Winter in 1990
|Birth name||John Dawson Winter III|
|Born||February 23, 1944|
Beaumont, Texas, U.S.
|Died||July 16, 2014 70) (aged|
near Zürich, Switzerland
John Dawson "Johnny" Winter III (February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014) was an American singer and guitarist.Winter was known for his high-energy blues rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and 1970s. He also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. After his time with Waters, Winter recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Johnny Winter was born in Beaumont, Texas, on February 23, 1944.He and younger brother Edgar (born 1946) were nurtured at an early age by their parents in musical pursuits. Their father, Leland, Mississippi native John Dawson Winter Jr. (1909–2001), was also a musician who played saxophone and guitar and sang at churches, weddings, Kiwanis and Rotary Club gatherings. Johnny and his brother, both of whom were born with albinism, began performing at an early age. When he was ten years old, the brothers appeared on a local children's show with Johnny playing ukulele.
His recording career began at the age of 15, when his band Johnny and the Jammers released "School Day Blues" on a Houston record label.During this same period, he was able to see performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. In the early days, Winter would sometimes sit in with Roy Head and the Traits when they performed in the Beaumont area, and in 1967, Winter recorded a single with the Traits: "Tramp" backed with "Parchman Farm" (Universal Records 30496). In 1968, he released his first album The Progressive Blues Experiment , on Austin's Sonobeat Records.
Winter caught his biggest break in December 1968, when Mike Bloomfield, whom he met and jammed with in Chicago, invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield and Al Kooper concert at the Fillmore East in New York City. As it happened, representatives of Columbia Records (which had released the Top Ten Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills Super Session album) were at the concert. Winter played and sang B.B. King's "It's My Own Fault" to loud applause and, within a few days, was signed to what was reportedly the largest advance in the history of the recording industry at that time—$600,000.
Winter's first Columbia album, Johnny Winter , was recorded and released in 1969.It featured the same backing musicians with whom he had recorded The Progressive Blues Experiment, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, plus Edgar Winter on keyboards and saxophone, and (for his "Mean Mistreater") Willie Dixon on upright bass and Big Walter Horton on harmonica. The album featured a few selections that became Winter signature songs, including his composition "Dallas" (an acoustic blues, on which Winter played a steel-bodied, resonator guitar), John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl", and B.B. King's "Be Careful with a Fool".
The album's success coincided with Imperial Records picking up The Progressive Blues Experiment for wider release.The same year, the Winter trio toured and performed at several rock festivals, including Woodstock. With brother Edgar added as a full member of the group, Winter also recorded his second album, Second Winter , in Nashville in 1969. The two-disc album only had three recorded sides (the fourth was blank). It introduced more staples of Winter's concerts, including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited". Johnny entered into a short-lived affair with Janis Joplin, which culminated at a concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, where Johnny joined her on stage to sing and perform.
Contrary to urban legend, Johnny Winter did not perform with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison on the infamous 1968 Hendrix bootleg album Woke up this Morning and Found Myself Dead from New York City's the Scene club. According to Winter, "I never even met Jim Morrison! There's a whole album of Jimi and Jim and I'm supposedly on the album but I don't think I am 'cause I never met Jim Morrison in my life! I'm sure I never, never played with Jim Morrison at all! I don't know how that [rumor] got started."
Beginning in 1969, the first of numerous Johnny Winter albums was released which were cobbled together from approximately fifteen singles (about 30 "sides") he recorded before signing with Columbia in 1969.Many were produced by Roy Ames, owner of Home Cooking Records/Clarity Music Publishing, who had briefly managed Winter. According to an article from the Houston Press , Winter left town for the express purpose of getting away from him. Ames died on August 14, 2003, of natural causes at age 66. As Ames left no obvious heirs, the ownership rights of the Ames master recordings remains unclear. As Winter stated in an interview when the subject of Roy Ames came up, "This guy has screwed so many people it makes me mad to even talk about him."
In 1970, when his brother Edgar released a solo album Entrance and formed Edgar Winter's White Trash, an R&B/jazz-rock group, the original trio disbanded.Johnny Winter then formed a new band with the remnants of the McCoys—guitarist Rick Derringer, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Z (who was Derringer's brother, their family name being Zehringer). Originally to be called "Johnny Winter and the McCoys", the name was shortened to "Johnny Winter And", which was also the name of their first album. The album included Derringer's "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and signaled a more rock-oriented direction for Winter. When Johnny Winter And began to tour, Randy Z was replaced with drummer Bobby Caldwell. Their mixture of the new rock songs with Winter's blues songs was captured on the live album Live Johnny Winter And . It included a new performance of "It's My Own Fault", the song which brought Winter to the attention of Columbia Records.
