The Johnny Winter Story

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter's first official album aka the Black Album is released by CBS and scores Billboard ranking 24 on 10 May 1969.

17 May 2004: Sony will rerelease the album "Johnny Winter" on CD titled: "Johnny Winter Expanded Edition" with the previously unreleased recordings: "Country Girl", "Dallas", "Two Steps From The Blues".

Sony Legacy's remastered and expanded reissue of Johnny Winter's self-produced debut album for Columbia records-recorded in 1969-is nothing short of a revelation. Unlike his most of his peers who purposefully wed blues to rock that made it palatable to pop audiences, Winter's approach to the blues was pure and savage. He approached rock and roll from the heart of the blues. His guitar tone was like barbed wire dipped in lighter fluid and was as precise as a stiletto.

 

On this recording and Second Winter Johnny played the blues pure and simple,. Whether it was the stinging raucous Delta music as played acoustically on "Dallas," or his savage electric attack, on "Mean Mistreater," "Be Careful With a Fool," or on Good Mornin' Little Schoolgirl'-complete with horns and piano by brother Edgar-Winter's blues were easily separated from the masses. His uncompromising completely mythical and romantic fascination with the music was propulsive and profound.

A listen to "Leland Mississippi Blues," or the strolling tough National Steel blues of "If You've Got A Friend," give as complete a portrait as is necessary of a man who not only came out of the Texas blues tradition, but extended the whole Southern legacy and brought it deep into mainstream American culture while employing and paying homage to its creators-Willie Dixon plays bass on this record! Containing five bonus tracks, this is one of the most welcome reissues in the blues canon to come down the pipe in quite a while, and if there is one Johnny Winter recording to own, it should be this one. Thom Jurek

    Musicians on Johnny Winter's black album are:
  • Johnny Winter - Guitar, Vocals
  • "Uncle" John Turner - percussion
  • Tommy Shannon - bass
  • Willie Dixon - acoustic bass
  • Walter "Shakey" Horton - harp
  • Karl Garin - trumpets
  • Stephen Ralph Sefsik - alt sax
  • A.Wynn Butler - tenor sax
  • Norman Ray - bariton sax
  • Edgar Winter - piano
  • Carrie Hossel, Peggy Bowers, Elsie Senter - background vocals

LP: CBS Stereo 63619 (1969)

Released in the UK in MONO M 63619

The Johnny Winter "Black Album" has been re-issued as "The First Album Johnny Winter"

Producer: Johnny Winter

Cover text: Steve Paul

Johnny Winter's first album has also been released as a limited edition on a vinyl 180 grams edition

Liner Notes

The purpose of this is emotional. Because it is based on my feelings. I am writing it. Johnny's feelings. Because I am writing about him. About blues. Which Johnny feels is emotional. Rather than technical. Even emotional rather than musical.

Most people never get what they deserve. In their entire life. Johnny's been into blues since he was eleven. For himself. All the time. And for whoever would listen to it. In the beginning. Not too many people. In the beginning. For Johnny. And for all blues music. Johnny was in Chicago six years ago. Hanging out with Michael Bloomfield at his Fickle Pickle coffeehouse. And it was several years ago that he played with B. B. King in a black club down South. Somehow, even then, these people gravitated together. The present fame was not the common bind. The feeling was. Today they all run into each other again. And it is still the feeling that brings them together.

When we finished this album in Nashville, the one thing Johnny felt about it was that it was exactly what he had hoped for. His feelings expressed through music. Somehow feeling creates its own time and energy. Earthly success may come late but the feeling has been there for quite a while.

Tommy Shannon and "Uncle" John Turner are the other members of Johnny's group. Winter. They like blues. So much so that when I first met them in Texas. Nine months after their group had been formed. Their apartment consisted of the living-room floor of a friend's house. They had given up good-paying gigs in order to play the music they felt was best. And they help Johnny play the music he wants to play. They are part of the good feelings I have about Johnny Winter. And they are his group.

If it weren't for ROLLING STONE, I would have never taken that trip to Texas. In search of a name and a dream. The name was Johnny Winter. And the dream was that he would be true. It was a daydream and those are meant to come true. So far so good. The dream of the music comes true inside this album.' Any further comment can only be made by your listening to it.

Johnny is albino. In an age when everyone is trying to look more and more like themselves. And less and less like everyone else. Johnny Winter is very lucky. He definitely looks like himself. It was not always that easy. He was born into a world. Where everybody wanted to look like everybody else. That is not why he sings the blues. But there must have been some feelings involved.

Johnny plays basic blues. Color them black. Real black and nothing else. Color them black black. Johnny looks white. Color him white. Real white and nothing else. Color him white white. By themselves black and white, like the laws of opposites and energy, seem to be attracting nowadays. In Johnny's case it's been a longtime attraction. Resulting in a long-awaited explosion. That of a great blues player. And a human being. With feeling. Getting what he deserves. A chance to let other people feel through his music. As he has felt from other blues people. Whatever they choose. But definitely felt. His message is merely his feelings. All he wants you to get from his message is your feelings. And some pretty good playing too.

