On 10th of March 1998 after years of waiting, Johnny Winter finally releases a new album "Johnny Winter Live in NYC,
Thursday, 19 March 1998 - Cain's Ballroom "Tulsa, OK"
I attended the Johnny Winter concert at Cain's Ballroom
in Tulsa thursday night.
I have been trying to collect my thoughts about what to report since then. Let
me preface my review by stating that I have been a hard core Winter fan since
I had my 8 track tape of the black album in my car in 1969 in high school.
I have faithfully purchased all Johnny Winter legit recordings and have attended no less
than 10 Johnny Winter concerts in the last 20 years. The last time I saw him
was in Fort Worth Texas at the Caravan of Dreams in 1993, and he still had the
spark to his playing and live performance.
This last thursday in Tulsa, the spark was gone. He was a shadow of the Johnny
Winter that ignited my fire in the past. Sorry I don't keep track of playlists
and small details of concerts. I can just report that this was the first Winter
concert I have ever attended that the crowd remained sitting thru the entire
event. And a Tulsa crowd, especially for Johnny Winter is not that way. His
guitar playing was slow. He missed notes, he never took the audience to a higher
I don't know quite how to express this fully. Maybe it was a bad night. I truly
hope so.I debated on wether to report or not but this is my response and that
of my friends who are also Winter fans. I'm looking forward to reviews of future
events. Rex Thomas
Saturday, 21 March 1998 - Stubb's "Austin, TX"
Several reviews of Johnny Winter and his band at Stubbs, Austin
I meant to get this written last night, but didn't for
reasons that are stated within. Last night Johnny Winter played at Stubb's in
Austin. Stubb's is a barbeque joint/outdoor venue that is situated along Waller
Creek in downtown Austin. Reasonable barbeque but not one of the main music
venues in Austin. I say this because, last night Buddy
Guy was playing at Antone's, Austin's premier blues club and a place that
Johnny has played in the past. It could be that South by Southwest (the annual
music festival and industry shmooze-fest held here in Austin) dictates who plays
where, but I have a feeling that the hand of Slatus must be in here somewhere.
(More on that later.)
I got there early to ensure that I would be right up front.
With all that was going on, there was no problem. The space was largely empty
until much later in the evening. In retrospect, I probably should have gone
to Antone's and then just elbowed my way to the front for Johnny, but you don't
take chances when it's four years or more between appearances.
The opening acts were predominately local and predominately
country. Now, I'm not a country music fan, but a couple of these bands were
pretty good. The first act, the Cornell Hurd band was alot like Asleep at the
Wheel, with a wry sense of humor and decent players. A good bar band. Dale Watson
and his band were very adept musically, exhibiting great interplay between Dale
on Telecaster and his steel player. Truck driving songs delivered with sincerity
and a good sense of humor. Bonus: Jimmie Dale Gilmore made a guest appearance.
The only bummer. Some jerk name Jack Ingram (a friend of Todd Snider and similar
in the snide, rude four letter country song writer didn't get enough love at
home genre) showed up drunk and was the darling of the frat boy set. His guitarist
was good (Mike McSomething from Del Rio) but otherwise a waste of time and protoplasm.
The Mighty Blue Kings (who played second on the bill)
were outstanding, and I would like to thank whoever mentioned them previously
on the list. 40's/50's jazz swing stylings, two saxes, piano, bass drums, male
vocalist/front man and a GREAT guitar player who tastefully pulled together
the groove and added an imaginative and fun sound that really made the big difference
in this bands appeal. I recommend them. BTW, their next to last number was Manic
Depression, which I gather is a sort of signiture tune for them. They did a
great very jazzy rendition that did not compromise the intensity of the original
at all. Great band.
By this time, it has gotten chilly. It is 1:00 am, we're
outside along what has become basically an arroyo (dry creek bed) with a breeze
blowing and most of the performers have been visibly cold. The stage hands have
everything ready, the Music Man amps are warmed up and a spare Lazer is tuned
and ready for use. No Firebird, but this is a showcase type of gig and the best
that we can expect is about 40 minutes to an hour of Johnny.
It's time for Johnny to come on, and they fire up two
propane space heaters, both of which point to where his mic is set up. After
some "John-ny, John-ny" chanting by the crowd, he finally comes out. He has
aged alot since the last time that I saw him, which was at Liberty Lunch here
in Austin, about five years ago, if I remember correctly. He is wearing a black
windbreaker because of the cold, and the trademark black hat pulled down over
his eyes. He was playing the white Lazer with the decals on it and using, I
think, a combination of flange and distortion to get his tone. Once you got
used to it, the flange did fill out the tone a bit for those single note rhythm
parts, and it was an alternative to using as much volume as it used to take
to get that fullness.
I have already mentioned that he had aged alot. I was
about eight feet away from him for the whole show. He almost never opened his
eyes. His sight must be close to gone. He walked out on stage without being
obviously led, but he was following a carefully chosen path. He had some difficulty
getting the guitar plugged in at the beginning and basically pulled the jack
out and dropped it at the end in what looked like fairly fumbling movements.
He was led offstage by a flashlight, as we have seen before. So, not blind,
but pretty close. His onstage movements were very contained. A little rocking
from side to side, but very careful not to really step anywhere, possibly so
he wouldn't get too separated from the mic. Physically, he looked very frail
and a good deal older than I would have expected. He did, however, not look
particularly sick. He appeared to be someone who has battled some health problems
and recovered as far as his physical limitations and age would allow. He won't
be playing in any charity softball tournaments, but I expect that I'll get to
see him play again. He is not at death's door.
He opened with Hideaway. I've gotta say, I don't think
that this tune is the best vehicle for Johnny's playing. As someone mentioned,
he riffs through it, very methodical. Good playing. No real flash. This is Austin.
You can throw a stick in any direction and hit a guitar player that could have
delivered as good or better version of that particular song. This is a guitar
player's heaven/hell, depending on how you want to look at it. His chops warmed
up through the tune, but as I looked around I saw alot of faces displaying some
of the sadness and disappointment that has been expressed via reports to this
list. I saw something else, however. More on that later. He did get a very loud
and warm response at the end of the tune and that seemed to warm him more than
any space heaters ever could.
I'm freezin' by this point, not having been aware that
it would be an outdoor gig and that the temperature was going to drop as much
as it did. The next song was (I think) Boogie Real Low. From the opening riff,
there was more confidence and more of the timing that is part of his signature.
There wasn't the blazing speed of the past, and some of the fluidity was missing.
(I can attribute part of the fluidity issue to the cold. Mark (the bass player)
mentioned afterward that the cold had been a real concern.) The biggest surprise
was his voice. You could hardly hear him. I had attributed the problem to the
sound when he was hard to hear at the end of Hideaway as he introduced the band,
but this was a real surprise. This also improved as the gig went along, but
the reports that the growl is gone are correct. If you have heard some of the
earlier recordings with Edgar, like the original Christmas tune recording, and
you can picture that sweet, high voice, that's where his vocals are now. However,
he doesn't have the support to belt it out as he did then. I would guess that
whatever his illness was, it took a toll on his wind.
Chopswise, he hit some good points along the way in Boogie
Real Low. I found that if I closed my eyes and didn't watch an old man rock
from side to side as he played, and pictured a young man moving around on the
stage, that, for the most part the same energy and notes were there, especially
during the parts he plays to accompany himself while he sings. However, when
he took of on a lead, it was nowhere close to what it used to be. There were
physical limitations that were, I think, exacerbated by the cold. What Slatus
could've been thinking, God only knows.
"Sick and Tired" was next and he made a little crack about
the title. Something to the effect of what the song could be about, perhaps
alluding to his own past illness. He was smiling and having a good time. It
went well, although, as with all the songs, he extended them without filling
the space as he used to. It might have been better to play more tunes and cover
more material. This was really the case with the next number, a blues tune that
I didn't recognize. Real nice changes, but I didn't catch the hook in the chorus.
During the second song, one of the space heaters had started to malfunction.
It was puffing and belching flame smoke onto the stage. I was afraid the damn
thing was going to blow! (So, it turns out, was Mark Epstein!) The stage hands
finally snapped to, and turned the damn thing off, but the stage started getting
colder as a result. By the time he had started into the blues number, I could
tell that he was getting cold and was having more difficulty playing. He missed
the occasional note at various points throughout the evening, now he started
missing quite a few more. He was, I think getting concerned about this and at
the end of the song exhibited the mannerism that has been mentioned by several
contributors to this list. He looked at his watch. He had started doing it a
little earlier in the evening. There's only one problem with this scenario.
He wasn't wearing a watch! I could practivally reach out and touch him, I got
the best view ever of his technique (big bonus!) and I can tell you that there
was no watch. Whenever he would do that, Mark would step over and they would
confer. I think that it's a signal for, "what shall we do next" or "God, I'm
freezing my ass off! How many more tunes do we have left?
He closed with "Johnny Guitar". He rallied a little during
that tune, but he was visibly cold and anxious to finish the tune without flubbing
any more leads. I have played gigs in the cold before and I know what he was
experiencing. He was sticking with licks that allowed greater economy of movement,
and using extended bends, etc. to get through the tune. I had heard him play
better in the evening, and as I stood there, I was glad to see him again, but
sorry that he had been booked into the worst possible venue: an outdoor gig
at 1:00 AM with a cold breeze blowing in. I was glad for his sake when he was
able to finish and get offstage.
Throughout the gig, every time a song concluded, the crowd
applauded wildly, cheered and whistled. This is Austin and Johnny is always
very welcome here. Considering the shitty conditions, the turnout was very good
for the venue and people were lined up on the bridge overlooking the back of
the stage. At one point, I looked offstage and there was Junior Brown, come
to hear one of his heros. He was sans the trademark hat, and just respectfully
catching a set by someone who influenced his own incredible playing.
