Johnny Winter Timeline 1997
Johnny Winter is opening the year with 6 concerts in January. Opening act is Rick Derringer
Friday, 17 January 1997- Detroit MI, Majestic Theatre
Concert review by: Steven M. Baker
Photos of this concert can be found at: White, Hot and Blue - Gallery
Every time I see Johnny Winter he looks worse but plays better. That was the case again when he played Detroit's Majestic Theater on January 17.
The Majestic is a sleazy old dump with a capacity of about 600. There are usually tables and chairs set up in front of the stage, with standing room and a bar in the back. We arrived early in frigid weather to try to get a table, but the doors finally opened, we rushed in - and no tables! We then knew it would be a wild night ...
Rick Derringer opened up with a bluesy set that, in addition to his own hits "Hang on Sloopy" and "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo", included Johnny Winter's "Still Alive and Well" and Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy". He seemed to be having a lot of fun, and the crowd did, too.
By the time Johnny took the stage, with Tom Compton on drums and Mark Epstein on bass, the Majestic was packed elbow to elbow, the floor was already ankle-deep with empty beer bottles, and marijuana smoke filled the air. A slice of heaven!
Johnny looked even more corpse-like than the previous three times I had seen him (all since 1991). He move VERY slowly on stage. Except for his fingers. His playing was simply jaw-dropping. He launched into the smoothest, cleanest, fastest, wickedest guitar playing I've ever heard. He is the only musician who has ever caused me to spontaneously yell out "YYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!" at the top of my lungs. It is so striking to see this ghost standing completely still and playing this stuff. Any other guitarist would have to contort his whole body into a pretzel to come close to getting those riffs out. Yet Johnny makes it looks absolutely effortless. Every solo was an encyclopedia of blues and rock riffs.
As for the set list, JW played several songs which I couldn't identify. The ones I did know were "She Likes to Boogie Real Low" and "Sick and Tired" from the "Hey, Where's Your Brother?" CD, and "The Sky Is Crying", which JW played on the old Firebird while seated on a stool. The Lazer came back out for the last two numbers, which were followed by an encore of "Johnny Guitar" , also from the "Hey, Where's Your Brother?" CD.
All in all it was a fantastic performance. I would say that Johnny's playing was smoother and cleaner if somewhat less vicious and attacking than the other times I'd seen him. I can't wait for the next time!
Another review from the same concert!
I have been following Johnny's career for about 25 years. I've seen his performances dating back 20 years, including a concert at Masonic Temple with Muddy Waters , James Cotton & Johnny. I'd say that I've seen no less than 10 Johnny Winter concerts. He had never disappointed me with his mastery of the guitar! He is by far my favorite blues musician. You'd be hard pressed to find a finer guitar player!
That is why it pains me greatly to tell you that I could not believe how poor his performance at the Majestic Theater (1/17/97 in Detroit,MI) was. He had absolutely no energy. When he sang, it sounded as if he was under water. You know I am sure how impressive it is to watch him play the guitar? Well, he looked like an 80 year old man trying to eek out a living. Even his gait was feeble, he shuffled along the stage! There were no rabid patented Johnny Winter licks being ripped off on the guitar, instead just very slow deliberate poorly played riffs. In fact playing that poorly, he was even missing notes along the way.
I called the Majestic people after the performance and asked them if he was gravely ill. They had no information about his health, but they said that they had heard he was at times not showing up for booked performances with no explanation. Is there any way that you can find out what could be causing him to play so poorly? By the way Rick Derringer opened for Johnny and played very well.
Even today I am at a loss for words to tell you how distraught I was to actually witness Johnny Winter play as poorly as he did last Friday. Again, if you have any way of finding out what his physical condition is please let me know.
Monday, 20 January 1997: The Rave, Milwaukee
Wednesday, 22 January 1997 - Chicago IL - House of Blues
Concert review from: Milwaukee Journal.
...Thin as a Gibson guitar string and white as the driven snow, Johnny Winter always presents a pretty strange aura.
But even weirder was 600 or so pony-tailed, chain smoking, slightly balding 40-somethings Monday night at The Rave happily singing the chorus to "Hang On Sloopy"...(later)...There was little doubt on this bill, however, that Winter was the main attraction. Whether rifling through notes quicker than a machine gun (I didn't see that) or slurring chords on a slide guitar, he reminded the crowd that a 52-year-old albino can still lay claim to being among the top electric guitarists...
I attended the Johnny Winter concerts at The Rave in Milwaukee on Jan 20 and at the House of Blues in Chicago on Jan 22. Attendance was great, with the House of Blues sold out. Rick Derringer was touring with him, and opened the show with his trio, playing mostly blues but throwing in "Still Alive and Well", "Hang On Sloopy" and "Rock-N Roll Hoochie Koo." I was quite impressed with Rick's playing. He was obviously benefitting from touring with Winter, in that I heard a lot of Johnny's licks in Rick's playing.
Johnny had his usual trio ensemble, and did material from the last 2 Point Blank CD's on his Erlewine Lazer guitar. He also played 2 slide numbers on his Firebird, which guitar is almost as big as Johnny. Johnny's performance was a little better in Chicago, but his health and playing were obviously compromised at both shows. As a long time Johnny fan, having seen him a dozen times in 20 years, I consider him the greatest living blues guitarist, and his influence on my playing and the great joy I get from listening to his playing and singing is something I will cherish forever. Many have commented on Johnny's frail appearance and poor health, which is obvious to all. At these 2 concerts, his performance was a shadow of his former self, and it was painful to watch, knowing what he can do when feeling well. We came away from these shows almost wishing we hadn't seen this happen, because of Johnny's true virtuosity as a guitarist. He did play the shows, and we must respect him for that, but he appeared to be in a lot of pain, or perhaps struggling to play under the influence of pain killers. The way he moved on stage reminded me of when I had a herniated spinal disk, with absolutely no movement of the hips. Perhaps he has a back injury. It's a terrible struggle to play and sing when you are not feeling well, but play Johnny did, as best he could.
Another thing that we lamented at these shows was the number of people there, mostly in their 20's, who were seeing Johnny for the first time, after hearing all the older guitarists they looked up to rave about Johnny. These people came away wondering what the big deal was, because Johnny was not very good. We realize that Johnny is a living legend, whose recordings will stand as the very definition of blues guitar playing, but these new listeners were not impressed, and it probably would have been better if they had just listened to the records, rather than see Johnny like this.
