(John Dawson Winter III)
Born: February 23, 1944, Beaumont, Texas
Died: July 16, 2014
Photo credit: David Dickerson – www.mcconnelldickersonart.com
Johnny Winter was a guitar hero without equal. Signing to Columbia records in 1969, called largest solo artist deal of its time, Johnny immediately laid out the blueprint for his fresh take on classic blues. Shifting between simple country blues in the vein of Robert Johnson, to all-out electric slide guitar blues-rock, – Johnny was one of the most respected singers and guitar players in rock and the clear link between British blues-rock and American Southern rock. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Johnny was the unofficial torch-bearer for the blues, championing and aiding the careers of his idols like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Growing up in a rough-and-tumble town populated by oilfield wildcatters and shipyard workers, he listened to a deejay named J.P. Richardson and became hooked on 50’s rock & roll. He formed his first band, Johnny and the Jammers, in 1959 at the age of 15, with his 12-year-old brother Edgar on keyboards. Winter’s big breakthrough came in 1968 when Rolling Stone writers Larry Sepulvado and John Burks featured him in a piece on the Texas Music scene, which prompted a bidding war among labels. Johnny’s self-titled 1969 disc announced loudly that there was a new guitar-slinger on the national scene. The album was promptly followed by Second Winter later that same year. Winter recorded such well-received platters as Johnny Winter And, Still Alive and Well and John Dawson Winter III. He also helped to introduce blues giant Muddy Waters to another generation of listeners by producing and playing guitar on the Grammy-winning Hard Again, as well as the Grammy-nominated I’m Ready, Muddy Mississippi Waters Live and King Bee. Johnny joined Alligator Records in 1984. His desire to record nothing but authentic blues made for a perfect fit. The powerhouse album Guitar Slinger won Johnny his second Grammy nomination with Alligator Records. Winter was professionally active until the time of his death near Zurich, Switzerland, two days after his last performance at the Cahors Blues Festival in France.