Thursday, July 17, 2014

RIP Johnny Winter

Blue guitarist great Johnny Winter died  yesterday in a hotel room in Zurich.  I would take every opportunity to see Johnny.  The thought in the front of my brain was, "This is probably the last time I will ever see him play."  Johnny beat the reaper for decades.  Years of alcohol and heroin abuse,  from 1980 through 2005,made Johnny a perennial top draft pick in "death pools."  Winter resumed his career 2006 after kicking multiple habits.   I saw him a couple of years ago at the 35th Reunion for Vegetable Buddies - an iconic midwest music club.  Gaunt and frail but still capable letting loose with monster licks.

 In 1968,  Winter signed a contract with a bonus of $600,000 after being "discovered" by Columbia Records executives sitting in with Mike Bloomfield ad Al Kooper at the Fillmore East.  The following Spotify playlist is Winter's 1969 major album release.


Johnny left his own indelible mark when playing other artist's originals.  Everyone has their favorite Bob Dylan cover.  My favorite is Johnny's cover of "Highway 61 Revisited' - a version so rousing that i once found myself unintentionally driving over 100mph while lost in his guitar playing.

My favorite Johnny memory is from 1981 ChicagoFest on Navy Pier.  Muddy Waters was playing the blues stage.  I had scored tix on the SS Milwaukee, an old Lake Michigan ferry, 29 feet behind and 20 feet above the stage.  It was a humid 90 degree night with the audience packed cheek to jowl.  The fist half was classic Muddy and then Johnny walked on stage.  Fire up the Enola Gay.  It went nuclear.  I recently found this recording of the concert.  

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