My buddies and I hope Johnny's health improves, and that he can tour again sometime in good form. But even if he has "passed his peak", we are very grateful to him for all he has given, and all that will live forever in the recordings he has made. He is a true living legend, who deserves due respect.
Gary Casper, 26 Jan 97
Sunday, 9 March 1997 - Bottom Line NYC
The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village in New York City. The Bottom Line is a small venue - 200 people. It had small row tables with chairs in the front , and other individual tables and chairs in the back.
They served food and alcohol, and the crowd wasn't rowdy, but they were enthusiastic. The crowd was mostly in their 30's and 40's. They yelled for him to play "Highway 61" and "Wide Open Hand," but he ignored them.
There was a press release notice on the program.
The opening band was The Michael Hill Blues Mob, a local band (from NYC).
Sunday, 6 April 1997 - Louisville
It was Sunday night April 6th 10:30PM. It has been 3 long years since the real "thin white duke" had played Louisville. With a cold beer in one hand and a video camera in the other I was ready. The house lights went down and the volume went up. First came Johnnys standard opening "Hideaway". I was hoping he would start with something new but I was just glad to see him. Up next "Got My Mojo Working" followed by "Just A Little Bit", "Sick & Tired", "Blackjack Blues"*, "The Sky Is Crying"* (*pulled out the Firebird on the last 2) "Johnny Guitar" and a closing instrumental that had some of "Fast Life Rider" licks thrown in. On a scale of 1-10 I gave it a 6. Why you ask? Well Johnny spoiled me back in 94 when he played an outstanding 2 hour show. From start to finish he was on fire. And so was his bass player at the time Jeff Gantz who did a 20 plus minute version of "Turn On Your Lovelight" with him and Johnny sharing some vocals (its true I have it on tape) that reminded me of the 'Together' album with Edgar. Plus the club he played is not a great place for a show. and to be honest he look as if he was just going thru the motions and keeping a close eye on his watch.
Johnny is going to record live at the Bottom Line in NYC April 13-14 for at least the start of his next CD. He'll be doing a few dates around the northeast and midwest in early April.
I recently returned from seeing JW in Cincinnati, OH and Louisville, KY. I was glad to get to see him again.
The show in Cincinnati was not real good. JW didn't do much but play rhythm. At one point it had become so monotonous I was slightly angered by it. JW rarely opened his eyes, sang little and when he did you couldn't hear him, and he used his pinkie little if at all when he played. It was not the Johnny Winter of old at all. I clapped and cheered out of respect for JW but not because I really liked it. Jeff Ganz was not there. His new bass player wasn't very good. Tommy Compton did not do much either. It appeared neither of them wanted to play any better than JW was playing. johnny Guitar was the only song they played that I recognized.
The Micheal Hill's Blues Mob that opened for him was pretty good. They are an all black blues band. It was refreshing to see some black men playing some good music. He was around after the show signing autographs. Micheal Hill is a good guitarist and nice and considerate man. His band is worth going to see if you get a chance. I told him Hendrix's Red House would be a good addition to the songs he was playing live.
After the first show I wondered alot about JW. Is he weak? Is he sick? Does he feel he is not compensated well enough? Is his skill detereorating? I went to Louisville to give him another chance. He's JW. He always deserves another chance.
The Louisville show was much better. JW played pretty good at times. He played You're Humbuggin' Me plus I noticed parts of Sweet Papa John. He played another song I've heard alot but could not figure out what it was. The bass player was better too. Tommy Compton still didn't do much though. JW smiled a couple times at the Louisville show. He was totally expressionless in Cincy. In Louisville he jumped up and down once and spun around. That got a cheer out of everybody. It was somewhat comical but it was nice to see JW trying to have a little fun.
Micheal Hill's Blues Mob was better in Louisville too. Tony Stewart, the drummer, did not do alot in Cincy but he played great in Louisville. They played Red House. That was real cool. It was nice to see him play a song I wanted to hear him play very much. They played a song of their own called Bloodlines that was very good. The way they played, Micheal Hill's consideration, and the playing of Red House, a song I asked them to play got them a new fan. I plan to buy their Bloodlines CD soon. Overall the Louisville show was pretty good. I'm glad I didn't miss it.
After the show I was able to get a man outside JW's bus to take the CD cover to my Muddy Water's Hard Again CD in to him to sign. I was pleased about that too.
I apologize it took me so long to get this letter out but I've had a little trouble at home
Thursday, 10 April 1997 - Buffalo Showplace
Just got home from Johnny's date at Showplace Theater. I am real pleased I showed up! It is impossible not to attend a show of his if it is possible to drive there and it's only 20 miles from Niagara Falls Ont. to Buffalo N.Y. He went on at 10:30 and played 'til midnight. An early show for Mr. Winter and a longer set than I have witnessed in quite a while, maybe 15 years or so. Animal Planet opened and I heard the last 3 tunes. Classic rock in a trio format and they closed with "Hush" from Deep Purple circa 1968. Local act from what I heard. Sound was nice. Showplace is an old film theater in the college area of Buffalo and has been highly neglected cosmetically but has alot of character and the room has a nice warm sound.
I managed to grab a pen from a bartender and copy out the set list so here it goes:
Johnny and the boys closed with a funky groove tune that had ( believe it or not) a chord pattern close to the " Average White Band's " " Pick Up The Pieces" Believe it or not that was the root of the tune. It really worked for them and he let Mark the bassist stretch out. Memorys of Randy Jo Hobbs picking! Nice!
Another review of the Buffalo Showplace concert.
The Ghostly Duke of the Blues - by Sharon Schneider
Never could he pass by unnoticed. The hawkish profile, pale, pale skin and long, wispy white hair, let alone the skeletal tattooed arms, would draw every eye no matter what his occupation.
