Sunday, July 30, 2006

"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.


Mike Lynch said...

A message from Mr. Brewer:


I remember that show in Freeland, and the horrified club owner. I can't say I remember every show I did during the 2 & 1/2 years I spent touring with my late friend and mentor, but I do recall that one. I don't think I knew you
personally yet.The other players in the band at that show were
Les Hutchinson on drums who was going by the name of Les Moore/Moore or Les at the time (I think to avoid arrest),a schoolboy friend of mine from Hawaii named Paul Chun who was playing in a band called "Streetwalker" with
another Hawaii boy,who still lives in West Seattle, by the name of John Firais, who was on bass.The dipshit who was trying to blow harp was a clown named Brian
Kelly. One time Albert and I were playing at a little club up on Highway 99 called The Aquarius (it was known as Parkers Ballroom in the 40's - my Mom and Dad used to dance there). After the show, no-playin harp boy was jumping around like an idiot, and as a result hit my late wife Bette in the face with his large mongoloid head. I responded immediately with a short left hook, fast and all the way from the ground, which left Stupid unconscious on the floor just inside the front door. As he laid
there, surrounded by curious onlookers, Albert steps up, looks
down, and says, "I told you to quit messin' around motherfucker."
Then he turned to me and asked, "You wanna go down to
Dennys?" And we did. Yeah, I know all about loud after standing to the right of the Master of the Telecaster seven nights a week for so long, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I was doing three nights with my band in th early
70's at the Rainbow Tavern on NE 45th(that's right, it used to be a blues joint), and the bartender walked up to me and said, "Brewer,you're too loud for the human ear!!!" My reply? "You ain't heard loud yet pal!" He failed to realize that the following day(Sunday)I was booked in there with (who else?) Albert Collins. Me and Albert, now that was loud!!!!! And oblige..Brewer

Mike Lynch said...

A PS from Mr. Brewer:

By the way,I've played thru both of the amps you were talking about. I played thru a Fender Quad reaverb (100watts, 4x12's) 'cause Freddie King let me try his at the Paramount in 1971. The next day I sold most every thing I had and went downtown to Seattle Music and bought one of the only ones in town. Of course, Freedie letting me try his out on his cherry
red ES-345 Gibson no less, borderd on a religous experiance for
me. Before that, I played thru a Fender Super Six (100watts, 6x10's).At that time I was using one of the first small overdrive
units called a Fender Blender. I went back to the Super Six
again in the late 70's, then to a cool twin 12 Gallien-Kruger
amp that I really liked. Eventually I picked up another
Fender Quad in my Fremont Tavern days in the 80's. Talk about
crunch, holy should remember that Mike! I played
thru my Super Six while I was with Albert and almost all of the Blueseye days. And oblige..Brewer

Tall Cool One said...

The first time I saw a quad reverb amp was in Nebraska, at this little college gym up by Omaha, in 1972. Freddie King was playing through it and he was LOUD. Phil Chesnut was there too, along with every other Blues fan in Nebraska, but we didn't know each other yet. Deacon Jones was on Hammond that night, and remembered that tour well when I was hanging with him after we opened a John Lee Hooker show he was on at the old Backstage in Ballard in anound 1990. Luther Tucker was in Hooker's band too that night, and it was a treat to hear and talk to them both. Tucker was a real unsung hero of the blues guitar, and his playing on James Cotton's stellar Verve albums, "The James Cotton Blues Band" and "Pure Cotton" remains close to the top of my all time favorites. I played a bunch of the insane Hibble and Hyde gigs (10pm to 4am) with Isaac and Albert, and Gerald Gipson on sax, and standing between THOSE two guitar players when they got up a full head of steam was either heaven, or hell, and it could change from minute to minute. One night I got done and both the fingers on my picking hand were bleeding all over the strings, as my calluses were completely peeled off over a series of thundering 40 minute jams. Collins would pull up outside the club (in Pioneer Square)about 10 minutes to showtime, having driven straight through from Los Angeles, drag his quad out of the trunk and plug it in on the stage, take a couple of pulls from the bottle of Old Grandad he always kept in his guitar case, and we were OFF to the races - a couple hours later, we might take a break. Albert Collins had more energy than 99% of the people I've ever met, or even heard tales of, in my life.

Richard Evans said...

Talk about long sets drummer Dave Jette with me on Bass played w David Brewer for a few gigs in the 90's ..One nite at The Central we didn't take a break all night 3 and a half hours stright ..After about an 2 hours David broke a string so I left the stage for a quick restroom stop then back to it mabe 3 mins tops...I loved it ..if it's groovin why stop ....Richard Evans (Seattle musician since 1966)

Mike Lynch said...

How you doin', Richard? I never played with Albert, but I did many time with Isaac Scott. I switched to harps with plastic combs after playing with Isaac a few times - the plastic comb won't expand during a 45 minute version of "San Jose!"