Johnny's fans continue to love him, and he was visibly
moved by the reception. I think that that also frustrated him, though as he
got cold in the course of playing and was further hampered in performing as
a result. He isn't the Johnny of the early years, but he is still alive and
After the gig I bought a poster and a ball cap. I went
to the bus in the hope that Johhny might autograph the poster. Mark came out
for a smoke and did some autographs, hung out and spoke with some of us. Genuinely
warm person. Very supportive of Johnny onstage and a great bass player. Tom
Compton did his usual incredible job, but didn't come out after the gig. We
asked Mark about the chances of Johnny signing a few autographs. One guy there
had an INCREDIBLE picture of Johnny and SRV sitting together with big smiles
spread over their faces that was possibly one of the best pictures that had
ever been taken of individually, let alone together! He want Johnny to autograph
it for him. Mark's eyes looked up and he politely explained that he would love
to help, but that there was a "protocol" that HAD to be followed and he couldn't
do anything to help. He looked at the picture again, warmly complemented it,
and apologized again that he was unable to help.
During the gig, I had noticed a small, skinny guy with
curly grey hair. The way that he seemed to be concerned with what was going
on, I suspected that he might be Teddy Slatus, Johnny's "manager". While the
gig was proceeding he was constantly moving around, he got concerned during
the business with the space heater (as was appropriate.) He got and more agitated
as the gig went on (almost a distraction, although he was offstage.) When Mark
mentioned the "protocol" thing, he told someone that they would need to see
Teddy about any autographs. So that those of you who have read about Teddy Slatus
in this group can meet him through this experience of mine, let me describe
him as I saw him. Probably mid-50s, about 5' 6", short curly grey hair, big,
skinny nose, back slightly hunched over at the shoulders. He moved very quickly
where ever he was going. Kind of dashing from here to there. He reminded me
of a ferret. He would bea humorous figure if he wasn't managing Johnny's career.
When he came out to the bus, I approached him with my most professional demeanor,
"Mr. Slatus, is there any chance that Johnny might sign a few autographs this
evening?" He replied, "Ah, no, no, not tonite, we have a meeting with the record
people tonite. This is the only evening we can't. No. Not tonite. We have a
meeting. This is the only night..." looking over my shoulder at someone else
vying for attention... "oh great! you bought TWO of the caps, that's great!"
turning back to me... "no not tonite, we have a meeting." And away he dashed.
I felt like I'd met the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. A few minutes
later, Slatus ushered a group into the bus. It consisted of Jim Franklin, local
artist of note who had done some of Johnny's posters back in the Armadillo days,
and three or four other people, a couple of which I recognized as local music
writers. So much for the record company meeting.
My impressions of Slatus. I think that he does care about
Johnny's welfare. I also think that he is incompetant. By way of the Peter Principle,
he found himself making decisions in a business for which he was not really
prepared. There's a big difference from managing equipment and managing a career.
For whatever reason, Johnny has allowed him to remain in charge. They may be
very close. Who knows. All I know is that I have been in the business and around
it going back 25 years, and I wouldn't let this guy park my car. I don't think
that he is necessarily evil (I haven't ruled it out, either) but I did get a
general feeling of incompitance mixed with a very controlling attitude.
Well, that's my brain dump of the experience. I warned
you of the length. I didn't proof this, so I'm sorry for any typos. I apologize
to those of you who e-mailed me regarding getting together to meet at the show.
My arrangements were up in the air for too long during the week for me to make
plans, and I should have let ya'll know earlier. I'd have written this last
night when everything was more fresh in my alleged mind, but I was so damn cold
and tired I just crawled into bed.
Hope this gives some of you a sense of what it was like.
See Johnny if "he comes to your town."
I was probably behind Mike M at the show last night. He
is dead on accurate in his review. Johnny looked like a 75 years old man who
had lived hard. No extraneous movements. My friend from Lowell Mass came down
and I thought he was gonna cry when Johnny Winter came out. He hasn't seen Johnny Winter in about
10 years. More or less, he played material from his live CD at about 90% capacity.
Some interesting flourishes but some uncharacteritic mistakes. I'm proud to
say that Austin, which can be jaded and spoiled when great players come to town
(you know, it ain't cool to get too enthusiastic), treated Johnny Winter royally. That
was Teddy Slatus. I met him during a live radio interview with Roy Buchanan.
Roy died a susspect death a week later and I stopped doing interviews (Roy was
opening for Johnny at Club Casino at Hampton Beach, NH. Never seen Johnny Winter work harder).
At last night's show, a gorgeous woman from France who had never seen Johnny Winter before
was completely blown away. She also thought he was in his 70's till I set her
staight. All things considered, he's still better than even the really great
players. Hope he's building strength and getting better.
I thought the January 1997 concert was bad, but I couldn't
believe my eyes this time.
When he first walked out he tried to adjust his mike stand,
but could not move it. With his left hand shaking, he just stood there holding
the mike then let go and stared into space while the band watched and waited.
I personally thought he was going to fall over.
He did the Live In NYC set, dragging the bands tempo up
and down throughout most songs. Besides walking out, the next biggest round
of applaus was when he actually opened his eyes half way through the show.
Johnny played half way descent, slightly better than the
January show. His playing was sloppy but his outstanding knowledge of blues
licks and turnarounds was awesome. We went hoping that the fifth of vodka and
fig newton cookie rumors (pre-show dinner) was just that, a rumor. Unfortunately,
as we waited for the show to start, we watched Johnny's guitar tech open up
a fresh package of fig newtons.
While waiting for an autograph after the show, another
fan had mentioned they saw somebody pouring straight vodka into the plastic
cups by his side. All heart-breaking news! This is all extremely upseting as
I feel that I am the world's biggest Johnny Winter fan. After twenty years of
playing guitar, Captured Live was the Holy Grail for endless inspiration.
I have since purchased almost all of Johnny's CD's as
well as a beautiful Gibson Firebird guitar, to get that sound!
Needless to say we went to the show with the greatest
of expectations, but we knew the night was over when Johnny pulled a "Jerry
Lee Lewis" and stuffed a cocaine saturated towel up his nose for what seemed
like ten minutes in front of 2000 people.
Obviously Johnny is not what he used to be but could be
better than looking like "death-warmed-over"! I talked on the phone to Teddy
Slatus and Betty Ann personally. They both denied any booze or drugs and said
Johnny is in the best health he's been in in years. Sheer greed has made them
blind as I truly believe this continued abuse and touring is killing him. YOU
SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF TEDDY! But what does that matter as long as the
money keeps coming in right!
As mentioned earlier, I am sincerely heart-broken and
feel somebody should help keep the greatest white bluesman in history alive,
even if it means taking him off the road.
Sunday, 22 March 1998- House of Blues New Orleans
As a long-time fan of Johnny Winter, I must express my
concern for his show last night. First of all, I love Johnny and I am always
thrilled to have the opportunity to hear him play!!! But last night was so sad
for New Orleans. Johnny had to be helped on the stage & was so out of it that
he cldn't sing the lyrics to his songs. Also, he went on & on an uncomfortable
length of time on every song but the last one & he quit playing 10-15 minutes
early. B/c of the length of his songs, I believe he only played 5 songs in one
hour & 15 minutes!!! Of course, Johnny never faltered on his guitar playing,
but his appearance was so shocking that the audience gasped when he came out
on stage!!! Johnny is beyond frail!!!
My reason for writing this e-mail is b/c I believe that if someone doesn't help
Johnny asap he will not be around to enjoy the fruits of his hardworking labor.
Many people last night said that they believe this will be the last time we
will ever see him in New Orleans!!! I realize that his family, & Edgar in particular,
have probably done all they believe that they can. But I am pleading for someone
to intervene & help Johnny get the help he needs to save his life!!!
On 3/7/98 Edgar Winter & Rick
Derringer played @ House of Blues in New Orleans & Edgar dedicated a song
to "my poor brother Johnny." Now I know what he means by that statement. Please
help me try to help Johnny!!! I want him to live a long life & @ 54 yrs. of
age - Johnny is at the prime of his career. It is devastating to see him look
so thin!!! What can we do???? Debora
I have debated whether to write a review of this concert.
But I feel that I must after reading the current postings.
First of all, I want you guys to know that I am a long-time Johnny fan. Started
listening to him @ 14 yrs of age & Iust turned 40 on Feb. 25, so it's been
26 yrs. for me. I have always felt this strong kinship w/ Johnny b/c his birthday
is 2/23/44 & mine is 2/25/58. But all this aside - I love Johnny & his music!!!
Fortunately, Johnny loves to play in New Orleans. During the N.O. Jazz Fest
(coming up in April)- Johnny usually makes an appearance (although it is usually
a last minute thing - so you have to be ready to go). The last time was 3 yrs
ago & he actually played on the Riverboat!!! B/f that - he played @ Tipitina's
& although he was frail - I only really felt an urge to send over orange juice
to him. He cld still yell w/ spirit & had a zest for life. But on his last visit
, I felt like calling for an immediate drip from the hospital to pump some life
In all the times I have seen Johnny (which are too numerous to mention here),
I was totally shocked when I saw him last Sunday night!!! I felt compelled to
get a message to Edgar (who also did a show @ House of Blues on 3/7/98 w/ Rick
Derringer ). Edgar dedicated a song to "my poor brother Johnny." Not until
3/22/98 did I really know the full extent of this dedication!!!
Just like usual, this was a spur of the moment booking for Johnny. Another band
cancelled & Johnny took the slot. I was ecstatic & cldn't get to the phone fast
enough to order my tickets ($20.00 + $2.00 handling each). What a deal!!! Savoy
Brown w/ Kim Simmonds put on a great show b/f Johnny came on.
I immediately moved to the front row for Johnny - so I was as close as you cld
get. First of all, no one made any announcement that Johnny was coming out.