Though some on his staff minimized it, something was not quite right with John ny Winter. He needed assistance changing guitars, moved like he was under water, plus the road crew had to shine flashlights along the floor of the brightly lighted stage. He stood rigid as a statue through most of the hour and a half performance, and barely opened his eyes while he played. But could he still play? Yes, like any talented mere mortal. His breathtaking command of slide guitar could not be detected, and stumbles on fingered notes could. Even so, he still possessed an extra incalculable something, that's indescribable. The compacted, standing hundreds, who came to the Showplace Theater on April 10, could have cared less that he was no longer the performer he used to be; they'd come to see a legend of memory. His glory days of the late sixties and seventies brought him gold for the recordings Live/Johnny Winter And, plus Still Alive And Well. Through the years he proved himself a fan and friend of the blues and the men that play them. When Muddy Waters career was sagging in the eighties, Winter produced four albums with him on Blue Sky, and two of them, Hard Again and I'm Ready, won Grammies. Most of the albums Johnny's made include generous servings of blues based or blues songs; he was the first white artist to be inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.
This night, the 54-year-old Texas bred guitarist, accompanied by bass and drums, did solid blues, The Sun Is Shining, Got My Mojo Workin', Black Jack, I Just Want A Little Bit, The Sky Is Cryin', Sick and Tired, a taste of Freddie King, and his own, Johnny Guitar, all in hard rockin' style. Seldom did he address the crowd, and his singing voice seemed about the same, though it could have been miked a bit better.
Johnny now lives in NYC, and a couple of albums are in the works, label unknown, to be recorded live at The Bottom Line.
Sincerely hope I wasn't too harsh in this, I really do admire the man!
Sunday 13/14 and16 Apr 1997 Bottom Line
I must thank you and all the contributors to this great web site The Johnny Winter Story . I along with two friends ( John Mc & Mike S.) traveled form Manchester, England, to see Johnny Winter perform at New York's Bottom Line club, We were able to do this from information gained from this web site. Thanks again. Please find following information on the gigs for reference, information, use on web page etc.
We booked for both nights at the above, 13th & 14th,
Sunday 13th Cancelled
We nearly died to find the gig had been cancelled, some guy officially videoing the concert, said it was due to "Johnny Winter having some problem with his wrist or arm " The club said we could have a refund for the ticket or Johnny W. had re scheduled the gig for Wednesday the 16th and our tickets were valid for that night. We fortunately had booked our return flight for the Thursday 17th so we were able to attend the re-scheduled gig, We departed from the Bottom Line Club that night concerned Johnny W. may not be able to make the other nights.
Fortunately our fears of non-appearance were unfounded. I would tell you about the layout of the club but it was well coverd by A review elseware on this web page. Anyway it went like this:
9.00pm with Hugh Pool, solo performer guitar vocal & blues harp ,who gave an enthusiastic and enjoyable hour of music.
10.00 An announcement was made to clear the bar area to allow Johnny Winter to enter the building. ( I thought this was all very "Michael Jackson" Hype-ish !!!.) Which he did, ready to go with Earlwine Laser in hand.
A short time later He appeared on stage to a rapturous reception. He played a selection of his tunes starting with Hide away, and including Bogie Real Low, Sick & Tired, Got my mojo workin, a couple of slide guitar tunes ( sorry I don't know all his material ), Just want a little bit. Then an encore of Johnny Guitar, followed by an instrumental Jam of James Brown's Sex Machine.
I was concerned from the overall standard of his performance Johnny was not well, his movements were very slow and he was feeble looking,( when he changed his guitar putting the strap over his shoulder he looked like he would never make it!!) his playing was by his own recorded ( studio & live ) standards very mediocre, This in view of the previous nights cancellation and his unique no compromise guitar sound Had me doubting if the live recording he was taping that night would be worthwhile.
Wednesday, 16 April 1997 - Bottom Line
xactly the same as Monday with one exception, Johnny Winter played superbly with authority articulation and style in abundance, Great night, Fearsome performance.
We were very happy we had seen Johnny on that night, it would have been a disappointing outing if we had just seen the Monday gig and I feel sorry the audience on Monday would not have seen Johnny at his best, although if enthusiasm and noise are anything to go by They loved it anyway
For any guitarists out there Mike S. and myself gathered the following:
Johnny Winter Used
just read the piece by Sharon Schneider, and I identified with most everything she said. Wednesday night, I saw Johnny at the Bottom Line, in NYC. I guess I should preface my remarks by saying that I have been a devoted listener since 1969, and I definitely have a spot in my heart for the man and his music. I'm as loyal to him as he is to the blues.
That having been said, the show could hardly be considered vintage Johnny. As Sharon pointed out, he looked not just skinny (as he always did), but downright fragile. When he came off the tour bus parked outside, he was quickly helped in to the club by Teddy Slatus and company. Yes, he followed the flashlights onto the stage, and yes, he had help switching from the Lazer to the Firebird, and back again. What bothered me was the lack of movement once he reached the microphone. With feet firmly planted, he did little more than sway back and forth in an alomst catatonic state, seemingly unable to move, even if the music made him feel like doing so. (Note: At one point during the encore, he tried to do a spin, and almost fell over.)
Once he started playing (I believe he opened with Hideaway), all would have been fine, but there seemed to be a few things missing. For starters, his voice seems to have lost alot of its juice. Perhaps the sound system at the Bottom Line is partially responsible, but that unique, raspy sound from the past is all but gone. For those of us who really love his voice, it takes away one dimension from the overall performance. As for him missing a few notes, there's no question that he did. His playing is not quite as controlled and sharp as it used to be. Sometimes you get the feeling that he is "thinking" the music one way, but his fingers can't quite catch up with his head. Still, the missed note here and there did not detract substantially from the overall feel of what was going on. I did notice that on some of the breaks, his selection of riffs was somewhat repetitive. Play a break, sing a verse, play the exact same break again. There used to be a little more variety.
His slide work on the Firebird is still quite good and pure (although I hesitate to mention that the opening act, a guy named Hugh Pool, did some slide work on a National Steel guitar that was incredible). Throughout the show, Tom Compton on drums and Mark Epstein on bass were absolutely first-rate. They both seem to be wired-in to Johnny's moves, and show real feeling for what he was doing.
The crowd, as always, was very enthusiastic. Between numbers, people took to shouting out their old favorites: "Cheap Tequila!"; "Bony Maronie!"; "Master Mechanic!!!" I wanted to shout, "It's My Own Fault... but play it just like you did on Progressive Blues Experiment!" I decided to keep my mouth shut.