There is no summary. There is no conclusion. To what we are speaking of. Because it is all too real. To end here. Let it start here.?

Steve Paul

French release on vinyl of Johnny Winter's Black Album, on the Versailles Label Ver 34160 in 1975, with a nice cover photo of Johnny playing the twelve-string Fender guitar. Johnny Winter Versailles

Photo Gallery of Johnny Winter Expanded Edition

 

Still the best Johnny Winter album ever, blues and nothing but the blues. The incredible opening guitar solo of "Be careful with a fool", the slide in "Dallas" and the Chicken skin music of "I'll drown in my own tears"

Review by: Jan Williams

I agree with you the Johnny Winter black album is by far the best. Be Careful with a Fool is the best song Johnny ever recorded. I love the way you can just hear Johnny's guitar breathe during that long solo. I've only heard him do this song once live and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

But words can't express the importance of each song on this album. Each is a masterpiece. I haven't been the same since I first heard it. It is as much a part of me as my skin or soul. It is one album that must be heard and will never leave you.

Johnny Winter Advertisement

Johnny Winter a white flame ignited by black blues, an advertisement by CBS to promote his first album

Another advertisement for Johnny Winter's self-titled album, from Billboard Magazine 18 April 1969

1969 04 18 5868 JWS Billboard Magazine White Flame
   

Notes

This album is also known as "The Black Album

This album has been re-issued by Embassy as "The First Album".


Johnny Winter is without doubt the finest white bluesman ever to pick up a guitar. "Be Careful With a Fool" features some of the fastest electric licks in this or any other universe, with no compromise in taste and style. At the other end of the spectrum, "Dallas" showcases Johnny's deft acoustic bottleneck playing, plus an edgy attitude. Be careful when and where you play this CD; somebody might get hurt!


While "Progressive Blues Experiment," "Nothin' But The Blues" and "Let me In" are all excellent blues CDs, his first for Columbia is the best. With an allstar band including Willie Dixon -b, and Walter Horton harmonica, and brother Edgar Piano, Johnny lays down some serious real blues on this one. "Dallas" is the very best I have heard in the Robert Johnson vein. "Be Careful With A Fool" is amazing and "I'll Drown In My Tears" gets at least five repeat plays every time I put it on. If there is a list of essential blues albums, this one most definitely must be on it.


On this fine 1969 set, Texas blues-rocker Johnny Winter is backed by some very authentic blues stars, legendary composer/arranger/bass player Willie Dixon among them, and harp duties are undertaken by none other than "Big" Walter Horton. Also, some of the bass playing is handled by none other than a very young Tommy Shannon - later of Stevie Ray Vaughan's backing band Double Trouble.What you think of this will probably depend a little bit on how you feel about Johnny Winter's "strangled" vocal style...he is not as bad as Black Oak Arkansas' Jim Dandy Mangrum, but he certainly wasn't a smooth singer at this point in his career (his vocals got a bit more mannered later on).Most of the music, however, is great, including the ballad "I'll Drown In My Own Tears", the groovy blues-rock of "Mean Mistreater", and Winter's take on B.B. King's "Be Careful With A Fool". But the very best (in my opinion) are the acoustic numbers "Dallas" and "When You Got A Good Friend", which feature Winter's masterful slide playing. A good, solid album, and a fine purchase for Johnny Winter-fans.


Review of the expanded release of the Johnny Winter Album

Johnny Winter is not only an astonishing instrumentalist, but also a rousing singer. His only problem over the years has been an occasional tendency to get stuck with substandard songs in hopes of scoring some rock crossover action. But that clearly wasn't the case on his superb 1969 self-titled album recorded mostly in Nashville. The reissued version of Johnny Winter (Sony/Legacy) sounds a bit cleaner than its predecessor, but the enhanced sonic quality only brings out Winter's guitar flourishes, power and fire. The core group included booming bassist Tommy Shannon, who would later go on to glory as part of Double Trouble with Stevie Ray Vaughan, plus "Uncle" John Turner on percussion. The backing group included his piano and alto sax-playing brother Edgar heading a great horn section and a soulful trio wailing underneath. Winter displayed his blues prowess on such vintage tunes as "Back Door Friend," and "Good Morning Little School Girl," while blues giants bassist Willie Dixon and harmonica soloist Big Walter Horton came aboard for a dazzling rendition of "Mean Mistreater."

There are three bonus tracks on the reissue, a version of "Two Steps From The Blues" that unfortunately fades down just as things get heated, as well as a good version of "Country Girl" and the outstanding "Dallas," in which Winter and the band squeeze a powerful performance into a less than four minute framework. Winter's Columbia recordings after this one became less interesting, mainly because the careful balance established on Johnny Winter between blues sensibility and rock pyrotechnics was steadily eroded.


Johnny Winter has veered from blues to rock n' roll and back blues again for some forty years. This 1969 album is one of the Texan's best and bluesiest.