He just suddenly appeared after being practically carried down the stairs to
the stage. The audience actually gasped at his appearance. This was the thinnest
I have ever seen Johnny. His arms are so bony that they lack any resemblance
of muscle tone. His black jeans just hung on him & his rear end is completely
In total, Johnny played 1.25 hrs. which is amazing when you factor in the fact
that he was so loaded that his tongue was hanging out of his mouth, he did not
move on stage except twice, & he forgot the words to his songs. Johnny never
opened his eyes on stage; never yelled "Yea or Yea, alright." There was no dialogue
in btw songs & he even sang the words "Going to a party & everybody is there"
for Boogie Real Low.
The 1st time Johnny moved on stage - he gingerly shuffled over to his guitar
which was lying opened & flat on a table. Without opening his eyes, he took
great pains as he struggled to lay his guitar in the case. A young roady watched
in shock & did nothing to help. It appeared that his young age may have attributed
to the freaked out look on his face.
The 2nd time Johnny moved on stage - he actually spun himself around w/out moving
his feet out of the same spot where he stood on stage. He gave us a great big
smile & the audience went wild. But we were concerned that the spin might make
him too dizzy & he might fall down if he did it again. But, of course, that
was the end of his moves.
Also, Johnny lost track of when his songs were suppose to end. I enjoyed the
extra - long play, but the bass player & drummer kept looking at one another,
rolling their eyes, & trying to go w/ Johnny - not knowing how long it wld go
on. I mention this b/c it was uncomfortably too long!!!
During the show, people kept saying that this wld be the last time we wld ever
see Johnny!!! It broke my heart - even though I enjoyed just being near Johnny
& hearing him play. He is still the best guitar player - even w/ all these factors
going against him. I believe that Edgar, his family, & friends need to intervene
to help save Johnny's life. Debora
Tuesday, 24 March 1998 - Tennessee Theater "Knoxville, TN
I went to Knoxville last night. It was almost over by
the time I got there. I was able to walk in and sit down and stand some to hear
the last four songs. This was better than what I saw and heard last April in
Last April was almost pathetic compared to last night. Johnny was mediocre but
a mediocre Johnny Winter isn't too bad. He showed some flashes of his past. I thought the
last time he wasn't even a shadow of his former self. He defintely appears physically
weak but he doesn't seem ill like he did last year. He smiled and seemed happy
at times. I could hear him sing this time where before I could barely hear him
and the only thing the entire concert I understood was when he said "they call
me Johnny Guitar." This time I understood more than a 1/3 of the lyrics while
he sang. He growled a little between songs when he said yeah or alright. That
was nonexistant last year. He seems to be struggling with his fretwork. What
he's doing with his right hand(picking and strumming) seems fine but his left
hand doesn't seem to work as it used to. The expression on his face changes
when he should or wants to start using the frets alot. I wonder if he wants
to roll as he used to but can't or is afraid he'll screw up and might as well
not try. The expression he makes makes me feel something troubles him when in
the past he would really start jamming.
I only heard the last four songs he played. I have trouble figuring out what
he's playing now other than Johnny Guitar. He played one on slide that sounded
kinda like Mojo Boogie or Black Cat Bone. One part of one song sounded like
Memory Pain or maybe Fast Life Rider but I believe it sounded more like Memory
Pain. Another part sounded alot like the beginning of It's All Over Now from
Captured Live. He seems to be improvising alot more now without as great a skill
as he used to have. The part that sounded like Memory Pain and the part that
sounded like It's All Over Now were the parts that reminded me of how great
he's been. Johnny Guitar wasn't too bad either.
The band sounded better this time. Epstein's(sp?) bass did seem too loud at
times. He'd drowned the others out at times. I still don't like his playing
that much but he seemed better this time too. Someone mentioned before that
he's a real nice fella. I wouldn't be surprised if he is but I just don't really
dig him. I miss Jeff Ganz. He looked awful strange at times but he really liked
to play and seemed to really like Johnny. Mark seems to enjoy himself too but
he doesn't jam like Ganz would.
The volume on the mike must have been louder this time too. You could hear Johhny
sing fairly well. There was still alot that was hard to understand but his voice
was there this time. Last April Tom Compton didn't seem very enthused. He seemed
like a person that wanted to be somewhere else. This time he seemed more like
a person working a routine that he knows very well. At times they would all
start jamming pretty good. It didn't last long but it seems they've all come
together more now. Hugh, sometimes Tom would start jamming real well and start
hammering on his bell. The first time I looked for the train. I got a kick out
Another thing I thought was real funny was I saw Johnny from the side several
times. The way the brim of his hat is bent it looks like he ran into a wall
or something. I couldn't help laughing on the inside because i kept thinking
if he did he doesn't give a damn. He can't see anyway.
Overall it wasn't too bad what I saw. They all seem happier and sound better
than last April. Johnny's still not what he once was but he seems to be trying
harder and enjoying himself more. My expectations weren't as great this time
so I sure that helped a little but I'd have to say it was better than last year.
I'm not sure what he played though. The first song I heard sounded like something
from Hey, Where's Your Brother? The next song was on the Firebird. It sounded
kinda like Mojo Boogie. Then he played Johnny Guitar for an encore and finished
with that funky sounding thing they play now. I wish I had been able to get
there on time. I'm kinda surprised I went at all.
I had to go up there and ask for directions there. Mark's directions didn't
get to me before I left. One guy told me a wrong turn. So I got there a little
later than I would have otherwise. Mark, I drove from Huntsville too. You must
live near where I live.
I wish I had gone to New Orleans and got to see Savoy Brown. I haven't seen
them since 1990 and they blew me away. Kim Simmonds is kinda like Johnny. He
loves to play the blues and had some early commercial success later to have
a long career in relative obscurity.
By the way, who opened for Johnny? I've been rather pleased with the two previous
bands, Micheal Hill's Blues Mob and Jellyroll, that opened for him.
Friday, 27 March 1998 - Majestic Theater "Detroit, MI"
I wrote a review on a concert that I saw on January 17,
1997 at the Majestic. Johnny's performance was terrible. I saw Johnny at the
same place this past Friday (03/27/98).
His performance was vastly improved. He seemed much stronger and far more fluid
in his movements, and his voice was far more powerful this time. He played for
1 hour and 20 minutes. Although he missed occasional notes and his timing was
off periodically, he performance was a 100% improvement over the one that I
saw one year ago. The most impressive part of the performance was the one slide
song he played where he repeatedly performed a famous riff copied from Elmore
James (Dust My Blues) & Johnny's Progressive Blues Experiment Album (Black Cat
Bone). He should play alot more slide in his shows. His timing is much better
during the slide tunes than it is when he's picking. He was generally very conservative
in his playing. In his songs, he would occasionally attempt a classic Johnny
flurry but would quickly retreat to a slower and more comfortable pace. I got
the feeling from watching him play that he was testing the waters where he once
walked to see where he's at in terms of his overall comeback. It reminded me
of a professional athlete who had a disabling injury and was now coming off
of the disabled list and trying to do a few of the things that made him great.
It would be very interesting to know where he thinks he is at in terms of his
overall performance, and how much of his former greatness he thinks he can ultimately
recover. If his improvement from January 1997 to March 1998 is any indication,
Johnny Winter fans may eventually be in for a very pleasant surprise. In seeing
Johnny ten years ago and seeing him now, I'd say his talent level is at about
40%. I hope his strength and health improve and I'm sure his talent will take
care of the rest!!
Johnny Winter's performance at the Majestic Theater on
3/27/98 was 100% WORSE than his performance at the same venue in January 1997.
Hideaway was an embarassment - played in slow-motion with a lot of missed notes
and stumbling. Sen Sa Shun/Mojo and Boogie Real Low were better, but Johnny
was obviously struggling - he often stuck his tongue out through his lips and
was clearly having a difficult time of it. He still has a great tone but played
with no speed or dexterity, at a slowed-down tempo. I agree that he sounded
great on slide, and should play that guitar more. But overall he barely played
good enough to be able to charge admission, and is obviously not well. At one
point he grabbed a kleenex and dug around in his nose for an uncomfortably long
time in full view of the crowd. It was very sad to see Johnny in such bad shape,
and unless his health improves, I don't see how he can keep this up for much
Saturday, 28 March 1998- Agoro Theatre "Cleveland, OH
Saturday 28 Mar 1998 - Agoro Theatre "Cleveland, OH
A pre-concert review from "Cleveland Scene Magazine"
Saw Johnny last night at the Cleveland Agora. I decided
to go relunctly by myself at the a last minute, since his last show in Cleveland
(4/97)was so poor. I have to confess this was an improved and very good show.
Sure, it was not the Johnny of years past but was great to see him. He played
everything from NYC for about 1 hr 10 m. Then he did HW61 and Meantown blues
for encores (just kidding).
I am not a guiter player but I think his current
playlist is easier to play for him, which is his way of adjusting to whatever
is definitely slowing him down. He seems to rely more on melody with more carefully
chosen notes that do not require the physical speed and flash of his younger
days. He did walk on and off the stage unassisted and even did one spin (a very
careful one) during the encore. This was pretty much the same set that he played
last year but this was just better. I don't know if that was due health, fatigue
or whatever but it was nice to see him make some sort of rebound. I have a pre
concert interview with Johnny Winter from the local paper which I will scan and forward
shortly as well as local reviews when they come out. Cheers, Marc
The West 4th Street Fearless Foursome (myself included)
met as usual, a few hours before the show began, and did we ever get rained
on!!! That's the price you must sometimes pay for being first on line to a club
with general admission seating. During those wet hours, we talked about every
Johnny album ever made. Sang a few songs, had a few beers. It was fun. It's
part of the reason I keep going.
About an hour before the show, we met the usual cast of characters: Teddy Slatus,
Mark Epstein, and Tom Compton. After seeing them play last night, I am more
convinced than ever that Epstein and Compton are truly gifted musicians. And
real nice guys to boot. Despite the rain, our friends at the Bottom Line wouldn't
let us in even 1 minute early. Of course, all that anger disappeared once we
got inside. That ends the easy part. Now for the hard stuff.