In the end, I was glad I went. It was my little way of saying, "Thanks, Johnny, for 30 years of great music". Even if he doesn't do it the way he used to, hell, who does? We've all seen the great ones in all fields slow down a bit, be they athletes, actors, or musicians. The man is still a legend to me, and I'll come to see him even if he's playing in a wheel chair. Long live the king!
Tuesday, 24 June 1997 - Pontiac, MI, 7th House
Well, I finally got to see Johnny Winter last night for the first time. He played at the "Seventh House" in Pontiac, Michigan. The "Seventh House" is a fairly small, intimate setting to see a concert in. The stage is set in one corner of the room with rows of seats arranged in a semi-circle around the rest of the room. There is also an upstairs balcony which also curves around in front of the stage. There is also a bar. The seating capacity is 400. Tickets were $25.00, all general admission. So we got there about an hour before the doors opened and managed to get seats right in front. The place was packed. The seats were all taken plus many people were standing.
An opening band called "Motorjam" (rock with a HARD edge) came on at 9:00 and played until 10:00. The stage was then set up for JW. Johnny came out at 10:30 and played until midnight.
I have been a little concerned recently because I have occasionally heard some people out here say that he looks bad and appears to be sick. I was very close to him during this concert and I didn't think he looked bad or sick. However, his voice isn't as powerful. That familiar growl is gone and he doesn't seem to be able to project much volume with his voice. It is also very obvious that he is going blind. He had to be pretty much guided onto the stage and to the microphone by one of his aids who shined a flshlight on the floor in front of JW while they walked. Johnny appeared to follow the circle of light in front of his feet. The guy was also pretty much rubbing shoulders with JW as he guided him to the mike. It was obvious that Johnny could not have got on stage and found the microphone by himself, his eyesight is that bad. This blindness may be what some people are interpreting as feebleness. He is unsure of his footing because he simply just can't see where he is going.
He already had his guitar on him and when he got to the mike he was handed his guitar cord. He held it up right in front of his face while he adjusted it in his fingers so he could plug it in. His eyes never focused on anything throughout the concert. It's so obvious that he's going blind...I'm surprised I've never heard anyone out here mention it.
He started the show with an instrumental, "Hideaway." He doesn't play as fast anymore but his playing was clean. Extremely clean. I could have listened to him all night. To the best of my ability here's his set-list.
He than left the stage and was called back for an encore. He than did two more songs.
10) A longgg instumental. Not sure, but I believe it was an instrumental version of "Got To Find My Baby" from the "Let Me In" cd.
He played some fairly long versions of most of the tunes.
He than thanked eveyone for coming and said "God bless you." His aid than walked up next to him, shined the flashlight on the floor in front of him and guided him off-stage.
As I said, his voice is not strong anymore and his playing has slowed down. It is definately evident that years of indulging in certain vices have taken their toll on him. However the perceived feebleness and sickliness and "glazed over" look on his face that some people have described can be attributed I believe to his inability to see where he is going, or to see much of anything for that matter.
All in all it was a good concert. I'm really glad I got to see him live (and up so close!). As I said I could have listened to him all night. He still has that inimitable JW style, and his playing was sooo clean.
I brought the booklet with me from the cd "Nothin' But The Blues" and after the concert I went around the back of the building in the alley and saw his tour bus. I waited there with about 25 other people who had albums, ticket stubs, etc. His manager came out of the bus and gathered everything from us and took it in for Johnny to sign. So I now have a cd of "Nothin' But The Blues" with Johnny Winter's signature across the front of it.
Good show. The audience was very enthusiastic. Everybody seemed to really enjoy it Johnny got a LOT of applause after each song. He really seemed to be having fun playing and entertaining the crowd.
I'll definately be back next time he comes to town.
Gregory A. Conn
Thursday, 26 June 1997 - Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Big Dogs
Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa and unfortunately Johnny has left the building. As promised I said I would share a few more thoughts about Johnny Winter's June 26, 1997, gig at Big Dogs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the JW web page, at the end of the "Timeline" section, there is a very detailed description of Johnny's concert two nights earlier in Pontiac, Michigan. The show in Cedar Rapids followed that format very closely. It started about 10:30 and twice during the show Johnny checked his watch, and left stage at about 11:45, only to come back and play another 20 minutes with Johnny Guitar leading the encore. A little over 1 1/2 hours of assault with a 6 string. No one in music, and I mean no one puts more licks into a unit of time than Johnny. I have read other reviewers discussing his ill health and feebleness but I agree with the Pontiac reviewer that JW can barely see. Is he the picture of health, absolutely not, but, this is the first time in the last 3 times I have seen JW dating back 5 years that he stood as he played for the entire show. The show opened with the instrumental "Hideaway". JW's first attempt at vocals was almost inaudible, and I felt his voice may have lost its sting forever, but it grew stronger with each tune and I thought "Sick and Tired" sounded anything but that vocally. Being from Beaumont, Texas, (JW's home town) originally, it's hard to be objective when you love the man for the way his guitar can transcend you, but for those people who say JW is a shell of the musician he once was, I say get a life. JW at half speed would be about twice as good as the second best guitarist on the planet. And trust me, he was far from half speed. With all due respect, JW can sleep walk through any licks ever laid down by Clapton, Beck, Page, Eddie V, Satriani, etc. This was a great show! Tom Compton (drums) and Mark Epstein (bass) created a most excellent musical canvas to work with, and JW's masterful strokes painted a picture that was worth a thousand words, all superlatives. My guess is that most people who have been hung up on JW missing a note in a warp speed run must be on the verge of signing major record deals themselves, because although I am no musician, I feel I have a keen ear, and his finger work is as clean as anyone I've seen in years. And if you factor in the JW degree of difficulty, I'd give him a 9.95 on a 10 scale. If you don't believe me, go to the show and when the Illustrated Man cranks up the opening notes of "Boogie Real Low", look at the crowd, not Johnny. The 15 person deep dance floor in front of the stage looked like a mosh pit for the 40 somethings. The smiles on the faces and a groove that even I could shake with is hard to describe. The ambiance was electric. The band even played a sampler from the Average White Band's "Cut The Cake" and I have never seen a more diverse group of people (ages 20-60+), or hair styles (long hairs to no hairs) or hair colors (grey hairs to blonde hairs), that were totally synchronized by one guitar. That's when you know it's special.
