"Albert Collins Loud" - Eh? Speak up, I can't hear you!
In a recent post here on the Jet City Blues blog, David Brewer mentioned that the blues fans in Finland were digging his "Albert Collins loud" guitar playing. I know just what David's talking about, but if you never saw the "Master of the Telecaster" live, you might be in the dark about David's comment.
Originally from Texas, Albert Collins (left) was quite the road warrior and used to play in the Seattle area quite a bit. He was a great guitarist with a unique style, and was quite an influence on both David Brewer and the late Isaac Scott.
Albert played a Fender Telecaster guitar with a humbucker pickup in the neck position. His amp of choice was the deadly Fender Quad Reverb, which was a 100-watt Twin Reverb amp enclosed in a cabinet with four 12-inch speakers. The only larger combo amp that Fender ever built was the Quad Reverb's big brother, the Super-Six Reverb (the same amp, but with six ten-inch speakers). The Super-Six was large enough that Fender didn't bother installing a handle on the top of the cabinet - it had two handles on one side and wheels on the other.
The times I saw Albert, he always had all of the volume, tone, and reverb controls dimed on his Quad Reverb (left), controlling the volume at his guitar. I guess I saw him at at least three old Seattle clubs, including the District Tavern, the Pipeline, and Hibble & Hyde's. He also played several times at the Jolly Roger Roadhouse in Lake City. But the first time I saw him live was at this small C & W tavern in Freeland, Washington. Now, Freeland is a tiny town on Whidbey Island, and this bar was a place where country bands played quiet background music for the local hippies while they shot pool and brawled in the parking lot.
How Albert Collins got a booking in this joint is a mystery, but my roommates and I showed showed up to see that band which included second guitarist David Brewer and another guy that blew some rudimentary blues harp. Being blues fans, we figured we'd better get there early so that we could get seats right next to the bandstand. This was a large mistake. That was absolutely the loudest band I'd ever heard at that point in my blues listening career. You could hear them just fine out in the parking lot, and I mean inside the car with the windows rolled up. The other 20 or so thrill seekers that showed up pretty much fled by the end of the first set. Our group hung around and heard some great music, but our ears were ringing for several days afterwards.
I was hired years later to do sound for Albert at Hibble & Hyde's, this time with the Isaac Scott Band backing him up. Albert insisted that I mic his amp, something that was totally unnecessary in that small club. I did so, but turned that mic off during the set. I had to turn it back on during the breaks because Albert would inspect the mixing board to make sure that his amp mic was on - I guess that he was worried that he might not be loud enough, even though his amp was configured for the STUN setting, as usual. I had wised up and was wearing earplugs at that gig, but I kept having to explain to other deafened listeners that the guitar volume wasn't my fault.
Oh well, as Mr. Brewer says, "If it's too loud, you're too young!" Albert Collins passed away in 1993, and I'm glad that I got to see him rockin' the joint.
Note: The Albert Collins photo that appears in this article is from the Alligator Records web page. The photographer was uncredited.