Albert his guitar and taught him the altered tuning that he used throughout his career. Collins tuned his guitar to an open F-minor chord (FCFAbCF), with a capo at the 5th, 6th or 7th fret. At the age of sixteen, he decided to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing “Boogie Chillen'” by John Lee Hooker.
Collins played an Epiphone guitar during his first two years with the Rhythm Rockers, but in 1952, after seeing Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown playing a Fender Esquire, he decided to purchase a Fender. He wanted a Telecaster, but because of the cost he chose to buy an Esquire, which he fitted with a Telecaster neck, and which became his main guitar until he moved to California. For the rest of his career he played a “maple cap”–necked natural ash body Fender 1966 Custom Telecaster with a Gibson PAF humbucking pickup retrofitted into the neck position, which became the basis for a Fender Custom Artist signature model in 1990.
Collins is remembered for his informal and audience-engaging live performances. He would frequently leave the stage while still playing to mingle with the audience. The use of an extended guitar cord allowed Collins to go outside clubs to the sidewalk; one anecdote stated that he left a club with the audience in tow to visit the store next door to buy a candy bar without once stopping his act.
Collins was an inspiration to a generation of Texas guitar players, including Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan. He was among a small group of Texas blues players, along with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Johnny Copeland, who shaped the legacy of T-Bone Walker into a modern blues template that was to have a major influence on many later players. Rolling Stone ranked Collins at number 56 on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
Check below for a live performance and tab of his signature song “Frosty”!
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