Leave the cameras at home, security had a zero tolerance policy for the shutterbugs. JW is selling 8 x 10 glossy black and white photos and after the show, if you go to the tour bus, JW's manager will collect items, take them on the bus for JW to autograph and then hand them back out. I was a bit dissappointed with the T-shirt design but that was the only downer of the day. I also had the privilege of rapping with bassist Mark Epstein from New York. He's been with JW for the last couple of years and hopefully for many more. As an interesting side note, he also played in Tennis player John McEnroe's Band and spoke highly of his lyrically abilities. Tennis anyone? Mark's a down to earth cat and on stage has an uncanny ability to follow the direction set by the Guitar Slinger. Mark Epstein on bass and Tom Compton on skins put down a back beat that even this 42 year old white boy could find. Add JW's still smokin' lightning runs on top of that and what you have is what I hope heaven is all about! To summarize the show using internet lingo, when Johnny Guitar comes to your town, "GO THERE"!
As JW said to finish the evening, Thank you an awful lot and GOD bless you!
Sunday, 24 August 1997 - The Bottom Line New York
Review by: Steve Stewart
Sunday August 24th was a warm evening in New York City and in Greenwich Village at 4th Street and Mercer, Johnny Winter was booked into the Bottom Line.
My wife and I were spending some time in the city and I was anticipating seeing Johnny for the 25th time since ''73 in a big way! Being Canadian it occured to me that I was catching him play in the town that put him in the eye of the world back in late '68 when he left southeast Texas and headed north to fame and fortune.
At 9:00 the club was three-quarter capacity and 10 minutes later guitarist Richie Kotzen came out to play a set of rocking originals that lasted 50 minutes. New York was polite.
Johnny stepped out of his managers wheels and walked in the front door with a small entourage just before 10 and settled backstage. It was obvious that this was his town.
At 10:30 he took the stage and broke into Hideaway. The sound was right-on from the word go. Hideaway was followed with Got my Mojo Working, Sick And Tired, She Likes To Boogie Real Low, and other standards he plays in his set these days. The open-tuned old brown Firebird came out after 45 minutes and he cut loose with a shuffle that i did not know but sounded alot like Mojo Boogie. The Firebird really tore the set up more than anything!
Yes, Johnny is fifty-three and-a-half years old and he doesn't play guitar with the attack he did in the seventies .And yes, his voice doesn't have the guts and range it had and he isn't the charismatic showman he once was, but his guitar style, soulfulness and incredible presence on stage are everything! And he came out to play for New York and they loved him.
Another review by: Michael
Just saw Johnny Winter, for the first time, at The Bottom Line in Manhattan. It was a short set (well under an hour and a half including encore). Johnny, as many have commented, looks incredibly frail these days. He moves slowly and awkwardly and he needed assistance when he switched guitars. Frankly, it would be no exaggeration to say that he looks and walks like a man in his eighties.
He began with an instrumental and then went into 'I've Got My Mojo Working'. He leaned heavily on 'hey, where's your brother' -- playing 'She Like to Boogie Real Low' and for an encore 'Johnny Guitar'. While he obviously can see very little, he's not totally blind. He was able to find his way to his guitars on the side of the stage and to his microphone at the front and center. He also looked at his watch several times (so he must be able to see that as well).
The band (bass and drums) was fine, though the bass was mixed too high. Again: I can not exaggerate how frail he seems. He really does appear like a man decades older.
Well, that wraps up the bad news. He seemed to be enjoying himself throughout the show (though he did keep looking at his watch.) His voice, while not being as strong as it may have once been, is still far from shot. He remains a fine, credible blues singer. And I can assure you -- he is still an excellent guitar player. He maintains a fine tone (clean yet mean) and he is a paragon of taste.
Everything he played was fluid, fierce, purposeful and distinctly Johnny Winter. He's incapable of self-indulgence and he never meanders. If you closed your eyes (as, I must confess, I often did to better appreciate the music) the contrast between what you were seeing and hearing was remarkable. On the last song of the (pre-encore) set he played slide and he was superlative.
Frankly, the pathos of his present state was overwhelming -- clearly not just for me, but for the audience as a whole. Still as a musician he commands admiration and respect. Not pity.
I recommend that all Johnny Winter's fans see him if they ever get the chance. I'm honored to have seen him play tonight. And I can't express how much I envy those of you who had the chance to see him perform in even better days.
Friday, 19 September 1997 - House Of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC
Review by: Hugh Odom
Well, folks, I saw Johnny live Friday night for the first time in 22 years. I was not dissapointed. Judging from recent posts to the list, I was very worried he would cancel, or come on very late, or be in such bad shape that I'd be sorry I had gone to see him. I am very happy to say that none of those things were true.
The show at "House of Blues" in Myrtle Beach, SC started at 9:00 pm. The opening act was "the Eddie Bush Group" of Charleston, SC. Eddie is obviously a talented guitarist, but he is of the "2 million notes per second/ 22 effects pedals/ volume knob always on 11" variety; a complete contrast to Johnny. Some of the crowd enjoyed Eddie, but he was mismatched with Johnny. His show lasted until 10:00 pm.
After 10:00, the place really started to get packed. While not absolutely full, I'd say the crowd was close to capacity. Johnny started promptly at 10:30 pm. As soon as the curtains parted, the crowd went nuts; Johnny was obviously pleased at the response.
The set list for the evening was:
Johnny then quickly introduced the band and yelled "God bless you and good night". The drummer was Tom Compton but I did not get the bassist's name. The band had been playing just about an hour at this point. Given some of the reviews, I was very worried that would be it for the night, but the crowd rose to the occasion. After about 5 minutes of thunderous applause, random howls and wolf-whistles, a chant of "Johnny-Johnny-Johnny" was started. When he came back on the crowd really went nuts and there was definitely some "spring" in his step- which meant a lot. When he yelled "YEAAA" in the mic, it was the well-known trademarked Johnny Winter howl. He launched into Johnny Guitar which went for about 15 minutes. The bassist then started the audience clapping in unison, and they played what I can best describe as a "funk" instrumental. The feel of it was something like the opening riff for "Waitin' for the Bus" by ZZ Top, if you know that song. Some really rippin' guitar by Johnny with absolutely no cliche licks. I think this song really showed that the man has still got it. In the middle of this song, Johnny actually did a "spin" on stage, which had to take a big effort on his part- the crowd loved it. Almost exactly at 12 midnight, the band walked off, and it was obvious there was no chance for a second encore. (I guess I'm spoiled by the previous "3 encore" JW shows I've been to!).
