As some already know I met Albert Collins several times in my teens and was pretty chummy with him. He was a badass guitarslinger on stage and a humble,down-to-earth gentleman offstage. Knowing him was privelage,people of that caliber are rare.
After all these years I can finally share these pictures publicly. The photos that have just been posted are from the first and second times I met Albert,both in Japan and both with him headlining The Japan Blues Carnival.
The first five were taken backstage at Live Inn,a Blues club in Shibuya/Tokyo where I also met Bobby 'Blue' Bland,his legendary guitarist Wayne Bennet and Little Milton. Albert was the first I saw there. I had just met him a day or two before at the Blues Carnival. Also on the bill were Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials. I saw their guitarist Michael Garrett standing outside after their set and went up to him to get my record autographed (I always took my records with me to shows to get them autographed). Michael asked me if I wanted to meet Albert Collins and I gave him a starry-eyed 'yes'. He took me backstage and Albert seemed to glow. I went up to him,16 years old,shaking in my shoes and asked him if he would sign my records. He asked me where I was from and when I told him Houston he said,"You're from Houston too?! Come around here and have a drink with me." I sat behind the long table with him and he gave me a Miller (they were the sponsor). I remember there was also some champagne and a big bucket of KFC on the table. Not sure why,there wasn't any other food just yet. I watched his set from the wings. Man,I was GONE. Life doesn't get much better than this.
He played two shows a night two nights in a row at Live Inn. I got there near the end of the first show. He was already walking through the crowd with his 250' guitar cord and had made it all the way to the door in the back when we walked in. He let out a typical peircing Albert Collins guitar sting,stopped,shook my hand and said,"J.J.! Glad you made it!", and then proceeded to continue walking the crowd and shaking hands. We caught the late show and both shows the next night. That lineup was the best lineup of the Icebreakers I ever heard. Johnny B. Gayden was of course on bass along with Soko Richardson on drums. Future Black Crowe Eddie Hersch was on keys and future solo artist Debbie Davies was on 2nd guitar. Sam Franklin and Chuck Smith shared sax duties and Gabriel Flemings was on trumpet. I recorded one of the shows but the tape was unfortunately stolen out of my car some years later in Indianapolis. Too bad because it would be relatively easy for his widow Gwen Collins to release nowdays. And it was a BADASS show! The sixth photo is outside the club on the street.
On the second night the band went out to The Hard Rock Cafe,which was a small and new chain at the time,and we went with them. I sat next to Albert and my dad snapped off several photos. These are the next five on the page. Good thinking,Dad.
The next seven photos are from 1991. Again Albert was headlining The Japan Blues Carnival. I had been playing up in Hokkaido for the past week and as soon as I got back found out he was in town. We caught him at a club then went to the Carnival. I was suprised that him,Johnny B. and Soko all remembered me. Johnny B. even brought me a t-shirt from J.J.'s Blues Club in California! Which I still have,by the way. The rest of the Icebreakers was a different band. Teenie Hodges,who played on Al Green's big hits,was on guitar. Don't remember the keys and horns,I didn't really get friendly with them. The first lineup from '88 I was friendly with everybody. Debbie remembers me whenever we cross paths (Cincinatti,Phoenix,Vegas,MySpace). Eddie Hersch MIGHT remember me.
I saw Alber twice after this,once when he played the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival (yes I'm in the audience,no you can't see me in the video) and once in Houston at either Fitzgerald's or Rockafellers in late '92. Shortly after I saw him in Houston I moved up to a small town in Ohio near Canton,south of Cleveland. In early '93 Albert was playing in Cleveland. I was less than 2 hours away but didn't have a car and despite my offers for gas,food,drinks and cover charge could not get anyone to take me up there. Later that year he died making the Houston show the last time I ever saw him. Oddly enough I never said goodbye to him,he had disappeared somewhere and my ride was leaving. I remeber saying something to the effect that I'd catch him next time.
The two times pictured here,especially the first,were magical. There was something about it,something I can't quite describe in words, a warm,comfortable feeling of recognition as if all was right in the world and this was exactly how things are supposed to be. And it was both on and off stage. On stage it was a great lineup,everybody was really PLAYIN',really puttin' themselves into it heart and soul and it was a gas to be there. Hell,it was a gas to be alive! Offstage it was like old friends. I still remember Eddie Hersch sitting down at our table shooting the breeze with us and then seeing him a few years later in a Black Crowes video and my mouth hanging open wondering if that was really the same guy. These are some of my favorite memories,special,magical events that seemed to last an eternity,and in some ways they do. Everything from those times with Albert -his stage presence,his guitarslinging,his offstage warmth,the whole vibe in the air just being there- are still with me. Somehow,I like to think via some kind of Quantum effect,those events are still happening and they set the standard that I aspire to. Some days are better than others but the standard remains the same. Thank you ,Albert. Your example is something I carry with me. And thank you Johnny B.,Soko and Debbie. I hope to see you out there again real soon.