Rock Musik Lexikon
The "ROCKMUSIK LEXIKON - Amerika, Afrika, Australien" was originally released by Taurus Press in 1989. It was reprinted by Fischer in 1996 without any changes. It was written by Christian Graf. The book is splitted in two volumes. The information here is taken from the '96 Fischer release.
Johnny's name appears in the following articles:
SOUNDS was a popular music magazine in the style of the Rolling Stone, which some years ago fusioned with the also very popular Musikexpress to ME/Sounds
STEREO is a big magazine dealing with hi-fi systems; each issue features a bunch of reviews
FAZ stands for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and is one of the biggest and most important newspapers in Germany
In the style of Johnny Winter many of his fans detected the sensitive technique of a B.B. King and the intensive, electrifying rock of Jimi Hendrix. Despite some disputed and most moderate projects Winter's name stands now for two decades as a synonym for a bluesrock guitarist of the extra class. His development in the last years brought him more close to the traditional, Spartan blues formulas. Roughly and unaffected the "whitest blues guitarist of history" (NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS) understood to authentically transfer and have a feeling for this black music thanks to an enormous sympathetic understanding. An ability, which one normally denied to interpreters with white skin colour.
Born on 23 February 1944 in Leland, Mississippi, and grown up in Beaumont, Texas, 5 years old Johnny showed first interest in the clarinet, changed afterwards to the ukulele and at age of eleven he held a guitar in his hands for the first time. Together with younger brother Edgar Winter he played in different school bands and appeared under names like "It & Them" and "Black Plague".
1962 Johnny Winter aborted a study at the "Lamar Technical College" and hitchhiked to Chicago, in order to experience the blues. He frequented the relevant clubs and played with Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg, amongst others.
Back in Texas his brother became again a partner of many years, only interrupted by a time in Houston, Texas, where Johnny Winter formed a blues trio with Tommy Shannon (bass) and 'Uncle' John Turner (dr).
In 1968 the ROLLING STONE took note of that band and described Winter as the "cross-eyed albino with long, flocky hair, which plays the stormiest blues guitar, which one has ever heard." Steve Paul, owner of the New York club "The Scene", read the article, flew to Texas and took Winter under contract.
It didn't take long until Winter got signed to a record company, and in 1969 the album "Johnny Winter" was out. Earlier recordings were published after the Top 30 success of this record under titles like "Early Times", "First Winter" and "About Blues". Guests of the first official album - "The Progressive Blues Experiment" consisted of demo tapes - were, beside Edgar Winter, the blues greats Willie Dixon and Walter 'Shakey' Horton, who took great pleasure on Winter's understanding for the roots of the blues.
A few months later the "most knowlegable white blues guitarist " (ROLLING STONE) produced the double album "Second Winter", from which one LP side remained unrecorded. Over own songs and cover versions of Little Richard ("Slippin' and Slidin'"), Chuck Berry ("Johnny B. Goode") and Bob Dylan ("Highway 61 Revisited") Winter showcased at this time his hardrock preference (without ever letting the blues out of sight).
When Edgar Winter had his own plans in mind, Johnny separated from his companions and got together with the former "McCoys", whose leader was guitar talent Rick Derringer . Derringer did not only remain a member for two LP's of the newly formed "And", but additionally supported Johnny Winter as a producer of his records and later helped him with his comeback efforts.
While the tough rock-blues LP "And" found only a few buyers, the live cut "And Live" climbed to the highest chart positions and attained gold status, although the record did not only disappoint because of the "alternationless singing" (SOUNDS). Johnny Winter couldn't manage hardly the increasing popularity, the sold off concert halls and the constant praise in the music media. The hectic life and heroin finally brought him into hospital.
Winter needed two years in order to to recover. For "Still Alive And Well" he engaged Randy Jo Hobbs (bass) and Richard Hughes (dr). As prominent guests Todd Rundgren and the jazz flute player Jeremy Steig helped. SOUNDS wrote: "His full of seeds bluesrock sounds still just as unspent as in former times." The song material consisted of a title from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards especially composed for him ("Silver Train"), a further "Rolling Stones" adaptation ("Let It Bleed") and the blues classic "Rock Me Baby" from 'Big Boy' Arthur Crudup.
After "Still Alive" the performances of Winter stabilized. "Saints and Sinners" was estimated as "one of his last big albums" (ROLLING STONE).
On his '74 European tour - with Floyd Radford as second guitarist being very enriching - the FAZ judged: "How he structures his improvisations over the everlasting cadence pattern, the technique, he has at his disposal - that is unique. Each individual run through the 12 bar harmony sequence (chorus) is a small work of art concluded in itself ".
At the end of ' 74 Johnny Winter's state of health again caused worries. Again he had to withdraw himself for 18 months. His record company bridged the break with "Captured Live!".
With brother Edgar, who had overtopped him in the charts for long now, he recorded his favorite songs for the LP "Together" (1976). The sales remained moderate and worsened with the following releases.
His close friendship with Muddy Waters expressed itself for the first time in 1977. Waters lended his exquisite band for "Nothin' But The Blues" and participated as a guest soloist. In response Winter produced three LP's of Waters until 1981 and occurred sporadically in his live group.
Winter toured regularly with his own, frequently changed formation, but when in 1981 his record contract was not extended, the interest of the public in the "masterfully played, traditional, straight and eroticing blues" (STEREO) shrank. He occasionally emerged in studios and supported Edgar Winter, Dan Hartman, Michael McDonald, Neil Sedaka and Nils Lofgren.
The folk and blues label "Alligator" gave Winter a new chance to record in 1984. For "Guitar Slinger" he could win first-class Texas blues musicians such as bassist Johnny B. Gayden and drummer Casey Jones of the Albert Collins' band "Icebreakers" and keyboarder Ken Saydak (Lonnie Brooks).
On the following albums "Serious
Business" and "3rd Degree", Johnny Winter also pulled "all
stops within urban blues styles" (JAZZ PODIUM). For "3rd
Degree" Winter brought his team of 1969 (Shannon, 1983/84 actively
for Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Turner) back together again.