While Johnny's guitar work was not "blazing", it was excellent and without fault as far as I could tell. Some of his licks were a little repetitious but he did not appear to "stumble" at all. He and the bass player had some really tight coordination that was great to listen to, and his guitar tone was the best I've ever heard (IMHO). His vocals were much softer than his traditional trademark growl. He sounded great, just different. Sort of a "kinder, gentler" Johnny Winter.
My impression of Johnny's condition was that he was not emaciated or gaunt (maybe he caught up on his eating over the summer). On the other hand, it was obvious from his movements on stage that Johnny has some kind of physical problem. He moved very slowly and deliberately, and did not even tap his foot once all night. His way of moving reminded me of the way I moved when I injured my back a year ago. You don't do anything quickly for fear it's going to hurt- BADLY. The one thing I noticed conspicuously missing from his guitar work was that trademark lick he does where he chords high up the neck while rapidly strumming over the end of the fingerboard. I don't think he wanted to move that much. IMHO Johnny is suffering from severe arthritis or something with similar symptoms. I wish I knew, 'cause I'd change my donation to the "United Way" to suit.
I am very happy to say that the crowd didn't seem to give a rat's ass that Johnny wasn't howling or jumping all around or trying to outdo the opening act with flaming guitar work. You could tell that Johnny put his heart into it and the crowd responded accordingly.
Johnny played his usual white Erlewine Lazer through 2 Music Man 4 x 10" combo amps. He had two effect pedals, one near his mic stand that he could operate and one back near the amps that I saw a roadie kick in when he plugged in the Firebird to play slide. The Firebird looked cherry; I'd guess it was a recent re-issue.
The bassist played a tobacco sunburst Sadowsky 5 string through two sets of Hartke 4 x 10" cabinets (I couldn't make out the amps). If anybody knows who this guy is I'd sure like to hear. Being a bass player myself, I'd say this guy has my dream job. He really had the ability to throw in some "flash" while still always playing a solid bass groove, and he looked like he really enjoyed himself. He definitely inspired me to play better at my band's gig last night.
Saturday, 20 September 1997 - Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Review by: Sam Voige, Atlanta
I was priveledged to see Johnny's September 20th show in Atlanta at the Variety Playhouse. The Variety is a really cool music venue--it's an old neighborhood moviehouse converted into an urban music pit. First, the crowd of about 1000 was treated to an enthralling opening set by locals Gracie Moon. When Johnny hit the stage, I was a little bit shocked by his mannerisms and appearance. His gate was very slow and deliberate, and he moved little while playing and singing, just swaying back and forth. His guitar work nowadays is still as skillful as ever, but not as forceful and pyrotechnic as it once was. His voice is soft and tinny, lacking that raspiness and nasty growl. It's obvious that he is suffering from some sort of illness or just plain physical deterioration, probably due to the years of el vivre loco. His set list was virtually identical to his last Atlanta gig two years ago (boogie real low, Johnny guitar, etc,etc). All in all, it was great to see Johnny again. I've seen him play about 20 times and have been a fan for 25 years. It's kind of like watching Arnold Palmer play golf. You know that Johnny isn't what he once was, but you still dig him for fighting the good fight and still having enough left to get up on stage and kick booty. That's what its all about. Johnny has probably forgotten more guitar licks than most contemporary hot shots ever dreamed about having. Johnny Winter is truly an American original, and I hope someday he is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Review by: Carroll Davis
Well hello Jim and all you other J.W. fans out there. Well what can i say but old J.W.has still got it. The concert hall last night has a capacity of 450. I guess there must have been about 650 packed like sardines in there. The opening act didn't have much of a chance with everyone yelling Johnny through out there set. At 10:30 he took the stage and the place went crazy. You could see he was very appreciative of his reception, he had a big ole smile on his face the whole show. Well his set list was.
Then he pulled out a Gibson Firebird and a slide and just jammed like only he can for about 15 minutes, [sorry i didnt know this song-if it even had a name] but it was pure kick ass J.W. For his encore he did Johnny Guitar then he just jammed for about 10 more minutes. All in all it was wonderful stuff be sure to check THE MAN out if he comes your way. You wont be dissapointed. We went out side to his bus after the show and got to shake his hand and tell him how much we all love him. I told him about this page and he said he loves you all. The rest of his band are Mark Epstein on bass and Tom Compton on drums. They also are great players. Folks the man is moving real slow and his vision is shot and even he said he doesnt know how long he can keep up touring so go see him if you get the chance. Sorry i rambled on so long as you can tell i love ole J.W. He is the best.
Review by: Jerry Hochman
My wife and I say Johnny last night at the Variety Play house, Atlanta. I've seen him about 10 times over the last 25 years, and consider him the greatest living blues guitarist. I had the same reaction many of your reviewers had: surprized and disappointed at his seeming bad health, frailness, slowness, etc. As a guitarist, I appreciated his mastery, but missed his presence. He seemed like at robot, with no affect at all. It's really sad for me to see this happen. He will always be "the man" to me.
Review by: Tim Moore
I just attended the Variety Playhouse show in Atlanta. I have attended JW shows many times in his R&R era but hadn't seen Johnny since the early seventies.
I was a little shocked when Johnny appeared to be sight impared and almost feeble. I understand that he's just 58. Guess he's had a hard life. Do you know if the albino and boss eyed situation has an effect on his general health or is this just due to his problems with mood altering substances?
The show was opened by 'Gracie Moon'. Worth the price of admission in herself. Check her out if you can.
I really enjoyed the blues format. His guitar playing is much smoother than in the early days. He definately needs no 'second/rhythm guitarist' or keyboards in his show. He really filled it up.
His voice has really changed. The growl and bite seem to be gone, maybe due to his health condition but his overall tone replication and range are really better than ever.
He seemed so serious in his R&R heyday but Saturday night he actually looked out at the audience with a big smile on several occasions.
His bassist and drummer certainly showed their wares but were very respectfull of Johnny and at no time stepped on his licks. The bassist played very tastefull the whole show but really showed what he could do mirroring Johnny's licks on one song late in the show.
With all due respect to Stevie Ray, Eric, etc...., I left the show re-affirmed that Johnny was the best guitarist of all time. He is truely a legendary bluesman.