Johnny walked in to the club while the opening band was playing, and the place
went wild. I guess everyone was just glad that he showed up. He came on stage
at 10:30, looking just as he has for quite a while now. Same walk, same clothes,
same guitar, same Johnny. Or was it? Although we were hoping for a different
set of songs (old stuff), he started with Hideaway, as usual. Except for one
minor detail: he could barely play the notes. It sounded exactly like the rendition
of Hideaway which I performed in my bedroom in 1968, six months after I got
my first guitar. It was painful to listen to. The version I knew and loved was
recorded by John Mayall, with Eric Clapton on lead guitar. Smooth and sweet.
This bore little resemblance to that one. Give him time, I thought. He needs
to get warmed up. It was all down hill from there.
When you're sitting three feet from Johnny, you see, feel and hear things
that you just can't when you're 20 or 30 rows back. He looked weak. He looked
aged. No energy to be doing this sort of thing. Barely enough energy to squeeze
the strings against the neck. I know others have talked about him missing notes
here and there. Last night, he missed more notes than I could count. And it
wasn't just me seeing and hearing this. My friends felt the same way. On every
song, Johnny tried to play all of his signature riffs, but he just couldn't
do it. It's the same old story: he stands at the microphone, rocks back and
forth, eyes closed (he never looks at the guitar when he plays any more), hearing
in his mind what he wants to play, but his hands just can't get it done.
Some of the songs seemed to go on interminably, with the same break being
played 3 and 4 times in each song. I can't tell you how often I noticed Epstein
and Compton eyeballing each other as they had to slow down to stay with Johnny.
It was like this all night. One song on the Firebird midway through the set.
Slide work was only fair, with very little playing on different strings. Mostly
up and down on one string. I've heard him set the Firebird on fire in the past.
The highlight of the night was when he finished the encore (2 songs, the
second was a simple version of Fast Life Rider, one of my favorite songs from
Second Winter). Instead of ambling off stage when the music stopped, both Johnny
and Mark stayed to shake some hands with the folks down front. I managed to
shake both their hands, and Mark even signed one of my fan club pictures.
I left the club, I got more and more angry. I had this vision: it's 1998, and
someone decides that Muhammad Ali needs to get back in the ring and fight one
more fight. It must not be allowed to happen. Similarly, I honestly believe
that it's time for Johnny Winter to take his guitars, donate them to the Smithsonian
as national treasures, and hang it up. It hurts me to say this, and I apologize
profusely to anyone who is offended by my utterly worthless opinion. But I have
spent the last 30 years of my life listening to the man I believed was the best
at what he did, and there is no chance at this point that he will ever do it
like that again. If someone like me can see that, why can't Johnny or his people
see it? The reasons why are immaterial. There comes a point when people in the
audience feel sadness and pity for their hero. You've got to know when to call
it a day. Or a career.
I hope I'm not divulging any trade secrets, but I overheard Teddy talking
about the next project for Johnny. A studio album, with guest musicians. Perhaps
one "elder statesman" of blues, along with a young, up-and-coming talent. He
mentioned some names, which I will not. Teddy, if Johnny keeps playing like
he did last night, please don't do it. It's only money.
If any or all of you disagree with my assessment of things,
by all means, say so. If you want to throw me off this discussion list, I understand.
I'll go quietly. But remember, we only feel this way about people we really
care about. While driving to work this morning, I sang to myself, "Last night,
I lost the best friend I ever had..."
I'm sure Rick knows what he's talking about, but I'd give
my left nut to be able to play as well as Johnny does now. He doesn't move much,
indeed just sways and forth, but still gets the message across (to me, anyway).
I'm going out to buy the new
Second review of Johnny Winter at the Bottom Line Club New York
We got there late, towards the end of the opening act,
so we had to sit off to the side of the stage opposite Johnny, so maybe my different
perspective accounts for some of it. I agree that Hideaway was kinda weak, he
played the same set and looked very frail. But after that it picked up. I thought
that while his playing isn't on fire the way it once was, he still plays very
competently and put on a good show. I was thinking that it was cool that he
is still able to play and please the crowd. I had a great time!
Wow - I was at this same show on Wednesay night and had
a completely different experience. I live in Florida, and couldn't believe my
luck at being in NYC on biz at the same time Johnny Winter was playing. Anyway, I brought
an co-worker with me and headed down to the Bottom Line. It WAS pouring, raining
cats and dogs. The cover charge was 30 bucks and beers were $5 a pop, so it
ended up being a fairly expensive evening, but well worth it.
Apr 1998 - Telephone
interview with Goldmine magazine.
Johnny Winter phoned for his interview on Sunday
night, March 9, from his home in New York. Amazingly for a musician, he actually
phoned a minute before the scheduled time (how often does THAT happen?). It
had been over five years since Johnny had done an interview, and he hadn't really
done a lengthy one since around 1989, so we were very happy that he was honoring
us with the interview. I found him to be very polite, friendly, and open. And
that was in spite of the fact that I'm quite sure he was nervous after so many
years of not talking to the press. Now, as a Delta boy myself, I can do a mean
Mississippi accent. And my folks have lived in and near Tupelo for decades,
and yes, everybody up there does sound just like Elvis (that IS the accent).
But imagine when you read this, Johnny Winter's quiet voice, and a real south
Texas/Houston-area accent, very drawling and distinctive.
We began by chatting about a few mutual acquaintances,
and the fact that I spent my first 8 years just down Highway 82 from Johnny's
home in the Delta - not that he remembers that area well, since he was less
than two years old when he moved. Although Johnny's career and musical history
is centered in the southeastern part of Texas and west Louisiana, I was surprised
by how many connections Johnny's career has had to my adopted hometown of Austin.
So, here's nearly the complete text of the interview, mainly omitting me talking,
and what the weather was gonna be like when he plays SXSW in Austin in two weeks
(man, I don't know, it's cold and rainy as all get out now, and that's weird
for Austin at this time of year).
Goldmine: I grew up in Indianola, in the Delta, about
14 miles east of your old hometown of Leland, Mississippi. There seems to be
some question among fans about where you were actually born.
Johnny Winter: I was born in Beaumont, and when my daddy
got out of the army, we lived in Leland for a year or so. But then we moved
back to Beaumont, and I actually grew up in Beaumont, Texas.
Goldmine: You and your brother
Edgar, performing as the Winter brothers, actually appeared on Ted Mack's Original
Amateur Hour in New York City in 1959 didn't you? What do you remember about
Johnny Winter: Well, we auditioned for it, we didn't actually
get to go on the show. It was strange, we were very little kids. We'd never
done anything like that before. We weren't used to staying up that late. It
was very weird.
Goldmine: Did your family go up to New York with you?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, they drove us up. We had won a contest
in Beaumont, and got to go up there. They drove us all the way from Beaumont
to New York.
Goldmine: I've read in an old interview that the first
time you met Muddy
Waters was actually here in Austin. Was that right? Tell us what it was
like meeting one of your idols, and getting to play with him.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, it was at the Vulcan Gas Company
in downtown Austin. We were opening for Muddy. He played a whole weekend, two
shows a night. When he wasn't playing, we were. It was unbelievable for me.
I had my tape recorder set up. I had my camera, and took lots of photographs.
We was just recordin' the whole thing. I was just in awe of Muddy!
Goldmine: That's so cool. Did you actually get to play
with him then or was that later?
Johnny Winter: No, it was later that we played together.
It was just unbelievable, though, I was just in awe of him. I couldn't believe
we got to play on the same show with him. I just couldn't believe it?here was
the guy that had inspired me to go into music, and he was playing on the same
gig with us. He inspired me to play the blues and everything, and there he was
playing on the gig with us. It was so amazing!
Goldmine: How old would you have been then? Still in your
Johnny Winter: No, I was about 27-28 then, at the Vulcan.
Goldmine: How does somebody from Beaumont, Texas, discover
the blues and get into playing it?
Johnny Winter: The radio, the radio. We had stations we
could get out of Nashville, Shreveport, and Del Rio, and in Mexico. I listened
to all the blues I could get on the radio, that was before I was old enough
to get into clubs.
Goldmine: What was the first blues song you heard that
made a big impression on you?
Johnny Winter: It was "Somebody In My Home" by Howlin'
Wolf. I'll never forget that. Wolf don't sound like anybody else, you know!
I thought it was just wild, and said "what is this?"?it just wiped me out.
Goldmine: Some of the earliest recording you did was with
that odd character Roy Ames down in Houston, wasn't it?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, but actually Bill Hall was the first
guy to record me. You remember that movie "Go Johnny Go" that had Chuck Berry
and Jimmy Clanton?a lot of rock'n'roll people in it (Hal Roach Studios, 1959,
also with Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, & Jackie Wilson)? And along with the
movie, they had this contest, this Johnny Melody contest. I won that, so I got
to audition for a recording session with Bill Hall, Beaumont's only record company
that I knew anything about. He had the only recording studio in town. He just
said "let's cut it?", and I had these two songs that I had written, and we went
in and recorded them. I think we sold 285 copies.
Goldmine: Would that be the single "School Day Blues"
on Dart Records?
Johnny Winter: Yep. Dart Records.
Goldmine: I didn't get into the blues from Rolling Stones
records like a lot of people did. I think you were one of the first people I
listened to playing straight blues, back when I was in college.
Johnny Winter: Oh really? That's great.
Goldmine: It's been said that you were one of the first
people to really play straight blues, and spread it to a white audience for
the first time. And that, of course, was responsible for those original blues
artists actually making money at it for the first time, when white audiences
in the Sixties discovered their music. Do you feel like you really had a lot
of influence in that way?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I think I did.
Goldmine: What was it about the blues that made you want
to take it to a wider audience?
Johnny Winter: It was real music, about real people and
real problems. It wasn't about going to school or anything like that. It was
very real, very raw. It was so uncontrived, they were just playing what they
wanted to play, it didn't sound like they had worked it out much.
