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The Master of the Telecaster
"The Ice Man" Albert Collins is featured in a legendary live performance in 1990.
Albert Collins formed his first band in 1952 and two years later was the headliner at several blues clubs in Houston. By the late 50s Collins began using Fender Telecasters. He later chose a "maple-cap" 1966 Custom Fender Telecaster 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). Albert also 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.
He began recording in 1958 and released singles, including many instrumentals such as the million selling "Frosty" (1962), on Texas-based labels such as 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 Truckiní With Albert Collins.)
In the spring of 1965 he moved to Kansas City, Missouri and made a name for himself there. 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, California for a short time before moving to Los Angeles and played many of the West Coast venues popular with the counter-culture. Collins remained in California for another five years, and was popular on double-billed shows at The Fillmore and the Winterland.
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.
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 is 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 100 foot cord, and mingle with the audience whilst still playing.
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