The Johnny Winter Story

Johnny Winter's Guitar Slinger

Johnny Winter - Guitar Slinger

Johnny Winter's Guitar Slinger

Guitar Slinger was released in 1984 and is nominated for a grammy award for "Best tradional blues recording". and reaches #183 in the Billboard Charts

  • Johnny Winter - Guitar, Vocals
  • Ken Saydak - keyboards
  • Johnny B. Gayden - bass
  • Casey Jones - bass
  • Gene Barge - tenor sax
  • Billy Branch - harmonica
  • Mellow Fellows - brass

 

 

Johnny Winter

"Slashing, flamboyant Texas blues-rock guitar" - New York Times

"The strongest album of Winter's career" - Chicago Sun Times

ROLLING STONE ALBUM GUIDE: ***1/2

Reviews:

All Music Guide , Volume: 1 , # 1
by William Ruhlmann
Rated: 1
The first of three blues albums recorded after a four-year studio hiatus finds Winter as fleet-fingered as before and sounding more vocally involved than in some of the later Columbia material.


I've had this disc for a couple of years now and can't stop playing it. It's some of the most energized, wildest, hell-raising blues I've ever heard! Forget about those ramshackle mid-70s efforts: Johnny's in the very best company here. Largely self-produced, Johnny's cranked-up, turbo-charged playing is given free reign, with generous doses of his trademark slide, and those machine-gun speed solos that only he can deliver (who else can keep up?). The rhythm section is watertight, and while the rollicking keyboards take a back seat, they don't leave us asking that perennial question ("where's your brother???"). Tasteful horn arrangements are featured on a few tracks, but for me the real surprise of this recording is Johnny's improved vocals (compared to earlier efforts). They're more assured and even soulful at times (even when he's barking!), but typically gravel-toned and raucous. If there's anything missing here, well, it's an acoustic number, but hey, when was the last time a restaurant gave you a sample of everything on the menu? I've long been mystified why blues "desert island" lists never seem to include a Johnny Winter album. Surely there must be at least a few strong candidates! Well, this is my one. This is strong medicine, not the herbal variety, which I recommend unreservedly.


I bought this album on cassette when it first came out after seeing Winter play the Austin Opry House back in the mid-80s. Now I've acquired it on CD and like it as much as ever! Winter's guitar and voice come out screaming at their macho best. I like the whole album, but particularly the defiant "It's My Life, Baby", the wailing blues of "Iodine in My Coffee", the howling "Mad Dog" and the anthem "My Soul". Johnny shows a sly sense of humor on "Trick Bag" and on "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye". I can't imagine any lover of electric blues not liking this album which I consider to be among his all-round best. Throw it in the CD player when you are in the mood to roar and you won't be disappointed.

Review of German magazine of the album: "Guitar Slinger"

Heiße Sache: Winter kommt!

Drei Jahre lang hatte er keine LP mehr eingespielt. Dafür zeigte er in rund 150 Konzerten pro Jahr, daß er immer noch zu den besten Gitarristen der amerikanischen Blues-Rock- szene gehört. Jetzt legt Legende Johnny Winter auf beiden Ebenen los: Soeben ist seine 14. LP erschienen.

Und im Juni kommt Winter selbst auf Deutschland-Tournee. Johnny Winter ist einer der schillerndsten Figuren der ame-rikanischen Blues-Rock-Szene: "... ein hundertdreißigpfündiger, schielender Albino mit langem, fließendem Haar, der so ziemlich die flüssigste Gitarre spielt, die man je geiört hat", so charakterisierte ihn 1968 die amerikanische Showbibel "Rolling Stone".

 

Johnny Winter
 

In den sechzehn Jahren, seitdem er sich aus der texanischen Bar-Musiker-Szene auf's Cover des "Rolling Stone" spielte, definierte er ein völlig ureigenes Klangkonzept: Durch seine unwiderstehliche Verbindung aus erdigem Blues-Rock-Feeling und elektrifiziertem Hochspannungs-Handwerk ä la Hendrix hat Winter Rockmusiker aller Generationen entscheidend beeinflußt.

Bisher zeugten 13 LP's von der Fähigkeit Winters, "mit sensiblem Feeling und großem Einfühlungsvermögen den schwarzen Blues als Weißer nachzuempfinden." Mit "Guitar Slinger" legt der Blues-Hero nun nach runden drei Jahren Plattenpause seine 14. Produktion vor. Übrigens seine erste LP für das Chicagoer Blues-Label ALLIGATOR, bei dem so illustre Kollegen die Albert Collins, Lonnie Brooks oder Clifton Chenier firmieren.

Zur Einspielung des Albums holte sich Winter denn auch einige der besten Musiker des Labels ins Studio. Drummer Casey Jones und Bassist Johnny B. Gayden beispielsweise zeichnen als Rhythmus-Sektion für Albert Collins verantwortlich. Blues-Producer und Journalist Dick Shurman urteilte als erster über das Album: "Es ist ein typisches Johnny Winter Album vom ersten bis zum letzten Ton, mitgeschnitten im typischen direkten rauhen und ungeschönten Jam-Session-Stil.