Goldmine: You had to have been a total outcast listening
to the blues in Beaumont back in the Fifties?
Johnny Winter: Yep, nobody else cared anything about it.
I played as much of the blues as I could in clubs, but until the Stones made
it, I didn't get to play too much of it.
Goldmine: I'm sure you had to play covers of songs people
knew in the bars?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, we did a lot of that, but just sneaked
in a blues song here and there whenever I could.
Goldmine: Now, I understand your little brother Edgar
wasn't into the blues as much as you were.
Johnny Winter: Naw, he wasn't. But he got to hear as much
of it as I did. We were close, grew up together, and what I heard, he heard
Goldmine: The impression I've gotten in earlier interviews
is that you had to drag him into the blues a little bit.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I did. But he liked Ray Charles,
Bobby Bland, he liked the big band blues.
Goldmine: What did you hear that made you want to pick
up the guitar for the first time.
Johnny Winter: Wow! I was playing the clarinet when I
was young, but the orthodontist told me I was getting an overbite from playing
the clarinet - that's when I was a little kid of about nine or ten - so then
I dropped the clarinet, and started to play the ukelele. We had one around the
house. So I played the ukelele until my hands got big enough to play a guitar.
I guess I was about twelve when I started to play the guitar. Just did imperfect
versions of what I was hearing on the radio.
Goldmine: Did you start off like a lot of musicians of
your generation with Buddy Holly?
Johnny Winter: I started out with Buddy Holly and people
like that. That was before I heard the blues for the first time.
Goldmine: Were you much of an Elvis fan?
Johnny Winter: Yeah. Well, the Old Elvis. I still do love
the Sun Records stuff.
Goldmine: When your first years playing in bars, were
you able to play much blues, or did it not happen until you got a record deal?
Johnny Winter: It didn't even happen then. I played in
black clubs, and I got to playing blues in black clubs with people like B.B.
King and things like that. But mostly I played covers and rock 'n' roll.
Goldmine: Were you accepted by the audiences in black
Johnny Winter: Yeah, they sure did accept me. They sure
did. That was really cool.
Goldmine: Jim Dickinson is a friend of mine, and he's
told stories of sneaking into clubs around Memphis as a young kid to hear black
music, sneaking in the back door and all that. He said he just couldn't understand
why everybody wasn't into it.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, yeah, there weren't any other white
people in those clubs with us except for a couple of my friends.
Goldmine: At least you had those friends. Man, in Beaumont,
you could've been the only one!
Johnny Winter: Yeah, no kiddin', and because I couldn't
drive, I needed somebody to take me out there too.
Goldmine: Jumping forward a little bit, what was it like
when you got that big spread in Rolling Stone, and they singled you out as "?the
hottest item outside of Janis
Johnny Winter: Scary! I just couldn't imagine it, never
expected it, and didn't know it was coming out in advance. All of a sudden there
it was in this magazine.
Goldmine: That led directly to your being signed to Columbia,
didn't it? Were you excited to be on that label, with Dylan and everything?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, it did lead directly to that. I was
very excited to be on Columbia.
Goldmine: Do you still like those first couple of records?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I (very emphatically) like 'em.
Goldmine: You've been on a zillion different labels over
the years. Is there any possibility of there being some kind of comprehensive
boxed set of all the different areas of your career?
Johnny Winter: Record labels don't exactly cooperate with
each other much. CBS has put out a good couple of CD compilations, some of them
have some of the blues and rock 'n' roll records together.
Goldmine: I know our readers are gonna want to know what
you remember about Woodstock. I've been fortunate enough to have seen hours
of footage from the festival that's not been aired, and it seems to me that
most of the bands that played there were too dosed on LSD to perform well. Even
the best of the bands are frequently just not playing that well. But the clip
of you performing "Mean Town Blues" is one of the hottest things from Woodstock.
Johnny Winter: Really? That's good to hear you say that.
Goldmine: You were left out of the film and the original
album. I've heard that was your manager, Steve Paul's doing. Why were you left
out of the film?
Johnny Winter: That was Steve Paul. He didn't think it
was too big of a deal, I guess. He didn't want to do it. I think it did hurt
my career. He didn't think it was going to amount to anything, so we got left
Goldmine: So, what do you remember about Woodstock?
Johnny Winter: Not much, really! We were playing big gigs
like that all of the time around then. That year there were so many pop festivals
going on. Mainly I remember the rain and the mud!
Goldmine: A lot of artists never actually got paid for
Woodstock. Did you get paid?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, we did! We got paid.
Goldmine: Good for you! How did you come to hook up with
the McCoys? They were a teenybopper pop band originally, but I know particularly
towards the end of their career, they were getting heavily into the blues. A
lot of people still fondly remember the Johnny Winter And band.
Johnny Winter: My manager had a place right across the
way from mine. We were living in upstate New York at the time, and he was trying
to help the McCoys out. At that time, they didn't have a manager or a label
any more. They were practicing all the time, and we were practicing all the
time. Then when it came time to get a new band for me, and the blues had finally
kind of run its course in the marketplace?it had been so popular for a while
that nobody cared about it any more. So they (the management and the label)
convinced me that if I didn't do something more commercial, I wasn't going to
have a career anymore. So we decided to break up the band with Tommy (Shannon)
and Red, the McCoys were there. And they were good, and they were nice guys.
They could play blues, too. So we decided to get together and all that.
Goldmine: When I was in college, the Johnny Winter And and the Johnny Winter And Live albums were two that nearly everyone in the fraternity
house listened to, and had copies of.
Johnny Winter: And looking back, those are probably the
two that I care least about.
Goldmine: (Laughing) I was told you would say that.
Johnny Winter: Really?
Goldmine: Why don't you like those albums very much?
Johnny Winter: Well, I do like them OK. I still like rock
'n' roll, I just missed the blues.
Goldmine: We've got a limited amount of time here, so let's
fast forward to the present. I like your new album Live In NYC '97 a great deal.
It's a really good album. You haven't played live in a number of years. Was
this show at the Bottom Line in April, 1997, played specifically to record a
Johnny Winter: Yeah, it was. I picked the songs I wanted
for this album, the ones I liked, not necessarily what anyone else wanted to
hear. I tried to pick ones that hadn't been recorded too much, hadn't been on
too many records. Since I don't write much myself, it's hard to find material
that hasn't been overdone.
Goldmine: How did you come to be involved in the Bob
Dylan anniversary tribute? Almost everyone I know, all the Dylan fans, thought
that your performance was one of the night's very best. Out of all those superstars,
you really surprised a lot of people that night, really blew 'em away!
Johnny Winter: They just asked me to do it. I don't know
why. It sure was fun for me to do it.
Goldmine: Have you ever met Dylan, or did you get to meet
him that night?
Johnny Winter: No, I sure didn't. There were so many people
there. I've never met him.
Goldmine: Were you pleased to see that show come out on
video and record?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I sure was. I was really pleased about
Goldmine: What about the tribute album to the Rolling Stones,
Cover You - were you asked to be a part of that, or did they just license your
track from the label?
Johnny Winter: What's that? I don't know anything about
that. (after I explain what it is to him). They must have just licensed that.
I'm glad to be on it, though.
Goldmine: Have you ever gotten to play with the Rolling
Stones? They seem an obvious band to put you on the bill with them.
Johnny Winter: No, I haven't.
Goldmine: I just saw them two weeks ago in Houston, and
they were just brilliant. One of the best tours I've ever seen 'em do. Are their
any young blues players you've heard that you think will carry on the torch
for future generations like you did?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, there are some good young people I've
heard. I can't really remember some of their names. There's the kid who's related
to Butch Trucks, he's really good. He's from Florida, and he's real good.
Goldmine: Would you ever consider working with Edgar again?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, we definitely will, if we can get
the right kind of deal. We can't make as much money together as we do apart.
Goldmine: Have your parents been very supportive of you
in your career? With your dad being a military man from Mississippi, it must
have been pretty outrageous to him for you to be playing black music.
Johnny Winter: Yeah. They really were very supportive.
They've always been supportive of both of us. The only time they weren't was
when I was very young, about fifteen, and I wanted to be playing in clubs, and
they didn't want me in there. Finally they did let me do it. After that, there
wasn't any turning back, I was on my way.
Goldmine: What did your dad say when you finally had a
Johnny Winter: They were real supportive of it. They couldn't
Goldmine: You're a lucky guy! I've heard you actually get
a new tatto every time you put an album out. That's a funny story, but is it
Johnny Winter: No, that's not true. I haven't gotten one
in a long time.
Goldmine: (laughing) 'Bout run out of room, huh?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I think I've just about had enough
Goldmine: How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
Johnny Winter: It was right before I was forty. I was looking
for something new to do that wasn't self-destructive. Tattoos turned out to
be it. In fact, Keith Ferguson from Austin (the late bass player from the Fabulous
Thunderbirds, LeRoi Brothers, Tailgators, Big Guitars From Texas, etc.)?do you
remember Keith? ("oh yeah") Keith turned me on to it. He died about a year ago.
Anyway, he got one of those spider webs tattooed on, and I watched him get it.
That made me decide that I was gonna try it.
Goldmine: (laughing) Johnny, you've gotta be one of the
only people who ever waited until the age of forty to get his first tattoo?
Johnny Winter: (laughing) I know, I know! I waited a long
time to get one.
Goldmine: One of your fans owns that Strat that you used
to have, the one that Rick
Derringer is wearing on the cover of All American Boy. He wanted to know
where you got it, originally?
Johnny Winter: I don't know, I sure don't. I kept trying
to play Strats because I love their sound, but I just can't.
Goldmine: What kind of guitar are you playing now?
Johnny Winter: A Lazer, designed by a guy named Mark Erlewine,
of Austin. I play that mainly, and a Gibson Firebird for slide.
Goldmine: Who influenced you to start playing slide?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I was. Robert Johnson and Son House
were the main influences, they turned me on to it.