Winter's momentum was throttled when he sank into heroin addiction during the Johnny Winter And days. After he sought treatment for and recovered from the addiction, Winter was put in front of the music press by manager Steve Paul to discuss the addiction candidly.By 1973, he returned to the music scene with the release of Still Alive and Well , a basic blend of blues and hard rock, whose title track was written by Rick Derringer. His comeback concert at Long Island, New York's Nassau Coliseum featured the "And" line-up minus Rick Derringer and Bobby Caldwell. Also performing on stage was Johnny's wife Susie. Saints & Sinners and John Dawson Winter III , two albums released in 1974, continue in the same direction. In 1975, Johnny returned to Bogalusa, Louisiana, to produce an album for Thunderhead, a Southern rock band which included Pat Rush and Bobby "T" Torello, who would later play with Winter. A second live Winter album, Captured Live! , was released in 1976 and features an extended performance of "Highway 61 Revisited".
In live performances, Winter often told the story about how, as a child, he dreamed of playing with the blues guitarist Muddy Waters. He got his chance in 1974, when renowned blues artists and their younger brethren came together to honor the musician (Muddy Waters) responsible for bringing blues to Chicago, and the resulting concert presented many blues classics and was the start of an admired TV series: Soundstage (this particular session was called "Blues Summit in Chicago"). And in 1977, after Waters' long-time label Chess Records went out of business,Winter brought Waters into the studio to record Hard Again for Blue Sky Records, a label set up by Winter's manager and distributed by Columbia. In addition to producing the album, Winter played guitar with Waters veteran James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Waters, I'm Ready (with Big Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee and a best-selling live album Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live . The partnership produced three Grammy Awards for Waters and an additional Grammy for Winter's own Nothin' But the Blues , with backing by members of Waters' band. Waters told Deep Blues author Robert Palmer that Winter had done remarkable work in reproducing the sound and atmosphere of Waters's vintage Chess Records recordings of the 1950s. AllMusic writer Mark Deming noted: "Between Hard Again and The Last Waltz [1976 concert film by The Band], Waters enjoyed a major career boost, and he found himself touring again for large and enthusiastic crowds".
In 1996, Johnny and Edgar filed suit against DC Comics and the creators of the Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such limited series, claiming, among other things, defamation: two characters named Johnny and Edgar Autumn in the series strongly resemble the Winters. The brothers claimed the comics falsely portrayed them as "vile, depraved, stupid, cowardly, subhuman individuals who engage in wanton acts of violence, murder and bestiality for pleasure and who should be killed."The California Supreme Court sided with DC Comics, holding that the comic books were deserving of First Amendment protection.
After his time with Blue Sky Records, Winter began recording for several labels, including Alligator, Point Blank, and Virgin, where he focused on blues-oriented material.In 1992, he married Susan Warford. In 2004, he received a Grammy Award nomination for his I'm a Bluesman album. Beginning in 2007, a series of live Winter albums titled the Live Bootleg Series and a live DVD all entered the Top 10 Billboard Blues chart. In 2009, The Woodstock Experience album was released, which includes eight songs that Winter performed at the 1969 festival. In 2011, Johnny Winter released Roots on Megaforce Records. It includes Winter's interpretation of eleven early blues and rock 'n' roll classics and features several guest artists (Vince Gill, Sonny Landreth, Susan Tedeschi, Edgar Winter, Warren Haynes, and Derek Trucks). His last studio album, Step Back (which features appearances by Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Leslie West, Brian Setzer, Dr. John, Paul Nelson, Ben Harper and Joe Perry), was released on September 2, 2014. Nelson and Winter won a Grammy Award in the Best Blues Album category for Step Back in 2015. Nelson said Winter knew it was an award winner and Winter told him "If we don't win a Grammy for this, they're nuts."
Winter continued to perform live, including at festivals throughout North America and Europe. He headlined such prestigious events as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, the 2009 Sweden Rock Festival, the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, and Rockpalast. He also performed with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater in New York City on the 40th anniversary of their debut. In 2007 and 2010, Winter performed at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festivals. Two guitar instructional DVDs were produced by Cherry Lane Music and the Hal Leonard Corporation. The Gibson Guitar Company released the signature Johnny Winter Firebird guitar in a ceremony in Nashville with Slash presenting.
