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.
He formed his first band in 1952 and two years later was the headliner at several blues clubs in Houston. By the late 1950s Collins began using Fender Telecasters. He later chose a "maple-cap" 1966 Custom Fender Telecaster with a Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck position and a 100 watt RMS silverfaced 1970s Fender Quad Reverb combo as his main equipment, and developed a unique sound featuring minor tunings, sustained notes and an "attack" fingerstyle. He also frequently used a capo on his guitar, particularly on the 5th, 7th, and 9th frets. He primarily favored an "open F-minor" tuning (low to high: F-C-F-Ab-C-F). In the booklet from the CD Ice Pickin, it was stated that Albert tuned to a "D minor D-A-D-F-A-D" Tuning. He played without a pick, using his thumb and first finger. Collins credited his unusual tuning to his cousin, Willow Young, who taught it to him.
Collins began recording in 1958 and released singles, including many instrumentals such as the million selling "Frosty". on Texas-based labels like Kangaroo and Hall-Way. A number of these singles were collected on the album The Cool Sounds Of Albert Collins on the TCF Hall label (later reissued on the Blue Thumb label as Truckin’ With Albert Collins.) In the spring of 1965 he moved to Kansas City, Missouri and made a name for himself there. This was also where he met his future wife, Gwendolyn.
Many of Kansas City's recording studios had closed by the mid 1960s. Unable to record, Collins moved to California in 1967. He lived in Palo Alto, CA for a short time before moving to Los Angeles, CA and played many of the West Coast venues popular with the counter-culture. In early 1969 after playing a concert with Canned Heat, members of this band introduced him to Liberty Records. In appreciation, Collins’ first album title, Love Can Be Found Anywhere, was taken from the lyrics of "Fried Hockey Boogie". Collins signed and released his first album on Imperial Records, a sister label, in 1968.
Collins remained in California for another five years, and was popular on double-billed shows at The Fillmore and the Winterland. He was signed to Alligator Records in 1978 and recorded and released Ice Pickin'. He would record seven more albums with the label, before being signed to Point Blank Records in 1990.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Collins toured the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He was becoming a popular blues musician and was an influence for Coco Montoya, Robert Cray, Gary Moore, Debbie Davies, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayer and Frank Zappa.
In 1983, when he won the W. C. Handy Award for his album Don't Lose Your Cool, which won the award for Best Blues Album of the Year. In 1987, he shared a Grammy for the album Showdown! (released in 1986) which he recorded with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland. The following year his solo release Cold Snap was also nominated for a Grammy. In 1987, John Zorn enlisted him to play lead guitar in a suite he had composed especially for him, entitled "Two-Lane Highway," on Zorn's album Spillane .
Alongside George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Bo Diddley, Collins performed at Live Aid in 1985, playing "The Sky Is Crying" and "Madison Blues", at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. He was the only black blues artist to appear.
In 1987, Collins made a cameo appearance in the film Adventures in Babysitting, he insisted to Elisabeth Shue that "nobody leaves this place without singin' the blues", forcing the children to improvise a song before escaping.
Collins was invited to play at the 'Legends Of Guitar Festival' concerts in Seville, Spain at the Expo in 1992, where amongst others, he played "Iceman", the title track from his final studio album.
He made his last visit to London, England in March 1993.
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 music 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.
Collins is also remembered for his humorous stage presence, which was recounted in the film documentary, Antones: Austin's Home of the Blues. Apparently Albert got into a long solo one night 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. Collins had gone to Milto's Pizza & Pasta through an adjoining alley and ordered while he was still playing.
Albert Collins (1 de octubre de 1932 – 24 de noviembre de 1993) fue un guitarrista de blues, cantante y músico estadounidense. Tenía numerosos apodos, como “The Ice Man”, “The Master of the Telecaster”, y “The Razor Blade”.
Nacido en Leona, Texas, Collins era un pariente lejano de Lightnin' Hopkins y creció aprendiendo a tocar la guitarra. Su familia se trasladó a Houston, Texas cuando tenía 7 años. A lo largos de los años 40 y 50, absorbió los sonidos y estilos del blues de Texas, Misisipi y Chicago.
Formó su primer grupo en 1952 y dos años más tarde era la principal atracción en varios clubs de blues de Houston. A finales de los 50, Collins comenzó a utilizar Fender Telecasters. Más tarde eligió como principal equipo una Fender Telecaster Custom de 1966, con una pastilla Gibson PAF en el cuello y un combo Fender Quad Reverb plateado de 1970 con 100 watt RMS. Desarrolló un sonido único incluyendo afinaciones menores, notas sostenidas y un estilo de ataque con los dedos de la mano derecha. A menudo empleaba una cejilla en su guitarra, sobre todo en los trastes 5, 7 y 9. La afinación que más empleaba era la abierta en Fa menor (de cuerda más baja a más alta: FA-DO-FA-Lab-DO-FA).
Collins comenzó a grabar en 1960 y publicó singles, incluyendo muchos instrumentales como “Frosty”. En la primavera de 1965 se trasladó a Kansas City, Misuri, y se hizo un nombre.
Muchos de los estudios de grabación de Kansas City habían cerrado a mediados de los 60. No teniendo la posibilidad de grabar, Collins se trasladó a California en 1967. Se instaló en San Francisco y tuvo contacto con la contracultura de la época. A comienzos de 1969, mientras tocaba en un concierto con Canned Heat, los miembros del grupo lo presentaron a Liberty Records. Como agradecimiento, el título del primer disco de Collins para United Artists, “Love Can Be Found Anywhere” fue tomado de la letra de “Refried Hockey Boogie”. Collins editó su primer álbum en Imperial Records en 1968.
Collins permaneció en California durante otros cinco años, y era popular en conciertos dobles en The Fillmore y el Winterland. Collins volvió a Texas en 1973 y formó un nuevo grupo. Firmó con Alligator Records en 1978 y grabó y publicó Ice Pickin´. A lo largo de los años grabaría otros siete álbumes para el sello, antes de firmar con Point Blank Records en 1990.
A lo largo de los 80 y comienzos de los 90, Collins hizo giras por los Estados Unidos, Canadá, Europa y Japón. Se estaba convirtiendo en un músico de blues popular, y era una influencia para Coco Montoya, Robert Cray, Gary Moore, Debbie Davies, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayer y Frank Zappa.
En 1983, ganó el premio W.C Handy por su álbum Don´t Lose Your Cool, que ganó el premio a mejor álbum de blues del año. En 1985, compartió el Grammy por el álbum Showdown!, que grabó con Robert Cray y Johnny Copeland. Al año siguiente, su disco Cold Snap también fue nominado a los Grammys. En 1987, John Zorn lo escogió para tocar la guitarra solista en una suite que había compuesto especialmente para él, titulada “Two-Lane Highway”, en su álbum Spillane.
Junto con George Thorogood and the Destroyers, y Bo Diddley, Collins tocó las canciones “The Sky Is Crying” y “Madison Blues” en el Live Aid de 1985, en el JFK Stadium.
Tras enfermar durante un concierto en Suiza a finales de julio de 1993, a mediados de agosto le fue diagnosticado un cáncer de pulmón que se había metastatizado al hígado, con una esperanza de vida de aproximadamente cuatro meses. Partes de su último álbum, Live ´92/93´ fueron grabadas en conciertos en septiembre; murió poco después, en noviembre, a la edad de 61 años.