Goldmine: Weren't you self-taught? What did you use for
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I was self-taught. Man, I used all
kinds of things. I used test tubes, pieces of test tubes, pieces of pipe?but
nothing worked right until I played in Denver. And a guy from Denver named Morris
Tiding turned me on to a piece of conduit pipe - a 12-foot piece we got from
a plumbing supply place. And I'm still using that same piece of pipe now that
I used back then. I just saw off another piece of it every time I need a new
Goldmine: Really? That's amazing.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, it's just a piece of pipe.
Goldmine: Unbelievable! The same piece! Well, do you play
with a regular pick?
Johnny Winter: No, I play with thumb picks.
Goldmine: Was it Muddy who turned you on to thumb picks?
(continuing to display my ignorance of guitar player lore)
Johnny Winter: Naw, it was Merle Travis, mostly. There
was a guy in Beaumont who gave me a few lessons who turned me on to finger picks
(sorry readers, I can't make out that name on the tape). I got turned on to
Chet Atkins, too, and he used one. You can't get the right sound on that Chet
Atkins/Merle Travis stuff without it.
Goldmine: Merle Travis is just an amazing player. I got
turned on to him through old kinescopes from Tex Ritter's Ranch Party.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, he's great.
Goldmine: Are there any new players you really like?
Johnny Winter: I still like the old stuff: Muddy, Wolf,
Little Walter, Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, all those people.
Goldmine: What are some of the most memorable moments in
your career? I'd imagine working with Muddy was at the top of the heap.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, getting to work with Muddy was definitely
one of the best moments. And making the first CBS record was a big moment. Making
the first Dart record really wiped me out, hearing myself on the radio. It definitely
turned me on.
Goldmine: If you had to pick three favorite records of
yours, which would they be?
Johnny Winter: The first record, Johnny Winter is one of
my favorites. Still Alive And Well is my favorite of the rock 'n' roll records.
And Let Me In, the one on Point Blank, is one of my favorites.
Goldmine: At this point, what would you like to say about
working with Muddy
Johnny Winter: I just loved it. I loved Muddy, and working
with him was one of the high points of my career.
Goldmine: When you were working on the Grammy-winning Hard
Again with Muddy in 1977, is it true that many of those songs were recorded
on the first take?
Johnny Winter: A lot of it was. We didn't hardly ever do
more than two or three takes.
Goldmine: Do you like working that fast?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I do.
Goldmine: If you get a take that has the right feel, are
you happy with that, as opposed to a take where every note is played perfectly?
Johnny Winter: If it's got the right feel, that's the main
Goldmine: If you had to pick your favorite records of all
time by other people, what would they be?
Johnny Winter: Wow. Muddy
Waters ' first record, The Best of Muddy
Waters , The Best of Little Walter, there's a Bobby Bland record called
Two Steps From The Blues that's one of my favorites.
Goldmine: Are you lookin' forward to playing at the South
By Southwest (SXSW) Conference here in Austin in a few weeks?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I am. (at which point I tell him all
about the venue he's playing in, Stubb's, a new version of a classic joint famous
for its blues and barbeque, with a large outdoor stage).
Goldmine: Is your health good enough now that you are going
to be able to be able to do some extensive touring this year for the first time
in a long while?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, it is, I'm feeling really good now.
Goldmine: A final question from a fan, have you ever thought
about adding any acoustic numbers, maybe on your National Steel, into your live
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I have. I've actually thought about
that a lot over the years. It's very hard for me to do acoustic numbers on stage.
It just doesn't feel right to me somehow. I can't hear my guitar the way I would
want to. But I have thought about doing that a lot, and I talk about it all
the time, maybe one day I will do it.
Goldmine: (after promising to run some vintage Howlin'
Wolf clips for him and give it to him at the Austin show) Well, I know I've
exceeded my allotted time for an interview here a bit, but we really do appreciate
you're taking the time to talk with us. I know your fans will be excited to
hear from you again after so long.
Johnny Winter: Yeah, I think we've about covered it.
Goldmine: One last thing, we're putting you in a Southern
Rock issue, but I've never really identified you with that genre. Have you ever
considered your music to be Southern Rock?
Johnny Winter: No, not really. Maybe somewhat with the
rock 'n' roll stuff with the McCoys, around there a bit. (both laughing)
Goldmine: Well, you did jam with the Allman
Brothers at the Atlanta
Pop Festival in 1970. What was that like?
Johnny Winter: Yeah, that was great. I really enjoyed it.
I loved Duane's playing - he was great. I'm sure there must be tapes of that
somewhere, but I haven't ever gotten one. Nobody's ever given one to me.
Guitarist Magazine Apr 1998 France
An extensive interview with Johnny Winter.
The announcement of the release of the album Johnny Winter
Live in NYC 1997
Friday, 1 May 1998 - Fillmore, also Eric
I just saw Johnny last nite at the filmore. I'm glad I
went, it was worth every penny. and the 3 hr. drive. I talked to a guy in line
who flew down from Seattle to see him and left his spouse at home cause he could
only get one ticket.
Here are my views as honestly as I can and still call
myself a loyal, supportive fan.
I was shocked!! Even though I've read all the posts about
his condition and I beleived that I was prepared. His feeble side to side sway
that he did even when not playing. He still played with the confidence of a
master even though he missed notes. He did let out one powerful growl of a "yeah"
that put the crowd into a frenzy.
He had fleeting moment of disorientation after Just A
Little Bit. When he looked at his watch he moved his wrist up to his face very
slowly. With all these things I noticed I still couldn't tell if he seemed happy
Let me be clear. I was not disappointed. I was in the
presence of greatness. I left the theater feeling the same way I felt when I
left St. Peters Square after seeing the Pope.
Denise and I managed to snag seats when we got in. We
met a bubbly albino girl who was sitting in the handicapped seats next to us
cause of her eyesight. She lived in the Haight-Ashbury a few blocks away. She
was excited about getting up to the stage and getting Johnnys attention, she
was trying to coax her friend "she was albino also" into going up there with
her. With a little extra coaxing from us the two girls finally headed up there.
It was quite heartwarming.
Like I said; I'm glad I went. Anybody who is procrastinating
about going to see Johnny because of what you read about him or what Slatus's
motives are, just go see him, support him. Hopefully he's enjoying us just as
I forgot to voice my appreciation for Mark Epstein. His
affection of Johnny really showed. He was almost acting as Johnnys nurse/aide
at the same time he was performing. I saw no signs of worry or exasperation
in Marks eyes, just caring and support. I didn't notice Slatus so I can't comment
on his attitude but the whole group seemed to have an aura of love, not not
I'm a long time Johnny Winter fan and last night I had
the opportunity to go see him at the Fillmore after not having heard a lot about
him for many years. The last concert I saw of his was at a"day on the Green"
at the Oakland Coliseum. I'm from the Bay Area and during the 70's he played
a number of times at Winterland and I saw him there also. This concert at the
Coliseum was memorable because Edgar
Winter and his band were there also and at one point the two played one
of the most incredible sets I can ever remember hearing. In his prime Johnny
was incredible to watch and to hear. But ultimately, it was his blues playing
style that gave him his roots. I learned much about the blues as a teenager
listening to Johnny Winter. I remember how it was with him then.
Last night's concert at the Fillmore was really a shockk
in the sense that Johnny shuffled, not bounded out onto the stage. His gait
was that of an 80 year old man, his voice nearly gone, his movements sparse
and small. He seems to be in the grip of s major health problem and it was very
apparent that, whatever it is thaat has gotten a hold of him, will probably
not let him go. In spite of this initial shock however, one thing can truly
be said: The blues came through as a strong, sure beam of light shining through
blackk clouds. His arm movements were sparse, but his playing was steadfast
and sure. He sustained notes longer and with a level of straightforward clarity
that was unequalled in any performance of ANY type that I've seen by ANYBODY
in the last 10 years. I managed to get down right in front of the stage and
could watch him play up close. As a a fellow musician myself, I drank in the
music. Without the flash, without the rock, without the theatrics, it was just
Johnny and the music of his soul. It was wonderful!
The introductory act was Eric Sardinas, personnifying
what Johnny would have been like 20 years ago. Eric's band was tight, his lickks
flashy;HE was flashy, in many ways a young Johnny Winter prototype, sent out
to us for an hour to loosen us up.
The crowd was real supportive and called him out for two
encores, which along with the set, had him out on stage for an hour and a half.
The few idiots who were too testosterone and alcohol filled to do anything but
yell,"let's rock and roll!", were quickly silenced by the onlookers around them,
and soon were also giving this great musical legend the respect he deserved.
The most poignant moment for me came at the end of the encore, when he suddenly
did a little twirl and attempted to give one of his trademark growls. There
wasn't a dry eye around. We cheered for a long time!!!!
I don't know what's going on with him now, but as someone
who has been down the road of addiction myself, the price we pay for our past
actions is often very high. But he still could play that guitar, and in my opinion,
better than ever!!!!!
Atfter reading some of the other ones I felt compelled
to write, It was an honer and privillage to see him one more time, true he has
slowed down a bit, but he will always be one the best Gunslingers I've ever
seen!! He did the NYC line-up with a few new wrinkels, He deserves alot better
than that idiot he has on bass right now, and they are very protective of him
and I see why,he seems very Fraile at this stage in his Life, and that manager
doesnt give a shit about the fans or Johnny Winter hes just lookin for another pay day
in my opionon, he directed the whole show from the side lines I've never seen
anything like it.In closing the place was sold out of course, and the crowd
gave Johnny Winter the respect he so richly deserves, at one point I actully saw him crack
a smile, We love you Johnny Winter and wish you the very best!!!
I am very sad.
I went tho see my hero (Johnny Winter) last night, and
saw a very ill man. He was'nt the Johnny I have seen in the past. He was a very
week, slow and fragile man.
I am glad I went; although, I feel I have seen him for
the last time.