Winter was professionally active until the time of his death near Zürich, Switzerland, on July 16, 2014.He was found dead in his hotel room two days after his last performance, at the Cahors Blues Festival in France. The cause of Winter's death was not officially released. According to his guitarist friend and record producer Paul Nelson, Winter died of emphysema combined with pneumonia.
Writing in Rolling Stone magazine, after Winter's death, David Marchese said, "Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, releasing a string of popular and fiery albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies, becoming an arena-level concert draw in the process" ... [he] "made an iconic life for himself by playing the blues".
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Johnny Winter among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Winter produced three Grammy Award-winning albums by Muddy Waters – Hard Again (1977), I'm Ready (1978), and Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live (1979).Several of Winter's own albums were nominated for Grammy Awards – Guitar Slinger (1984) and Serious Business (1985) for Best Traditional Blues Album, and Let Me In (1991) and I'm a Bluesman (2004) for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 2015 Winter posthumously won the Grammy Award for Best Blues Album for Step Back . The album also won the 2015 Blues Music Award for Best Rock Blues Album. At the 18th Maple Blues Awards in 2015, Winter was also posthumously awarded the B.B. King International Artist of The Year Award.
In 1980, Winter was on the cover of the first issue of Guitar World . In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the first non-African-American performer to be inducted into the Hall.
Multiple guitarists have cited Winter as an influence, including Joe Perry,Frank Marino, Michael Schenker, Adrian Smith, and Alex Skolnick.
Winter played a variety of guitars during his career,but he is probably best known for his use of Gibson Firebirds. He owned several, but favored a 1963 Firebird V model. Winter explained:
I still have all six of them ... but that first one  I ever bought is my favorite because I've played it so long and I've gotten used to it. They all sound different, but that one sounds the best. The neck is nice and thin ... there's nothing it can't do. It's a great guitar.
The Firebird V was a departure from Gibson's traditional configuration, with mini-humbucker pickups in place of the company's standard sized PAF humbucker or P-90 single-coil pickup models.In a 2014 interview, Winter described the tone:
The Firebird is the best of all worlds. It feels like a Gibson, but it sounds closer to a Fender than most other Gibsons. I was never a big fan of humbucking pickups, but the mini humbuckers on the Firebird have more bite and treble.
In 2008, the Gibson Custom Shop issued a signature Johnny Winter Firebird Vin a ceremony in Nashville with Slash presenting.
In 1984, luthier Mark Erlewine approached Winter with his Lazer electric guitar. With its unusual design (for the time) without a headstock and having a small body, Winter responded immediately: "the first day I plugged it in, it sounded so good that I wanted to use it for a gig that night."He commented:
[The Lazer is] the closest thing I've found to sounding like a Strat and feeling like a Gibson ... Lazer is a bit easier to play than the Firebird. The action is high, but the strings pull easier ... But I still use the Firebird on slide songs; the slide still sounds better on the Firebird.
Other guitars that Winter owned and played include a Gibson ES-125 (his first electric guitar), a Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Les Paul/SG Custom, a Fender Mustang, a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with P-90 pickups, a Gibson Flying V, an Epiphone Wilshire, a Gibson Black Beauty, a Fender Electric XII (with only the regular six strings), and an acoustic National Resonator.
Winter played with a thumb pick and his fingers.His picking style was inspired by Chet Atkins and Merle Travis and he never used a flat pick. Winter preferred a plastic thumb pick sold by Gibson and a steel pinky slide, later marketed by Dunlop.
McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who was an important figure in the post-war blues scene, and is often cited as the "father of modern Chicago blues". His style of playing has been described as "raining down Delta beatitude".
Rick Derringer is an American guitarist, vocalist, producer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the 1960s as founding member of his band, The McCoys. At that time, they were taken to New York City to record what became the number one hit song "Hang On Sloopy". The McCoys then had seven songs that charted in the top 100, including versions of "Fever" and "Come On Let’s Go".
Edgar Holland Winter is an American musician, songwriter, and record producer. He is known for being a multi-instrumentalist—keyboardist, guitarist, saxophonist and percussionist—as well as a singer. His success peaked in the 1970s with his band The Edgar Winter Group and their popular songs "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride".
James Henry Cotton was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, who performed and recorded with many of the great blues artists of his time and with his own band. He played drums early in his career but is famous for his harmonica playing.
Joseph Leonard Bonamassa is an American blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter. He started his career at age 12, when he opened for B.B. King. In the last 13 years Bonamassa has put out 15 solo albums through his independent record label J&R Adventures, of which 11 have reached number 1 on the Billboard Blues charts.
