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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Travelin' South - Albert Collins


Albert Collins (October 1, 1932 – November 24, 1993) was an American electric blues guitarist and singer (and occasional harmonica player) whose recording career began in the 1960s in Houston and whose fame eventually took him to stages across the US, Europe, Japan and Australia. He had many nicknames, such as "The Ice Man", "The Master of the Telecaster" and "The Razor Blade"
Born in Leona, Texas, Collins was a distant relative of Lightnin' Hopkins and grew up learning about music and playing guitar. His family moved to Houston, Texas when he was seven. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he absorbed the blues sounds and styles from Texas, Mississippi and Chicago. His style would soon envelop these sounds. He regularly named John Lee Hooker and organist Jimmy McGriff, along with Hopkins, Guitar Slim and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown as major influences on his playing.
After falling ill at a show in Switzerland in late July 1993, he was diagnosed in mid August with lung cancer which had metastasized to his liver, with an expected survival time of four months. Parts of his last album, Live '92/'93, were recorded at shows that September; he died shortly afterwards, in November at the age of 61. He was survived by his wife, Gwendolyn. He is interred at the Davis Memorial Park, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Collins will be remembered not only for the quantity of quality blues that he put out throughout his career that has inspired so many other blues musicians, but also for his live performances, where he would frequently come down from the stage, attached to his amplifier with a very long cord, and mingle with the audience whilst still playing. He was known to leave clubs while still playing, and continue to play outside on the sidewalk, even boarding a city bus in Chicago while playing, outside of a club called Biddy Mulligan’s (the bus driver stayed at the bus stop until Collins got off).

Collins has influenced many artists and did collaborations with Ronnie Wood, Jimmy Page, Robert Cray, Keith Richards, Johnny Nitro, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, B. B. King, Larry Carlton and Eric Clapton.

He is also remembered for his humorous stage presence, which was recounted in the film documentary, Antones: Austin's Home of the Blues. Collins got into a long solo one night at Antone's, then left the building, still plugged in and playing. Several minutes after Collins returned to the stage, a pizza delivery man came in and gave Collins the pizza he had just ordered when he left the building.
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