Please keep this Web sight going. Johnny has been a very
big influence on my guitar playing and my music. I will do what I have to do
to support this man in his (what looks like and feels like) his final days.
Bay Area, Ca
Johnny's performance last night at the Fillmore was both
fantastic and quite a shock for us diehard Winter fans.
Johnny began his peformance at 10:30 and played to Midnight.
The show included all the Live in NYC 97 songs, in order, and Sick & Tired.
As many fans have reported, Johnny is terribly emaciated, and appeared disoriented
during parts of the gig. In addition one side of the stages vocal amps were
out for the last half of the show.
While it was a pleasure to see my favorite musician last
night, it was heartbreaking to see him in his current physical condition. Ironically
I first saw Johnny 25 years ago (5/26/73), one block from the Fillmore at Winterland.
The Winterland show was the "Still Alive & Well" return tour. What a difference
the years make.
Anyway, I stongly suggest that any & all Johny Winter
fans see him soon, as I strongly doubt his health will permit him to continue.
But be prepared for your emotions after seeing him.
Greg Stahl - San Jose CA
Saw Johnny Winter last night at the Fillmore West(May
1,1998) Excellent show. The first Johnny Winter show I saw was also at the Fillmore
West(Feb 26,1970). I was a little sadden about his state of health,he does not
look well. I have not heard of any health problems,but I wish him all the best.His
music moves us all.
before I left my house last friday evening I spoke to
fellow postee Mr Foster , if by any chance I was able to score a ticket to the
already sold out show I was hoping to meet Steve and his bud Ron. I drove 80
miles up to San francisco , by the time I found a parking spot it was about
8,45pm and headed right for the corner mob ,seemed like there were more people
looking for tickets then scalpers, I started to sweat it but I found 1 ticket
for 50 bucks and went for it , the last time I was at the Filmore had to been
10 years ago John Mayall opened up For Johnny that night , I was prepared for
the worst after reading the latest reviews . The opening act Eric
Sardinas I thought was pretty good and got the crowd moving he looked like
a cross between Slash and Ted Nugent, but played like Johnny did 10 years ago
and slide great Roy Rogers. the guy was full of energy and during the set left
the stage and went thru the crowd, Its was the first Johnny Winter show I have been to
where the chants of JOHNNY JOHNNY did not occur as they normally do for the
opening act, between sets I went up stairs and looked for a big guy wearing
a ball cap with Johnnys towing on it I figured it was a long shot but tried
anyway, I spotted the hat and met Ron and then a few minutes later met Steve,
it was probably the highlight of the evening, now for the Johnny performance
, I thought I was prepared for the worst after reading past reviews. During
hideaway I almost left , I could not believe this was Johnny playing it was
much worse from what I had read , In the 20 years I have seen Johnny I have
never felt as awkward as I did the other night, I began to feel sorry for the
2 other guys on stage who kept trying to guess when each song might end, I hated
to see my guitar hero struggle just to walk , the crowd cheered loud on occassions
but I believe most people did it out of respect for the man. Johnny is definetly
to sick to keep this up I would not be surprised if this is his last tour, I
think Steve might be right about Teddy, he seems to be holding together a mess
, which I believe will end soon, I just read the post about him playing on HOB
this week if it is televised I will watch it but I think I just went to my last
I saw Johnny play at the Fillmore in SF friday night.
I am only 23 years old and have not had the experience
that some other contributors to your web site have had. This was the first live
Johnny show I had seen, but I have been listening to his incredible music for
years now, and have seen his shows on TV, and I am a big big fan. What I saw
last night from the very front was terrible. This was not Johnny, but a mere
shadow of him. The fragile man I saw in front of me OBVIOUSLY does not belong
on stage. He belongs in a hospital. Many reviews I have read say the same. He
looked so out of it, eyes closed - it just wasn't human to let him on stage.
I can't express how heartbroken I felt looking at his sad face.
I am writing to you not just to express my feelings but
to ask for your help. As a Johnny fan you may feel the same. Is Johnny being
led around by others (his manager?) He obviously has got to be helped immediately
or he will die. What can we do? Is there anyone out there who can help? Is there
anyone to turn to? Can we get in touch with Slatus? How can we raise awareness
of Johnny's terrible situation? Friday night I thought this was a one-night
thing, that Johnny was just on drugs or something, but after reading peoples'
reviews of his other shows this year, I feel certain that he needs help immediately.
I've been a Johnny fan since "Second Winter" came out,
and have seen him live many times. This was the best I've seen him. During the
first song I realized he had little energy and had lost his ability to "fly"
on the guitar. I was quite concerned he was going to make a fool of himself.
But from the second song on his music moved me to a joyous spiritual state.
At past shows Johnny would play every riff he knew during the first two songs.
He would play so many damn notes without stopping I sometimes became quite board.
At the Fillmore he used his mind, not his once incredible ability and speed.
He listened to the tone of his guitar, chose his notes skillfully and climaxed
at the appropriate times. For the first time I've seen him, he wasn't in a hurry.
I kept thinking, he is a master. Steve Stover.
Saturday, 2 May 1998, VENTURA, CA.
Sunday, 3 May 1998, Ventura Theatre, SANTA ANA, CA.
f Johnny does in fact read fan mail, I hope he reads this
one. I first saw Johnny in 73' and five times since then. My car carries nothing
but Johnny Winter CD's and SRV.
We just got home from seeing Johnny in ( Ventura, Ca 5-3-97
), and I became so sad about the evening I had to write this. Johnny was so
frail that walking seemed to be a problem for him. Ventura Theater is a great
indoor club and the temperature was perfect so cold was not a factor. During
the performance, Johnny never looked down at his guitar, even once. I think
the lights bothered him. He did look at his watch once so he can definitely
see. The voice and energy are completely gone. He ended it fast ( about an hour
) and I think his fingers might have been hurting him. There were many blank
looks during Winter, maybe because we had just seen a guitar animal ( Eric Sardoni
) Wow. Towards the end Johnny actual did a slow 360 spin and had a big smile
on his face, which was great to see.
The sad part is that someone is telling him he's kicking
ass, but what they are doing is taking advantage of a sickly Legend and making
money from it. If Johnny needs money badly we would be doing him a favor by
purchasing his new CD. I feel that he's given the blues to us like no other,
and its time for him to start taking care of his health.
When I wake up in the morning I will remember Johnny as
I used to, not the way I just saw him last.
Monday, 4 May 1998, SAN DIEGO, CA
I saw Johnny Winter last night here in San Diego, CA. I was devastated at the
man's condition. He looked and moved like a zombie.
He played the exact set off of the recently released Live In N.Y.C. What a weak
performance. And I have seen almost every appearance by him since the early/mid
The opening song (Freddie King's) Hideaway was played as an extended version.
The same song structure and riffs were played 3 times in a row!
There was no fire in him. It was obviously hard work for him to play.
As a guitarist much influenced by him, I am very familiar his playing style
and the scope of his works. The performance was a memorized routine, played
I am staring to wonder if he is being lead around as a medicated puppet to make
money for others off his great name. God help Johnny Winter.
This was my first Johnny Winter concert, and I was shocked
at his poor physical condition. He looked thin and frail -- strungout. There
was an audible gasp from the audience of a few hundred as he began the show
by trying to adjust the mic stand and needed assistance.
While he's playing was certainly good, it somehow lacked
the spark and of his records. He played for about 85 minutes, standing in the
same spot, swaying gently, with his eyes closed. He played the Lazer and Gibson
Firebird guitars mentioned in the Goldmine article.
Sardinas band opened with a very energetic set, also recorded.
Wednesday, 6 May 1998, HOLLYWOOD, CA.
Thursday, 7 May 1998, HOB House Of Blues, HOLLYWOOD, CA.
I've been reading with horror all the bad reviews about
Johnny's most recent concerts, so I decided to check it out for myself. I've
been a musician for over 30 years, and have been playing bass for over 22 years.
Last night was a disappointment, and would have been a shock had I not read
the reviews on this page. Johnny looks like a 75 year old man that has suffered
through years of heroin abuse and perhaps resultant hepatitis. He also appears
to have the beginnings of what appears to be Parkinson's disease. I'm no doctor,
but I call it like I see it. As he shuffled out on stage I wasn't sure if he
was going to make it or fall. He grabbed his Lazer and started the first song.
It was evident that the band had done some rehearsing and the transition from
the blues 4/4 feel to the swing feel on I think what must have been "Hideaway"
was smooth. The song went on for what seemed like 10 minutes, Johnny just playing
the same licks over and over. His playing was sloppy and behind the beat. Many
times through the first four tunes, both Mark, the bass player, and the drummer
had to cover for Johnny's many rythmic stumbles. I don't envy Mark at all; He's
got one of the toughest Bass jobs I could possibly imagine-holding everything
together with glue and tape, wondering how long it's gonna hold. I went to the
show last night with the two guitarists from the Blues band I'm playing with,
and we were all so ashamed, we left early, after about 5 or 6 songs. I'd say
realistically that Johnny's playing is about 10-15% of what it used to be. His
weight must be down around 90 lbs. or so and unless he gets some medical help/intervention,
I can't see him being with us much longer. He belongs in a hospital bed or rest
home, and Teddy Slatus should be shining shoes or parking cars. I'm glad I saw
Johnny for what will surely be the last time, but I'm, a little angry that I
had to pay so much for tickets, parking, beers and such. For a total of 50 or
so dollars I would expect a first rate show from a performer in top form. What
I got last night was just the opposite.
Well, I just finished watching Johnny live on the net!
It was not as bad as I feared - his encore pulled it out for him, IMHO.
Johnny seemed to move around OK - and his singing was
good. He did a lot from the Live cd and Sick and Tired. He even introduced the
songs with the same words he uses on the cd! At one point I wondered if it weren't
the cd being played live!