Gleichwohl blitzt eben jene ungeheure Sensibilität für den Blues durch, den ich in 99 von 100 heutigen Produktionen nicht feststellen konnte." Von 15.6. bis 21.6. können es seine deutschen Fans nachprüfen - auf einer großen Deutschland-Tournee.  

Blues Forum 84

Johnny Winter
Guitar Slinger

It's My Life, Baby / Don't Take Advantage Of Me / Iodine In My Coffee / Trick Bag / Mad Dog / Boot Hill/ I Smell Trouble / Lights Out / Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye / My Soul Alligator LP 4735 (USA) * * * *

Endlich! Johnny Winter ist wieder aktiv. Als Produzent und Studiomusiker für Sonny Terry, mit Konzerten und Festival-Auftritten und dieser sagenhaften Einspielung für das schwarze Alligator-Label. Ein gutes Gefühl, daß man wieder mit ihm rechnen kann. Nach dem umstrittenen Rockpalast-Gastspiel, einigen Open Air-Konzerten, bei denen er nicht den gesundesten Eindruck hinterließ, und der 1980 aufgenommenen und bis dato letzten LP "Raisin' Cain", einer wilden Mischung aus Rock'n'Roll und Rhythm&Blues, blieb es recht still um ihn. Erst die Kündigung bei seinem alten Label CBS, dem er seit 1969 angehörte, und die Gerüchte, daß Bruce Iglauer ihn für Alligator interessieren möchte, ließen wieder aufhorchen.

Wie nicht anders zu erwarten gewesen ist, hat er sich von seinen rockigeren Begleitmusikern Jon Paris und Bobby Torollo getrennt und eine neue Garde namhafter Musikanten um sich versammelt: Johnny B. Gayden am Baß und Casey Jones am Schlagzeug von den Icebreakers, also bestens yon Albert Collins geschult in Sachen Texas Blues und Ken Saydak an den Keyboards, dem man das gleiche durch seine zuletzt vierjährige Zusammenarbeit mit Lonnie Brooks bescheinigen kann. Doch erfüllt in der Gruppe nur die Aufgabe der exakten, gefühlvollen Begleitung. Die Gitarre Johnnys spielt und spielt, als gälte es, die verlorenen Jahre nachzuholen.

Die Slide-Passagen in "It's My Life" gehören wohl zu dem Besten, was in der letzten Zeit auf Platte festgehalten wurde. Lonnie Brooks' "Don't Thke Advantage", das dieser erst kürzlich für seine starke "Hot Shot" LP geschrieben hat, braucht sich hinter dem Original nicht zu verstecken. Ein Verg1eich lohnt sich. "Iodine In My Coffee", von Muddy Waters komponiert, bezieht seine Spannung aus den schrillen aufeinandergespielten Soli Winters und des neben Sugar Blue wohl hoffnungsvollsten Harmonikatalentes Billy Branch. Richtig schön funky, in seinem bluesigen, ursprünglichen Sinne, ist das bläserverstärkte "Trick Bag"; von Johnny Winter in einer Art gesungen, in die ich mich vernarren kOnnte. Schon fast Rock'n'Roll: "Mad Dog". Anscheinend kommt man im Blues wieder auf den Hund.

Nach Magic Slim findet nun auch Winter Gefallen daran, zu bellen und zu heulen. Wann zuletzt wurde der Blues so gekonnt auf Alligator gerockt wie in dieser Nummer? Die flinken Gitarrenlaufe in "Boot Hill" würden selbst einem Alvin Lee zur Ehre gerei- chen, und Winter läßt seine Stimmbänder fibrieren, daß es ein Genuß ist. Der einzige Slow-Blues "I Smell Trouble", wie auch "It's My Life" dem texanischen Plattenproduzenten und Manager Don Robey zugeschrieben, wird stilecht und eindringlich interpretiert. Dr. Johns "Lights Out" kommt als swingender Boogie und wird durch ein Tenorsaxophon-Solo des alten Haudegens Gene Barge zusätzlich bereichert. Eine Ballade -im Stile von "Honest I Do" -darf bei Johnny Winter niemals fehlen. Hier wird sie durch das bittersüße "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" vertreten. Finale mit "My Soul", welches auch reichlich Seele yersprüht.

Der Vollständigkeit halber sollen auch die drei Produzenten Bruce Iglauer, Dick Shurman und Johnny Winter (die ihre Aufgabe exzellent meisterten) und die Tatsache, daß Winter nun schon seit sechs Jahren keine einzige Eigenkomposition mehr abgeliefert hat (was ihm beinahe einen halben Punkt Abzug eingebracht hätte), Erwähnung finden. Alligator wird sich nun wohl überlegen müssen, ob sie neben ihren Zugpferden Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor und Son Seals auch auf den Namen Johnny Winter setzen wollen. Verdient hatte er es allemal. Denn: "Guitar Slinger" zählt zu den in diesem Jahr herausragenden Plattenveröffentlichungen und hat größte Aussichten auf den Titel "Bestes Album 1984".

