"I'm proud of it, if they want to play blues," says veteran bluesman Albert Collins of young players, citing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt as personal favorites. "But I had to pay dues and a lot of the young kids today don't have to pay dues because the times have changed . . . We didn't have black radio stations and what we listened to every now and then was a few guys come on and play on WLAC from Nashville."

Among blues artists who impressed Collins when he was growing up in the 1940s on a farm (he was born in a log cabin) near Leona, Tex., were Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son Hous and, especially, John Lee Hooker. But his earliest inspiration was hearing his cousin, the great Lightnin' Hopkins, play guitar and sing at family reunions. Collins will bring his group to Blues Alley today for matinee shows at 1 and 3 p.m.

"I drove [a] truck in Texas and Louisiana for 12 years," Collins says in elaboration of some of the dues he has paid. "I cut my first 45 rpm in 1958 and started playing as a living in 1961. And I've been doing it ever since."