Albert Collins Photography

Albert Collins

Inspired by the organ music he heard at church, Texas-born Albert Collins took piano lessons as a child. As a teenager, Collins switched to guitar—taught in part by his cousin, Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins—and began to perform in Houston-area clubs. Although his first performances were in the 1940s, it took the American blues resurgence of the ’60s to bring Collins to mainstream attention.

An energetic and dynamic performer, Collins played with his fingers rather than a pick. This bright, “cool,” ringing treble tone earned him the nickname “Ice Man.” He took this handle to heart, adopting a “cold” theme for many of his recordings, including singles such as “Freeze,” “Frosty,” and “Sno-Cone,” as well as albums Ice Pickin’, Frostbite, and Cold Snap.

Collins’ distinctive style and full-throttle sound established him as one of the most talented blues guitarists of his era, and earned him another nickname: “Master of the Telecaster.” Collins succumbed to cancer in 1993 on the precipice of a career resurgence, a sad ending for a blues great that Jimi Hendrix once called “one of the best guitarists in the world.”

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