I will be surprised if anyone sends pictures. 'Evans Security' was pretty adamant about cameras. I was told that the flashes physically irritated Johnny. The show was way too short but I think everyone understood after seeing Johnny take only small short steps the whole evening.
Tuesday, 23 September 1997 - Moon, Tallahassee
Review by: Max Dog
I've seen Johnny in concert three times, the first was definitely the best. That show was in Gainsville, Fl. in the middle eighties at the Florida Theater. The warm up band was Crosscut Saw featuring former Winter sideman Pat Ramsey on harp. Rumor has it that Johnny had said that he'd never share a stage with Pat again after critics (Rolling Stone) started calling Pat a costar. Whether that is true or not, there was a definite tension that pushed both performers to put on one hell of a concert. I started calling JW "Bionic Johnny" after that show because of the never ending blizzard of notes coming from his guitar. The crowd went wild. They drank the bar out of beer. I saw from a window runners getting kegs from neighboring bars!
The second show was in Tallahassee. While it was a great show, it paled in comparison to the first. Now (Tue., 9/23/97), after a long wait, I've had the honor of seeing him again. The warm up band was the Pat Ramsey Band, deja vu. Pat and his non-permanent rapidly assembled band showed no signs of a lack of practice. They definitely rocked the house. Rumor again has it that they may be opening for JW in North Carolina at his request. If anyone is going to that show, don't be late or you'll miss a good band. Even after reading about Johnny's health on this list I was somewhat shocked by how frail he seemed. He moved very deliberately and rocked from side to side while playing like some blind performers do. He did spin around one time in the encore much to crowds delight. His playing was slower and not as fluid as before. He seemed to try to play some riffs only to give up when his hands wouldn't do what his mind wanted them to and stopped playing altogether for a moment a one point. The bass player was doing a great job of holding the songs together without stepping on Johnny"s toes. His vocals were timid and his trademark growl was gone. An irritating hum in the sound system did not help matters. The crowd cheered him to the stage but seemed a little taken aback when he started playing. Soon though they got into the groove of things and started cheering him on. I hope this is a "on the way to a recovery" tour and not a "last gasp" tour. And I really hope it's not a "I'm broke" tour. He puts on a better show in bad health than many performers do in good health. I just hope he improves, it's too early for the "guitar slinger" to hang up his ax. The last rumor I heard at the show from some folks who had been back stage was that Johnny had downed a fifth of Absolut vodka while eating an entire package of Fig Newtons. Seems hard to believe but could be the lubrication and fuel he needs to make it through a show. Breakfast of champions. Take it with a grain of salt.
There was some discussion on the local radio this morning echoing the discussion in the mailing list and quite a few complaints about the quality of the sound. The Moon's sound equipment was near state of the art twelve years ago but needs serious upgrading.
Sunday, 28 September 1997 - Florida Theatre Jacksonville, Fla.
Tuesday, 25 November 1997 - Tuxedo Junction, Danbury CT, Connecticut
Review by: Frank Sessa
Last night 11/25/97, I saw Johnny perform live at a club in Danbury, Connecticut called Tuxedo Junction. I have had the great pleasure to now have seen Johnny over 40 times live, and last night was no disappointment.
Since there was no warm up band other then a couple of local guys playing acoustic guitars very early in the night, all of the attention was devoted to Johnny. No problem with that. As I had not seen him in about a year I was anxious to see how he was doing. I've read alot in the last several months of different opinions on his health and performances. I have followed his live performances from 1974 till present day. I have literally grown up watching as he has progressed through different phases of rock and dedicated blues. >From his John Dawson Winter III tours, through Captured Live, Together, Muddy, James Cotton and all of the bassists, drummers and guitarists along the way. I don't attempt to compare those days to now, only appreciate each for what they were and are. Obviously, time doesn't stand still. While vocals have diminished to some extent, last night reminded me why I have always believed him to be the greatest blues guitarist.
As usual, with all of his performances, anticipation of his coming to stage grew as restless fans chanted for his arrival. At 10:30pm the stage flooded with blue light and he stepped up to the mic without assistance and let us know he was ready with a resounding "Yeahhh!!!, several times. He was smiling and looked well. He began with Hideaway as he usually does, both warming up and showing us why we came to see him. The sound system was excellent here. The volume was where I like it. You couldn't help cheering him on. Mojo Working was next followed by Sick & Tired. Next was Blackjack Blues which I've heard him play several times, but this version was exceptional. The melodic and fat chord arrangements coupled with a down and dirty bass line made the packed house roar. By this time he was completely warmed up, obviously into pleasing us. The audience was surely showing their approval and he responded in kind. She Likes To Boogie Real Low and White Line Blues followed. At this point the Lazer took a rest and the Firebird and slide came to stage. A familiar song whose name escapes me but at this point I didn't care about titles. He absolutely smoked!!! Some bad ass slide playing, a total master. These songs were all pretty long versions with exceptional improvised licks that could have gone all night for all I cared. He did not sit for any of the slow blues or slide work. He was interacting with the audience between every song, something I hadn't seen him do in the last couple of years. It was really nice to see him this way. After just over an hour he said good night but quickly returned, breaking into his signature Johnny Guitar. Hearing that one live is what I always look forward to. He rocked the house. He ended with an instumental that was a driving funked up blues progression with gutsy bass playing that brought Johnny to a 360 spin and brought the audience to an electrifing roar which promped him to do it it a second time. The show ended after an hour and twenty minutes with cheering fans and Johnny waving his Lazer in admiration.
Someone who deserves much credit is Tom Compton on drums. This guy plays his heart out and certainly stands equal to Bobby Caldwell and Richard Hughes. I miss Jeff Ganz on bass but Mark Epstein has filled the spot very well with great talent and enthusiasm. Anyone with the opportunity to go see Johnny shouldn't hesitate. He truly wails. Luckily he plays the NY tri-state area quite a bit. If he's in town, I'm there.
Review by: Dave Godin
I was relieved that all the negative things I've read concerning Johnny Winters health and playing were not apparent last night (11/25/97). The crowded club was responsive, and made up of mainly 30/40 year old male fans.
I did note the presence of a few younger guys who seemed genuinely into his playing. I took along a friend who is retired, he was intensely impressed when Winter's strapped on his Firebird and played the slide. I friggin flipped-Perfection-a sudden transformation of a older guitar player into a screaming demon!
