Albert Collins is a blues guitar legend.
Nicknamed the Ice Man, the Houston, Texas, ax slinger employed the “chilly” theme for the titles of many of his most celebrated songs, such as “The Freeze,” “Frosty,” “Thaw Out,” “Snow Cone,” “Don’t Drop Your Cool” and “Ice Pick,” and the album titles Ice Pickin’ and Frostbite.
I had the great fortune and honor to get to know Albert and carry out with him on one quite memorable occasion. He was a warm and great man who was well loved by his band and constantly deeply engaged with his fans.
Born Albert Gene Drewery on October 1, 1932, Collins—who died of cancer at the age of 61 on November 24, 1993—was introduced to the guitar by his cousin Lightnin’ Hopkins and taught to play by an additional cousin, Willow Young, utilizing an unconventional open F minor tuning in conjunction with a capo.
An early influence was Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who also employed a capo. Albert adopted the exact same instrument as Gatemouth, a Fender Esquire, with which he cut his early records. He later switched to his signature “maple cap”–necked, all-natural ash body 1966 Fender Telecaster, equipped with a Gibson humbucking pickup in the neck position, although he utilized the bridge pickup most of the time.
FIGURE 1 illustrates a first-position Fm chord. To attain an open tuning that replicates this sound, the sixth, third, second and very first strings are raised 1 half step, and the fifth and fourth strings are raised 1 and a half actions. For this lesson, I’m employing open E minor tuning as an alternative of F minor. The structure of both tunings is the exact same, but it is easier and a lot more convenient to get in and out of open E minor tuning. As shown in FIGURE 2, just raise your A and D strings up a entire step to B and E, respectively. The resulting tuning is, low to high, E B E G B E.
With a capo placed at the third fret, strumming across all six open strings sounds a Gm chord (see FIGURE 3). If we fret the third string 1 fret above the capo with the index finger, a G major chord sounds. (All tab numbers shown here are “true.” Notes tabbed at the third fret are played “open,” and the other numbers reflect the actual frets). FIGURE four illustrates a G7 arpeggio along the lines of Albert’s approach.
FIGURES five and six supply examples of soloing in Albert’s style in the context of a swinging 12-bar blues. FIGURE five begins with unison G notes on the best two strings. On beat four of bar 3, I use a reverse rake to speedily descend the third, fourth and fifth strings. Albert always picked with his bare fingers, but this approach can also be accomplished with a choose.
Notice in each examples the frequent use of open strings and enable them to ring with each other. Collins phrased his licks in a quite distinct manner, and one of his signature techniques is demonstrated in bars four and five of FIGURE 6, as quickly trills are sounded in between the fifth of G, D and the sixth, E.
Be sure to listen to the live version of “Frosty” from Frozen Alive! to knowledge the complete breadth of Albert’s musical inventiveness. It’s at the really bottom of this story.