"It's the only thing that I've really been good at."
July 17, 2014 11:47 AM   Subscribe

He played with everyone from Muddy Waters to John Lee Hooker, and played a midnight set at Woodstock. American blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter died Wednesday, he was 70.
posted by BigHeartedGuy (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I was wondering when this was going to get posted. I saw Johnny back in '91 at the Garden and he was unbelievable. RIP Mr Winter.
posted by jonmc at 11:52 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Splunge at 11:55 AM on July 17, 2014

posted by Lynsey at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2014

My very first concert was Johnny Winter, Faces, and Three Dog Night at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on November 7th, 1970. I've been a fan of his ever since. RIP.
(I still have no idea why Three Dog Night agreed to headline that bill.)
posted by Floydd at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by tommasz at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2014

So THAT's why all the Johnny Winter albums in my ebay store sold today.l
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:10 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Andy Summers said that he jammed with Hendrix in LA back in the day, and Hendrix was playing bass. That's not really what you'd expect, but there he is playing it for Winter too.

posted by thelonius at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2014

Oh shit.

posted by lumpenprole at 12:12 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:17 PM on July 17, 2014

> Andy Summers said that he jammed with Hendrix in LA back in the day

If anybody other than Dylan owns a Dylan song the way Hendrix owns "All along the watchtower" it's Johnny owning "Highway 61 revisited."
posted by jfuller at 12:25 PM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by the sobsister at 12:41 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by quazichimp at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by Thorzdad at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by arkham_inmate_0801 at 12:59 PM on July 17, 2014

Loved his playing, copped a lot of his licks, and man that's a lot of musicians this week.

posted by spitbull at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2014

As a kid I always thought he looked like an angel. Presumably now he is one, and I hope they'll make an exception so he can skip the harp and keep his guitar.

posted by wenestvedt at 1:26 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by GrapeApiary at 1:29 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by Smart Dalek at 1:30 PM on July 17, 2014

An amazing blues guitar slinger and an American original. I'd like to think he's tearing it up with Chris Whitley in the great beyond. RIP

posted by dbiedny at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2014

Saw mention of his passing last night on the TheGearPage, but someone on that thread mentioned that a friend of his was in JW's backing band and had just updated his FB page 30 minutes before without mentioning anything amiss, so it was shrugged off as a just one of those bad rumors. Very sad to learn today that it was true. RIP, JW.

posted by mosk at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2014

I was lucky enough to see him a few times, including the 1991 John Lee Hooker tribute at MSG (I think that's the same show jonmc referenced upthread).

Most recently I saw him play the Kitchener (Ontario) Blues Fest in 2011 and he was looking really frail. Played an awesome set, though. Weirdest thing about that show was seeing Johnny play in the afternoon, then seeing his brother Edgar play three hours later and half a mile away at another festival stage, and neither of them showing up on the other's gig.

RIP Johnny.
posted by rocket88 at 1:46 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

To me he'll always be still alive and well.

posted by TedW at 1:53 PM on July 17, 2014

My brush with his fame came at a yard sale in the 1970s. I found a pair of blindingly flashy, exceedingly long pants with an unbelievably small waist. The seller told me that they were Johnny Winter's pants. I did not buy them (I'm sorry now) but I DID HOLD HIS PANTS IN MY HANDS.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:54 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Was learning guitar aged 12 in England, 1984. Had some ancient wrecked guitar teacher with no money who loved Johnny Winter. Good times.
posted by colie at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by bjgeiger at 1:58 PM on July 17, 2014

Bluesmen should live to a hundred.

I saw Johnny and Edgar Winter together live, back around 1976. Opening act: James Brown. You don't see shows like that anymore. But I will get you the next best thing.

Live from Montreux 1970 (41 min)
Live in Copenhagen 1970 (23 min)

My favorite performance is Live at the Rockpalast 1979 but unfortunately the playlist is a bit fragmentary, so search for the missing tracks on YouTube. There is an album of this concert.

There is an a ton of concert material popping up just now. I'm especially hoping for a release from Music Vault, which should have great recordings from the Fillmore and other great venues.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Saw him once, in Dallas at a blues festival, I think around 1990? B.B. King headlined. Maybe it was even his festival.

Damn, but Johnny Winter was out of this world. I'd never heard playing like that, fast but completely fluid, hardly any edge to his sound, just a torrent of soul, one note blending into the next. Everyone else was pedestrian in comparison.
posted by swift at 2:09 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

My favorite thing of his is this live-in-studio version of Pat Hare's Murdering Blues (he seemed to play it live very rarely, possibly because the song is cursed.)

You can make an argument that he took Highway 61 for his own, though I'd sugggest he'd have to share it with PJ Harvey. In my mind his cleanest lift was Silver Train, a song from Goat's Head Soup that the Stones weren't doing much with anyway, but which Johnny rocked the fuck out of.

His performances at the Texas International Pop Festival in '69 were epic, the whole set is great if you can find it (which I can't right now, but it's certainly out there somewhere.)

posted by hap_hazard at 2:16 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by allthinky at 2:22 PM on July 17, 2014

When Muddy Waters tells you "you're picking your ass off!" you've got to be doing something right: I Can't Be Satisfied.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:35 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by Joey Michaels at 3:59 PM on July 17, 2014

Ah, sorry to hear this. I agree with charlie don't surf - blues musicians should all live to be 100. At least.

I saw him at the North Atlantic Blues fest in 2006 - have a few photos I took of him in this set. He looked unbelievably frail then -- but he had a lot of strength in his playing. I very much hoped to see him again.

Illustrated Man

2011 interview in Vintage Guitar

Johnny, who do you listen to, to stay on top of your game?

JW: Muddy was a big influence – the best blues guy that’s ever been. He put so much emotion into it.

What kind of gear are you using?

JW: An old Music Man combo amp with four 10s, a ’64 Gibson Firebird for slide, my Lazer, and a Boss Chorus pedal. That amp is loud as hell! I’ve had it since the ’70s. When I was playing with Muddy, Bob Margolin had one. I tried his and loved it, so I got one. This is around ’77 or ’78. I set it up all treble, no middle, and no bass. I turn it all the way up.

What kind of slide do you use?

JW: My original was made out of a cymbal stand. Dunlop reproduced it and put out what they call The Texas Slider.

posted by madamjujujive at 4:43 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Armadillo World Headquarters, 1979.

posted by Devils Rancher at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2014

Aw, man...

posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2014

I saw him a couple times in the late 80s early 90s at Hammerjacks in Baltimore. Once with his brother Edgar - turns out someone has put several clips of that exact show on youtube - 1 2 3 4 5
posted by 445supermag at 6:26 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Premier Guitar had a good article on him in May. It sounds like he had really been having a second spring the last few years.
posted by thelonius at 8:10 PM on July 17, 2014

posted by On the Corner at 12:59 AM on July 18, 2014

Gonna be a helluva jam session in heaven this weekend.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:19 AM on July 18, 2014

I was excited about an announcement I saw the other day that he was touring on a bill with his brother Edgar and Vanilla Fudge. He will be missed.
posted by rtimmel at 10:03 AM on July 18, 2014

posted by chaosys at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2014

The softer side of Johnny Winter from the album "Hey Johnny, Where's Your Brother?".
posted by cleroy at 3:48 PM on July 18, 2014

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