He may be called the Iceman, but his guitar-playing is sizzling hot.
Born on October 1, 1932, Albert Collins, also known as The Iceman, is one of the essential Texas bluesmen in the genre’s canon. Collins might not be a household name like B.B. King or Stevie Ray Vaughan, but if you know blues, and I mean icy-cold, frosty chilly blues, then you probably know a thing or two about The Iceman.
And if you LOVE the blues, then there are some things you absolutely must know about Mr. Collins. Because he’s one of the most thrilling, exciting, funky, and entertaining musicians in the history of the genre. And, in my opinion, he’s seriously underrated, deserving of being in the ranks of more well-known contemporaries like blues aces Albert King and Buddy Guy.
In an effort to help preach the greatness of Albert Collins as we get ready to turn towards the chilly days of winter and the holidays, here I present you with fifteen cold hard facts about the most frigid man in blues, Albert Collins:
- Birthday Blues: Albert Collins’ birth name was Albert Gene Drewery.
- Piano Man: Albert Collins began taking keyboard lessons as a child and as a teenager he worshipped Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff. But his dedication to the keyboard wouldn’t last forever.
- Iced Lightnin’: Lightnin’ Hopkins was a cousin of Albert Collins, and Hopkins introduced the young, aspiring bluesmen to the guitar. Soon there would be no turning back for the Iceman.
- Chill Out: The song that made Albert Collins switch to guitar was hearing “Boogie Chillen” by John Lee Hooker.
- A Minor Thing: Albert Collins’ distinctive guitar sound was derived in part by his use of a capo on the high frets and by tuning his guitar to a minor key.
- Freeze! In 1958 he recorded his first single which was called “The Freeze” – the first in a line of what would be many, many cold-themed songs and references.
- We’re Not Talkin’ Bout Wendy’s: Collins’ first major hit was “Frosty” in 1962, which sold a million copies. Two teenagers, Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter, happened to be in the studio when he recorded the song. Joplin heard the song and thought that it would be a hit.
- The Jimi Connection: Jimi Hendrix cited Albert Collins many times as a guitar influence. And if you impress Jimi Hendrix with an axe, you’re doing something right…
- Alias, Alas: In addition to “The Iceman” Albert Collins was also known as “The Master of the Telecaster” and “The Razor Blade”. Collins was, indeed, a master of the Telecaster, his long-held weapon of choice.
- Weekend Warrior: Through the 1960s, Albert Collins had to work day jobs while pursuing music on the weekends. We all have to pay our dues, but honestly, people should have picked up on Collins’ greatness a little quicker.
- Sweet Caroline: Some of Collin’s day jobs included working as a paint mixer and as a truck driver, as well as in construction. One construction job he happened to work on was a remodeling project for Neil Diamond.
- At Fillmore West: Albert Collins once opened for The Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore West. That’s a double bill I’d pay good money to see.
- The Eagle Has Landed: Several of Collins’ singles were produced by Joe Walsh of The Eagles.
- Jazzin’ It Up: Albert Collins has collaborated with avant-garde jazz and experimental classical music composer and musician John Zorn on a suite called “Two-Lane Highway”.
- I’ll Take One Large Pepperoni: Often during performances Albert Collins would leave the stage and mingle with the audience. He would sometimes even leave the club. Once during the middle of a guitar solo that he continued playing he actually bought a candy bar from the store next door. Another time during a solo he ordered a pizza which was then delivered.
There you have it: 15 cold hard facts to keep you warm tonight. Have a favorite Albert Collins tune? Let me know in the comments, because this ice is very, very nice!