Johnny Winter is a bluesman, and since rock and roll has its roots in the blues, it’s fitting to honor this epic guitarist on Rock and Roll Saturday.
“When I started workin’ with Muddy.
That convinced me that I could
get away with doin’ the blues.”
– Johnny Winter
Born in the Texas gulf town of Beaumont, Johnny Winter was encouraged by his parents to pursue his musical interests. Blues fans for decades have enjoyed the blues collaboration with younger brother Edgar.
Winter signed his first record deal with Colombia Records in February of 1969 who reportedly paid the young artist a $600,000 advance, unheard of at that time. Winter released his first Columbia album, Johnny Winter in 1969 with musicians bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, plus Edgar Winter on keyboards and saxophone, and (for his “Mean Mistreater”) blues legends Willie Dixon on upright bass and Big Walter Horton on harmonica.
At the same time Imperial Records picked up Winter’s first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment. The Winter trio toured and performed at several rock festivals that year including Woodstock. With brother Edgar, Winter recorded his second album for Columbia, Second Winter in Nashville late in 1969. The two-record album, only had three recorded sides (the fourth was blank), introduced a couple more staples from Winter’s concerts, including Chuck Berry‘s “Johnny B. Goode” and Bob Dylan‘s “Highway 61 Revisited“.
Over the years Johnny Winter collaborated with some of the biggest names of the period — Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Paul Butterfield, Willie Dixon, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, just to name a few.
“I’m not good enough to be playin’ much
acoustic guitar onstage. Man, you gotta
get so right; I mean, the tones, the feel,
the sound. Plus, acoustic blues guitar
is just that much harder on the fingers.”
– Johnny Winter
Winter’s very public battle with heroin in the early 70’s nearly derailed his career. He eventually sought treatment for his addiction and in 1973 returned to the studio with long-time friend and bandmate Rick Derringer to produce Still Alive and Well, a basic blend between blues and hard rock.
Winter is still hard at work at 67 years-old. Look for his next CD, Roots, to release on September 27th.
Roots is Winter’s full-circle return to the blues.This album returns Johnny to his bedrock by paying homage to the iconic blues heroes whose pioneering music influenced Winter’s own signature sound. Roots is the follow up to his Grammy-nominated I’m a Blues Man, and includes a host of special guests including Vince Gill, Derek Truks, Sonny Landreth, Susan Tedeschi and brother Edgar, who join Winter trading licks in honoring the long time bluesman and his idols.