Timo Hoyer

LP: Sonet Records (Alligator) VG 409 540083 (1984), CD Released on 25 Oct 1990

Producers: Johnny Winter, Bruce Iglaurer, Dick Shurman

Cover text: Dick Shurman

Original Liner Notes

The weather was even worse than usual, but the Chicago Winter of 1984 was hot enough to heat up the ears of any lover of powerhouse blues. Johnny Winter came to town to realize at last his dream of making a straight-ahead no holds barred blues album, with help from some of the great musicians who continue to carve out Chicago's legacy as the world's blues capitol.

Johnny Winter carved out his own exciting blues legacy as a musician and producer long before these Chicago recording sessions took place. In the last fifteen years, he's established himself as a legend in blues and rock circles. His production of Muddy Waters ' last four albums, starting with the landmark "Hard Again" earned even greater stature in blues history for both Muddy and Johnny Johnny's own twelve albums for Columbia and Blue Sky contain many striking blues performances everything from lowdown solo acoustic guitar to stunning Bob Dylan interpretations. He's recorded in the company of blues masters like Big Walter Horton, James Cotton and Willie Dixon. His well-known personal changes have included more than his share of blues dues. Those changes have deepened his commitment to the music, making him an even stronger and more powerful artist with genuine love and intense feeling for the blues.

Back in the '50s, over a decade before his big breakthrough to super stardom as a rock festival headliner with a fat recording contract, Johnny was learning his blues in Beaumont, Texas from recording artist and dj Clarence Garlow. That taste of the honesty and excitement of the blues spurred Johnny to adventure into the local club scene. Moving to Chicago as a teenager, he pined for the grittier, more enduring part of the city's music, while playing "twist music" on trendy Rush Street. Through the rest of the '60s, he scuffled in back alley Houston studios (with overdubbed results that occasionally returned to haunt him in budget record racks), and in Deep South clubs, making a name as Texas Guitar Slim.

This album is a gathering of blue bloods all the way. For the last five years, bassist Johnny B. Gayden and drummer Casey Jones have been the jumpin' and thumpin' backbone of the Icebreakers, playing with Johnny's fellow Texas tornado guitarist, Albert Collins. Keyboard man Ken Saydak spent most of the last ten years with blue chip guitarists Mighty Joe Young and Lonnie Brooks before forming his current band, The Blueprints. Billy Branch has been one of Chicago's leading harp players since the mid-1970s, and has made excellent recordings as the leader of the Sons of Blues. Tenor sax player and horn arranger Gene "Daddy G" Barge has added spice to everything on wax from vintage Chuck Willis through countless Chess Records sessions to the current Alligator album by Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows, "Playing For Keeps." As Johnny says, "this is the first time I got to record with a band that both plays the slow blues and rocks out so hard." Of course with his own supercharged guitar, his soulful and seasoned vocals, his skills as a producer, Johnny gave the rest of the band as much inspiration as he obviously got.

It only took a few minutes of rehearsal to hear that-we had a combination that shot sparks and took the drive and honesty of the blues to a rare pinnacle. Comments from Johnny like, "I should pay to do this!" and "I want to keep doing this forever!" became a regular pant of the sessions. The band's reaction was more like just "Johnny...," trailing off into an awed shake of the head.

Johnny holds nothing back. Together he and the band jam the blues Johnny's had ever since he got his first taste of the music and life, from the good timing wildness of "Mad Dog" to the serious blues business of "I Smell Trouble," Johnny shows off some of the many dimensions of his much-imitated slide guitar style on "It's My Life, Baby," "My Soul" and "Iodine In My Coffee." The storming "Boot Hill" pulls out all the stops as only a blue-hot, screaming Texas guitar shuffle can. "Lights Out" and "Don't Take Advantage Of Me" rock and roll to a frenzy. The stone funky beleaguered tale of domestic discord, "Trick Bag" and the beautiful, sensitive treatment of the tearjerker "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" add a taste of Southern soul. If there's an album with a higher level and wider variety of blues flash and feeling, it's probably too dangerous to touch!

It's impossible not to have a ball digging how many shades of blue Johnny has absorbed, and how much fire he breathes into them all. It's as clear as the monster tattooed on his chest why a legion of blues rockers idolizes him. When Johnny calls this album "the best of Johnny Winter" it's easy to hear why Johnny and the blues sound better than ever together. Here's a Winter to blow everyone's blues away!

Dick Shurman

Guitar Slinger Japanese Release

A Rare Japanese Promo Release of Guitar Slinger : Atlas Record LA 25-5012 (1984) , custom insert includes complete lyrics of all the songs

  1. IT'S MY LIFE BABY 4:11
  2. DON'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME 5:24
  3. IODINE IN MY COFFEE 3:56
  4. TRICK BAG 3:20
  5. MAD DOG 4:27
  6. BOOT HILL 3:35
  7. I SMELL TROUBLE 4:48
  8. LIGHTS OUT 2:35
  9. KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE 3:56
  10. MY SOUL 3:49

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