My one and only interview with blues legend Albert Collins, who wanted to meet Clapton real bad

Albert Collins 02

kirk west photo


By Steve Newton

Musician Magazine calls him “the most powerful blues guitarist in the world.” He has won awards from the Montreaux Jazz Festival, the French Academie du Jazz, and the Memphis Blues Foundation, and received three Grammy nominations. He is known as “The Icepicker”, “The Master of the Telecaster”, and “The Houston Twister”. His real name is Albert Collins, and he’s coming to the Town Pump for two nights, Friday and Saturday, September 27 and 28.

Collins was born in a log cabin on a farm near Leona, Texas, in 1932 (he’ll be 53 this Wednesday). Strangely enough, blues was not his first musical calling, as he pointed out in a phone call from his home in L.A.

“When I started out I wanted to be a jazz player, you know. I was raised up mostly around jazz musicians, you know. And I went off into the blues ’cause my Daddy used to play guitar too, you know. And I was influenced by John Lee Hooker, and Lightning Hopkins, which was a cousin o’ mine. And that’s what started me out wantin’ to play the blues.”

Texas bluesmen such as T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Gatemouth Brown, and Johnny Guitar Watson also had an early effect on Collins, and later on he absorbed the Chicago sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, and Howlin’ Wolf. In the early ’60s his instrumental recordings–“Sno Cone”, “The Freeze”, “Icy Blue”, and the million-selling “Frosty”–became known as “the Cool Sound”.

In the mid-’60s, following a move from Texas to California, Albert released three albums on the Imperial label, produced by members of Canned Heat. Those albums won him a regular berth at the Fillmore West in San Francisco and an endless series of gigs from San Diego to Vancouver. He first played here in 1969, at Rohan’s Rockpile.

“That was a real nice place for me to play at,” he recalls. “Vancouver’s like my second home. It’s been so long since I’ve been up there, man, I figured they forgot about me.”

Collins has been playing the blues for over thirty years now. His “cool sound”–a combination of icy echo; ringing, sustained high notes; an ultra-percussive right-hand attack; and an unheard-of minor-key guitar tuning–has helped make him one of the most heralded and unique bluesmen around today. Albert King names Collins as his favourite guitarist, and John Lee Hooker says, “I’m an Albert Collins freak!”

So which blues artists does Collins appreciate himself nowadays?

“Well now I’ve just been, you know, hangin’ out with Stevie Ray Vaughan, you know. We play around together. And I’ve always been partial to Eric Clapton also, you know–he’s the guy I really wanted to meet. I want to meet him real bad.”

To hear the full audio of my 1985 interview with Albert Collins subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
…with hundreds more to come

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