Albert Collins – Lights Are On, But Nobody’s Home
Albert Gene Drewery a.k.a. Albert Collins (October 1, 1932 – November 24, 1993) was an American electric blues guitarist and singer with a distinctive guitar style. Collins was noted for his powerful playing and his use of altered tunings and capo. His long association with the Fender Telecaster led to the title “The Master of the Telecaster”.
Albert Collins was born in Leona, Texas, on 1 October 1932.He was introduced to the guitar at an early age through his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins, also a Leona resident, who frequently played at family associations (reunions). In 1938 his family relocated to Marquez, Texas, eventually settling in Houston, Texas, in 1941 where he later attended Jack Yates High School.
Collins initially took piano lessons when he was young but during periods when his piano tutor was unavailable his cousin Willow Young would loan him his guitar and taught Collins the altered tuning that he used throughout his career.
Collins tuned his guitar to an open F minor chord , and then added a capo at the 5th, 6th or 7th fret.At the age of twelve, he made the decision to concentrate on learning the guitar after hearing “Boogie Chillen'” by John Lee Hooker.
At eighteen Collins started his own group called the Rhythm Rockers in which he honed his craft while remaining in employment including four years working on a ranch in Normangee, Texas, followed by twelve years of driving a truck for various companies.
Collins initially played an Epiphone guitar during his first two years with the Rhythm Rockers but in 1952 after seeing Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown playing a Fender Esquire he decided to purchase a Fender.
Collins had wanted to buy a Telecaster but due to their cost he opted instead to buy an Esquire which he then took to the Parker Music Company in Houston to have it fitted with a genuine Telecaster neck; this would remain his main guitar up until his move to California and the guitar that he used on his earliest recordings including his signature song “Frosty”.(For the rest of his career he played a Fender Telecaster with a “Humbucker” pickup retrofitted into the neck position.)
In 1954 Collins, then aged 22 and still without a record release, was joined in the Rhythm Rockers by the 17-year-old Johnny Copeland who had just left the Dukes of Rhythm (a band he had started with Houston blues musician Joe “Guitar” Hughes).
Collins started to play regularly in Houston, most notably at Shady’s Playhouse, where James “Widemouth” Brown (brother of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown) and other well-known Houston blues musicians would meet for the Blue Monday jams.
By the mid 1950s he had established his reputation as a local guitarist of note and had started to appear regularly at a Fifth Ward club called Walter’s Lounge with the group Big Tiny and the Thunderbirds.
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