David A. Immerglück is an American multi-instrumentalist who is best known as a guitarist in the alternative rock bands Counting Crows, Camper Van Beethoven and the Monks of Doom, as well as for his tenure with American singer songwriter John Hiatt. A versatile musician, Immerglück plays mandolin, pedal steel guitar, bass, slide guitar, electric sitar, keyboards, and sings.
Johnny Winter And is the fourth studio album by Texas blues guitarist Johnny Winter, released in 1970. This was the first album released with Rick Derringer as a sideman. It was also the name of his band for a short time.
Still Alive and Well is an album by blues rock guitarist and singer Johnny Winter. It was his fifth studio album, and his first since Johnny Winter And almost three years earlier. It was released by Columbia Records in 1973.
Hard Again is a studio album by American blues singer Muddy Waters. Released on January 10, 1977, it was the first of his albums produced by Johnny Winter. Hard Again was Waters's first album on Blue Sky Records after leaving Chess Records and was well received by critics.
"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" is a rock song written by American musician Rick Derringer. It was first recorded in 1970 by Johnny Winter and his band, Johnny Winter And, of which Derringer was a member. In 1973, Derringer recorded a solo version, which was his only Top 40 chart hit as a solo artist in the U.S. It became a staple of 1970s classic rock radio and rock music compilations. Both Winter and Derringer have recorded multiple live versions of the song.
Willie Lee "Big Eyes" Smith was a Grammy Award-winning American electric blues vocalist, harmonica player, and drummer. He was best known for several stints with the Muddy Waters band beginning in the early 1960s.
Paul Nelson is an American modern Grammy award winning blues/rock guitarist, producer, and songwriter. He has played and or recorded alongside artists such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and members of the Allman Brothers Band. He was the hand picked guitarist to join Johnny Winter's band in 2010, performing on and producing several of Winter's albums, including the Grammy-nominated I'm a Blues Man, Roots, and Step Back which won Nelson a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, debuted at #1 on the Billboard chart for Blues Albums, and Independent Albums, and debuted at #16 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, marking the highest spot in Winter's career. Nelson is also a Blues Music Award recipient for Best Rock Blues Album. and has been inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the KBA award from the Blues Foundation. He received a Grammy nomination for his work as producer and performer on Joe Louis Walker's Everybody Wants a Piece.
James Montgomery is an American blues musician, best known as the lead singer, blues harp player, frontman, and bandleader of The James Montgomery Blues Band. Montgomery collaborates with many star performers and recording artists. He is also the past President of The New England Blues Society.
Blue Sky Records was a custom label created by Steve Paul for Columbia Records, featuring acts managed by Steve Paul, primarily Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Dan Hartman, David Johansen, and Muddy Waters.
Step Back is an album by blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter. It features performances by a number of guest musicians, including Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Leslie West from Mountain, and Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats. It was released by Megaforce Records on September 2, 2014.
Live at the Fillmore East 10/3/70 is an album by Johnny Winter And, a blues rock band led by guitarist and singer Johnny Winter. As the name suggests, the album was recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York City on October 3, 1970. It was released by Collectors' Choice Music on April 20, 2010.
True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story is a compilation album by blues rock guitarist and singer Johnny Winter. Comprising four CDs, and packaged as a box set, it contains songs selected from numerous albums — some recorded in the studio and some live — released over a 43-year period, from 1968 to 2011, as well as several previously unreleased tracks. The box set also includes a 50-page booklet of essays and photos. It was released by Legacy Recordings on February 25, 2014.
The Essential Johnny Winter is a two-CD album by guitarist and singer Johnny Winter. It is a compilation of songs from previously released albums, many of them from the late 1960s and the 1970s. It was released by Columbia Records on April 30, 2013.
Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down is a blues album by Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, and James Cotton. It was recorded live in 1977, and released in 2007. It reached number 3 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart.
Johnny Winter (1944–2014) was an American rock and blues musician. From 1959 to 1967, he recorded several singles for mostly small record companies in his native Texas. In 1968, Winter completed his first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, and in 1969, he was signed to Columbia Records. With the label, Winter had his greatest success on the main American record chart; Johnny Winter (1969), Second Winter (1969), Live Johnny Winter And (1971), and Still Alive and Well (1973) all reached the top forty on the Billboard 200 album chart. In 1974, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified Live Johnny Winter And gold, his only record to receive an award from the organization.
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