Hot Sounds in the City

The 5th Annual Houston Press Music Awards

Best Record Store -- Cactus
Pre-boom, post-bust and into the next century it seems, the Daily family's Cactus music store sits at the corner of Alabama and Shepherd. In the early days, Cactus sold albums and 8-track tapes and copies of Creem. Some of the store's bags and ads still sport a very '70s Peter Max meets Viva Terlingua fat cactus logo, but CD bins are in, video tapes are rented and the health food store is now on the other side. Some things, though, haven't changed. Cactus continues to support music fans and local musicians. The latest addition to this ever-changing store is a small stage for in-store performances. Jimmy Dale Gilmore has warbled his latest from the stage and customers have enjoyed free shows from the Silos, Tab Benoit, Billy Joe Shaver and son Eddie, Rosie Flores and Lavelle White. When there aren't live performers, you can sample tunes at the CD listening bar or play them for the whole store on a free jukebox. (E.S.)

Best Homegrown National Act -- ZZ Top
Across the nation, when the average rock fan thinks of Houston, Texas, he thinks of two beards and a drummer (technically a Beard as well) laying down a gritty, three-piece blues shuffle. The groove is unmistakable, and ranks among the most instantly identifiable sounds in contemporary music.

Dusty Hill (bass) and Frank Beard (drums) make up the trio's remaining two-thirds, the former exuding undiluted Texas bonhomie while the latter would just as soon drum and race cars as do anything else. Gibbons himself, meanwhile, is the high plains guitar slinger personified, speaking in detached semi-mysticisms that mirror the finer moments of his 20-plus years of Top guitaring.

The Top are expected in Houston later this year, where the hometown folks will experience what is still, without a doubt, Houston's biggest musical export. (C.S.)

Lightnin' Hopkins
Lifetime Achievement Award -- Albert Collins
Nowadays, young blues guitarists endure a requisite phase of Stevie Ray Vaughan mimicry, but 40 years ago the man who served as hero to dozens of young bluesmen was Texas guitar legend T-Bone Walker. Albert Collins studied Walker's style with the obsessive dedication he became known for and, for a while, learned it all too well.

While Albert Collins was still living upstairs from a Third Ward barbershop, black entrepreneur Don Robey had a hammerlock on the Houston blues scene. After a few years of gigging around Houston, jamming continually with a host of Third Ward apprentice gunslingers such as Johnny Copeland, Joe Hughes, Sonny Rhodes and Little Joe Washington, Collins auditioned for Robey. Robey declined to record Collins, and his reasons laid the foundation beneath Collins' later and greater incarnation as the "Iceman." Houstonian Bobby McLaine, who played bass behind Collins in the early 1960s, remembers it this way: "Albert went over to the studio on Arista, Duke Records, and they told him, 'We don't need another T-Bone Walker. You need to establish your own sound.'"

When Albert Collins decided to take advice, he took it all the way. According to McLaine, "Albert started doing his own thing. He tuned his guitar different, played with a capo, didn't use a pick, and he had these special strings he liked to use. Albert would choke those strings so tight... to this day I don't know why he didn't cut his fingers to the bone."

Since the death of Albert Collins last November 23rd, hundreds of articles, obituaries, poems and biographies have mourned his passing and praised his legacy. Friends both close and casual have choked up as they remembered the genial man who gave them advice, encouragement, jobs and enjoyment. Volumes have been written about the man who went from Walter's on Lockwood and Leroy's Grill on Scott to the Fillmore and Carnegie Hall, and did it all without ever learning the unofficial industry rule that a world-class musician and a hell of a nice guy are mutually exclusive characters.

You can read about Albert Collins for days, or you can turn the stereo up loud and listen to the first notes of "The Freeze," "Black Cat Bone" or a dozen other songs, and you'll know in your soul what all those articles were really trying to get at, and why he deserves this year's Lifetime Achievement Award. (

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