Winters did his standard stuff, he was a bit stiff, but on the other hand he looked that way when I saw him playing to a full concert hall in the early seventies and at various clubs since. To watch this master of the blues play was the highlight of my forty second year. I learned a lot watching him, I did notice that he played a lot with his thumb and he seemed to purposely stay away from his rock type licks-It was the blues, just the blues.
My advice for you if you get the opportunity to see him; don't go with any preconceived notions-this guy ain't Steve Via he is simply one of the greatest blues players out there-Quality NOT quanity :-)
Thank you Johnny for all the years of GREAT playing, your fans Love you.
Dec 1997 - Interview with Johnny Winter's father
"Father recalls rockers' roots"/John Winter talks about raising two musicians in the family
By Brent Snyder/The Beaumont Enterprise/December, 1997
John Winter reminisces about his sons playing music in the family garage, the smile on his face stretching from ear to ear as he recalls the loud rock 'n' roll blasting down the street for all the neighbors to hear.
"Their music is always good," he said, sitting in his rocking chair. "Of course, a lot of their music is pretty rough."
Winter, 88, the father of fair-haired and fair-skinned classic rock legends Johnny and Edgar Winter, is sitting in his corner room of the fifth floor of the Hotel Beaumont, with a view that overlooks George Jones Place and the historic Jefferson Theater.
Winter moved into the hotel in March. He lives on the assisted living floor, for residents who require extra help with day-to-day activities. He says he's staying at the hotel until his wife, Edwina, recovers from hip-replacement surgery and bowel surgery.
Winter doesn't know how long he'll have to live at the hotel, but he says staying there is OK for now.
"The hotel is real nice," Winter said. The facilities are good ... run down, worn out, and in a hell of a fix, but good."
Winter stresses that he's not complaining.
"They want to keep me busy and occupied, which is good," he said. "They wash my clothes for me, and do all that sort of stuff. And the food that they have in some instances isn't too bad."
But Winter would rather talk about his two famous rock star sons.
"Johnny always loved to play the guitar, man," Winter said. "That's his thing. Edgar, on the other hand, likes more to compose and produce music. But you probably already know that."
Johnny and Edgar -- best known for Edgar's classic '60s rock hits such as "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride" and Johnny's album "First Winter" -- regularly send their father CDs of their music.
"I love to hear it when I can," he said. "I can't listen to it in the hotel -- only because I don't have a stereo -- but at home I listen to them all the time. I like them all just as much. I remember when they sent me their first records. I get just as excited and proud when I hear their new CDs today."
The elder Winter says Johnny and Edgar got their love for music honestly because he and his wife -- who plays the piano -- have their own musical backgrounds.
Born and raised in Leland, Miss., Winter and his family performed as a five-piece band on the front porch of his parents' home.
"My mother played the piano. I played the sax. One sister played drums and another sister played guitar, and my father played the flute," Winter said. "We'd play and sing and all the neighbors would come to hear us."
Winter left Mississippi to serve in the Army during World War II, seeing action in North Africa, Italy and the South Pacific. While overseas, Winter learned of his first son's birth.
"When Johnny was born in 1944, I was still in the Army. And they wrote me and said I had a son, but they didn't send any pictures," Winter said.
"They told me Johnny was an albino," he said.
Winter had no idea why Johnny was born an albino, someone whose skin, hair and eyes lack normal coloration. There was no record of albinos in either his or his wife's families -- but Winter said it didn't matter to him.
"He was my son," he said.
Winter didn't get to see his son until he came home from the war in 1946, when Johnny was 3. That same year, Winter moved the family to Beaumont, where he built houses and sold men's furnishings.
"We told the doctors we would like to have another child, and we asked what the chances was of another baby being an albino," Winter said.
The doctors said that the chances were one in 100,000 that they would have another albino child, Winter said.
"And we had Edgar in 1946 and he was exactly like Johnny!" Winter said, laughing. "We found out after Edgar was born that the chances for another albino child were actually one out of four."
Both Johnny and Edgar have decided not to have any children of their own because of the possibility that they may be born albino, Winter said, adding that he and his wife don't regret not having any grandchildren. "We respect their decision."
Raising two albino sons in the late 1940s in Southeast Texas wasn't easy, Winter said, but it wasn't an impossible task, either.
"Wherever they go, they have to have somebody come with them to help take care of them," he said. "They're legally blind. They can't drive a car."
Both brothers attended Beaumont High School and took special education classes. "Because they couldn't see anything sitting there, you could understand why it wouldn't be like a normal classroom situation," Winter said. "but they got over that and they handled themselves awfully well in school."
Winter says that his sons were well treated by both teachers and students in school. "Everyone tried their best to help them as much as they could," he said.
At ages 14 and 11, Johnny and Edgar formed a band called Johnny and the Jammers. The group won a talent contest and as their prize, they recorded "Schoolday Blues" and "You Know I Love You."
"They have a natural God-given talent for music," their father said. "When we realized that they were musical, we bought them instruments and did everything we could to encourage their music."
Johnny finished Beaumont High School and decided to go to Lamar University to learn more about music.
"Well, he got out to Lamar and he said they just weren't doing anything for him and he said, "I'm gonna quit and get up a band," " Winter said.
Which he did. "He talked Edgar into going with him," Winter said. "Edgar hadn't finished high school yet, but we made sure that he did finish later on. Edgar wanted to do it, and that's what he did best, play music. And he loved his brother, and he wanted to help his brother if he could, so we didn't stop them. We told them, 'You go ahead.' "
The rest, they say, is history.
Winter has nothing but praise for his sons. "They're not lazy at all," he said. "They want to work. They want to keep busy. They've always liked to get up and go and do something.
"We're both very proud of both of them and we'll do anything we can for them," he said.
Winter hasn't seen his two sons in several years. Johnny is currently on tour and Edgar is in the studio working on a new album. "They don't visit nearly enough," their father said.
Meanwhile, Winter is pursuing his own musical aspirations. Tuesday afternoon, he was one of the featured singers at Josephine Houston's 92nd birthday party in the lobby of the hotel. He sang a selection of Christmas carols with several other residents and he was clearly enjoying himself.
"As you can tell, I really love music," he said with a smile.