"Johnny Winter" finds him at 25, backed by Tommy Shannon (Stevie Ray Vaughan's bass player in the 80s), drummer John Turner, and occationally his brother Edgar (Winter's brother, not Turner's!) on piano and saxophone. Chess stalwart Willie Dixon even pays a visit, as does harmonica ace Walter Horton who blows the harp on a great "Mean Mistreater".
And while most every other white blues singer in the late 60s was trying to make the blues more palatable to the mainstream pop audience by toning it down a little, Winter makes no concessions to pop sensibility at all. His guitar playing is pure and savage, yet he never resorts to meaningless shredding, and his prowess on the acoustic slide guitar is impressive...just listen to his self-penned "Dallas", a perfectly authentic slice of Delta blues.

This exquisitely remastered 2004 reissue adds three bonus tracks, including a slightly longer version of the aforementioned "Dallas" which finds Winter backed by bass and harmonica (the version originally issued is a solo performance). "Country Girl" is a gritty mid-tempo boogie, and "Two Steps From The Blues" is a surprisingly sleek, soul-flavoured rendition of the Bobby "Blue" Bland number. It clashes a bit with the rest of the album, but it also gives Johnny Winter a chance to show off his non inconsiderable abilities as an R&B-crooner.

There is barely a weak track on this fine record. Contained here is some of the best and certainly most authentic blues ever recorded by a white bluesman, and "Johnny Winter" is the perfect introduction to the albino bluesman, as well as being one of his two or three best albums. And this expanded edition features a newly written essay in addition to the original liner notes, as well as the best sound ever.

  1. I'm yours and I'm yours
  2. Be careful with a fool AKA Treat me right
  3. Dallas
  4. Mean mistreater
  5. Leland Mississippi blues
  6. Good morning little school girl
  7. When you got a good friend
  8. I'll drown in my tears
  9. Back door friend
  10. Country Girl - Expanded Edition
  11. Dallas - Expanded Edition
  12. Two Steps From The Blues - Expanded Edition "Two Steps From the Blues" is the title track of Bobby "Blue" Bland's masterpiece album with Joe Scott doing the arrangement. The song was written by "Texas" Johnny Brown.

A Dutch newspaper announces Johnny Winter's first CBS album as "Wittere Blues Bestaat Niet"

Ongetwijfeld één van de beste en meest dynamische bluesmensen van het ogenblik is Johnny Winter. De uit een zeer muzikaal ouderpaar geboren Johnny zag in Beaumont, Texas, op 23 febreari 1944 voor het eerst het aurdse licht. Enkele jaren na de geboorte van Johnny verhuisde de hele familie naar het gebied rond de Mississippi delta waar Johnny Winter op twaalfjarige leeftijd voor het eerst kennis maakte met de blues. Op vijftienjarige leeftijd vormde Johnny, die zichzelf inmiddels gitaar had leren spelen, zijn eerste band.

De formatie bestond uit Johnny zelf en zijn broer Edgar. Korte tijd later bleek dat de combinatie niet zo geslaagd was. Johnny zegt hierover: "Edgar is zeker geen slecht musicus maar hij is te netjes en beredeneert alles veel te veel om zo een logische opbouw van een bepaald nummer te krijgen. Ik-zelf laat mijn emoties de vrije loop waardoor het verrassingselement in een muziekstuk veel groter wordt en volgens mij ook meer inhoud krijgt."

Na het ontbinden van de formatie speelde Johnny zes jaar lang in diverse bars in de zuidelijke staten van Amerika tot op een dag de grote ontdekking van "the great Mr. Winter" volgde. Verantwoordelijke man hiervoor was Steve Paul, een bekend nachtclub eigenaar in New-York, die na een bandje van Johnny gehoord te hebben alles in het werk stelde om die "honderddertig pond wegende, scheelkijkende albino" zo spoedig mogelijk naar New York te halen. Een grote reclame-campagne zorgde ervoor dat Johnny's naam, bij diens aankomst in New-York overai een bekende klank had. Als klap op de vuurpijl bood CBS Johnny Winter een vijfjarig contract wat zeker als een bijzonderheid gezien moet worden. Johnny kan dan ook met een gerust hart de toekomst tegemoet zien.  

 2016 04 26 5955 JWS Black Album Dutch

Saturday 17 May 1969 Dallas Morning News

A short review of Johnny Winter's first album

Johnny Winter: Real Blues

JOHNNY WINTER (Columbia). This is the authentic debut album of the much talked-about albino bluesman. And it's doubtful that much production work had to go into it, for Winter's voice speaks for itself, He can sing as black as midnight and his style is straight blues, hard and heavy. His experiences and blues background are mirrored in his voice. In his own compositions (especially "Dallas" and "Leland Mississippi") as well as his true-to-form Interpretations of "Mean Mistreater," "Good Morning Little School Girl," Drawn in My Own Tears." Johnny Winter is a discovery. He's from Texas and he sings blues.

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Last Modified: 28-Apr-2016 14:05