He even had the coolest nicknames.....Master of the Telecaster, the Iceman, the Razor Blade. He really honed in on the Iceman persona though, with songs and album titles that reflected that nickname ("Frosty," "Frostbite," "Ice Pick," "Sno Cone," "Icy Blue," Ice Pickin', Frostbite, Don't Lose Your Cool, Cold Snap, etc.), but were the total opposite of his scorching fretwork. Many of his albums would include a song where Collins used his guitar to imitate various sounds. On one song, "Snowed In," Collins' guitar imitated him walking through the snow and scratching the ice and snow off his windshield. Another song, "Too Many Dirty Dishes," featured the tele as an S.O.S. pad scrubbing pots and pans.
Believe it or not, this guitar monster started out playing keyboards while growing up in Houston. His musical hero as a teenager was Hammond B3 wizard Jimmy McGriff. He switched to guitar in his late teens and absorbed the music of artists like Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin' Hopkins (his distant cousin), Guitar Slim (where he picked up his walk through the audience), and John Lee Hooker. Soon he was leading his own band, called the Rhythm Rockers, and was cutting singles, mostly instrumentals. His first big hit was "Frosty" in 1962, recorded in Beaumont, with locals Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin in the studio.
However, he might have toiled in obscurity forever if it weren't for Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records. Collins signed with the label in the late 70's and recorded seven wonderful albums. He gained confidence as a singer and composer, adding a whole new dimension to his act. During his stint with Alligator, he recorded some of his best songs, like "Master Charge," "If Trouble Was Money," "Conversations With Collins," and "Lights Are On But Nobody's Home." He was able to get even more exposure thanks to his tenure with Alligator, appearing on Late Night With David Letterman, a Seagram's Wine Cooler commercial (with Bruce Willis), and even scoring a hilarious cameo in the movie, "Adventures in Babysitting," teaming up with Elizabeth Shue to sing those lowdown "Babysitting Blues."
|Johnny Copeland, Robert Cray, Albert Collins|