It seemed like a short show - under an hour. His playing
in Black Jack seemed off - it seemed like he missed a lot of notes - but I am
not a guitar player and may be wrong. I was hoping that he would say Hello to
fans on the Internet, but he did not mention it as far as I can tell.
So, I was not disappointed - and it was great to see Johnny
live again - even in the poor video quality. He did not look as bad as some
recent reviews have described - yet, a whole lot of the man's spirit is gone.
But hell, for all the thousands of hours of music pleasure he has given me,
I would be willing to pay just to be in the same room with him!
Best, Steve Williamson
Caught Johnny's show last night at the House of Blues.
First off, HOB is a beautiful club, a state of the art facility. I was looking
forward to seeing Johnny again since he hasn't been through LA since '92 when
he played at The Palace which was a fantastic show! I was definitely apprehensive
at what I might see after reading all the negative things that people had written
about Johnny's health and playing. He came on stage at 10:30 after an opening
set by Corey Stevens. As far as his looks go he really didn't look any different
than the last time I had seen him but he did move very slowly and cautiously.
I turned to my friends during Hideaway and told them I felt Johnny must be going
blind, he never looked down at his guitar even once. If he can see it must be
very limited. I believe this lack of vision is what some people are mistaking
for feebleness. As far as his playing goes he has definitely slowed down, he
plays at about 50% of the speed he played with during his glory days. However
he still plays with exceptional taste! Johnny is STILL BETTER than 90% of the
guitar players playing today. During Hideaway he missed about 10 notes which
is 9 more than he missed in the previous 20 times I had seen him since the mid
70's. With every song he became more and more comfortable in his playing. Now
for some of the highlights of the show, his version of "Sick & Tired" which
was vintage Johnny! Also he treated us to some trademark Winter growls of "Allright
& you got it people!" between a few of the songs. The crowd loved it. Believe
me, his voice is far from shot. His slide work on "The Sun is Shining" was very
good. He encored with "Johnny Guitar" which rocked and had alot of people in
the crowd singing along. He finished the show with "Drop the Bomb" which had
people dancing! I must mention his bass player Mark Epstein excellent! I couldn't
tell if that was Tom Compton on the drums, (he wore a hat) but the drumming
was superb. All and all it was great to see Johnny again even though he has
slowed down. Hey, we're all getting older. If you get a chance to go see the
man I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Aaron , La Verne, CA.
Friday, 8 May 1998 - Johnny Winter Immortalized
Last but not least, rock legend Johnny Winter will
be the latest performer to be immortalized on Hollywood's
Rockwalk. The guitarist, brother to fellow rocker Edgar Winter,
will be inducted at a ceremony on May 8 in Hollywood, California
Sunday, 10 May 1998, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA.
Monday, 11 May 1998, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA.
Wednesday, 13 May 1998, SANTA ANA, CA.
From "The Packet & Times", July 3rd, 1998:
".... The fact is, he does not look very healthy. His
eyesight is failing, which doesn't mean that should prevent him from performing
should he choose to. He does look frail. I'm surprised that he played for as
long as he did. He even came back for two encores, playing two tunes in the
latter. There were times in the early going that he drifted from the tempo,
or lost rhythm with his bandmates, but I and the crowd of five hundred were
quite willing to overlook that. Niney percent of the time he was amazing, truly
a master. Listening to him play is to understand where other blues guitarists
get their inspiration from. I don't understand why the arena wasn't more crowded.
His performance was outstanding."
Written by John Swartz
I just saw J.W. play at the Ottawa Citizen Blues festival.
He was the headline act for the evening and was proceeded by Coco Montoya (talented,
and humorous!), and Wide Mouth Manson (very young band from mid-west Canada,
very talented singer, excellent live group, very energetic). About 10:30 pm
they brought J.W. out with a drummer, and bass player (sorry didn't catch the
names). I was stunned (to say the least) at how utterly feeble he looked, so
skinny, and he walked like someone with Parkinsons/alhiemers (lots of little
shuffly steps)... He was wearing a texas style hat, which conveniently covered
his perpetually closed eyes. The bass/drums were solid, and I was quite surprised
to find J.W. played well enough to hold the crowd (a very large one at that
~1000 people?). His songs tended to last 15 minutes each, very formulated style,
lots of repeated playing patterns, with noticable trouble with the finer/faster
fingerwork. All in all he played about an hour, and did some singing with some
difficulty in clarity. I don't know J.W.'s discography, and didn't get all the
names of the songs, but I think he played for about an hour 5-6 songs.
There you have it, a very loose review of his latest performance.
I'm glad I got to see him, but it's a shame it wasn't in his prime performance
years. I understand he's only in his mid 50's, but he does look about 20/25
years older. I understand Albino's have difficulties in general, but I'm sure
this was more a case of lifestyle catching up with him. I hear his brother is
of a more sturdy consitution, I wouldn't mind seeing him, if he till tours.
Check out the line up at the Blue's fest (ottawa citizen
blues), it's quite a line up. I'm very happy were able to have the second largest
festival in north-america, right in my own home town!
July 2nd Ottawa Citizen Bluesfest
I just got back to work today and was able to cancel a
couple of meetings, so I have time to do a proper review (I hope). On tap Thursday
at Confederation Park in Ottawa were: Trevor Findlay Band, Coco Montoya, Wide
Mouth Mason and Johnny Winter. Briefly, the Trevor Findlay band deserves more
recognition - hot guitar player, good vocals, tight band. Coco Montoya is a
fine guitar player and a great singer - he's improved since I saw him in 1992
with Mayall. He said at the beginning of his set that he was really excited
about the Trevor Findaly band and said "I gotta get my ass in gear" - and he
did. Great set. Wide Mouth Mason is a young band (everyone's about 20). They
did a mixed bag of stuff - some blues, some not (also, Hendrix's Castles in
the Sand). Lots of potential. Now on to Johnny.....
I'm 43 and I've been a Johnny Winter fan since 1968. I've seen him
15 times over the years and have always left being inspired to play better myself.
The world has few people I really admire and Johnny Winter is my one and only hero. I'd
go see him no matter what. Having said all this, this is the first time I was
ever bored at a Johnny Winter show.
Johnny came on stage at about 10:15 and played till 11:30pm.
He seemed to be walking normally and at a decent speed. Yeah, the guy with the
flashlight was there, but he's always there. Johnny Winter plugged in his own guitar, adjusted
his own mike (things I've heard he had trouble doing recently) and then as soon
as he started noodling to warm up his fingers, he started to rock from left
to right like a wind-up bathtubby toy. He never stopped doing this.
He started out with Hideaway, played at a slow tempo.
He missed a lot of notes even at this slow speed. I hoped it was just because
he was warming up. He moved on to "Sen-say-shun/Got my mojo working" and seemed
to be playing a little better, although it was still a very slow tempo. He seemed
tentative. My buddy (also a guitar player) and I were trying to decide if he
was off the beat sometimes or Mark Epstein the bass player was at fault. We
decided they both were sometimes. Most of the solos Johnny Winter was playing were almost
identical and sounded as if they were memorized. His tone, which has always
been trebly, was too abrasive on the bass strings. He could roll back the treble
a bit without any arguments from me.
The true test came on "(she likes to) Boogie Real Low"
- I was floored. I hadn't heard the familiar growl "yeah!!!" yet and I never
did. He basically mumbled his way through the words, talking more than singing
and shouting. His vocal timing was off and the tune was at about three quarters
the speed of the studio version. He tried to play a signature riff (listen to
It ain't your Business beginning) which is repeated twice. He tried it at 3
different times in the tune and couldn't nail it! It also sounded like he forgot
what he'd done in this tune, because he sang the whole thing 3 times and didn't
seem to know how to end it. He then played "Sick and tired" and again the vocals
were painfully weak. He missed a lot of notes and the band spent a lot of time
doing these really boring vamps that went nowhere and then they'd all drift
back into the song.
Blackjack Game was so boring because of all the vamping
going on I almost couldn't stand it. The vocals were sung too high and the tune
itself ran on for 15 minutes without really going anywhere - again the vocals
were repeated several times. By this time many of the 500 or so people in front
of me had left, so I was able to get closer to take some pictures which I'll
post when the film's developed.
This was it. He was then cheered back for an encore and
did "The Sun is shining" and for the first time that night he sounded almost
like the Johnny Winter I know and love. Great (almost flawless) slide work on his Firebird
V, although the vocals were still the same - no growl, no raspiness, no life
to them at all. He and the flashlight guy them left the stage to much (deserved)
I have a few more observations for those that are still
with me. He seems to be reaching a new audience - there were a lot of kids there
who had never heard him that were still blown away, so that's great. And he's
still got that great, wide vibrato. Johnny didn't look any different to me than
he did in 1992 (or on the Dylan tribute in 93?), but his voice is very weak
and his guitar playing has really suffered. There were a couple of flashes of
the old Johnny in a couple of the tunes, but he couldn't sustain any speed and
his playing was not clean. He still has a remarkable command of blues turnarounds
and obviously still loves to play, but he's not the same. He seems to have lost
the coordination between his picking hand and his fretting hand. The slide playing
is still great, but that's a different type of coordination involved. Physically,
he appears to be in a little better shape than others have described, but if
he is on the mend, he has a long way to go guitar-wise. I went home the next
morning, and put 5 Johnny Winter cds in the player (Johnny Winter, Still Alive and Well, White Hot
and Blue, 3rd Degree and Let me In) and just lay there and enjoyed what he used
to be. Would I go see him again? Until he can't do it anymore, I'll be there.
I reread this and it sounds like I'm trashing him - I'm not. I'm trying to give
an accurate view of what I heard and saw. I've seen him 15 times, so I do have
some perspective on what a Johnny Winter live show is all about. I have too much love and
respect for him to do anything other than give my best attempt at an objective
Saturday, 4 July 1998 Quebec City - L'Agora Du Viuex Port
Sunday, 5 July 1998, Montreal
The Montreal International Jazz Festival will
set a double program "A night in Texas" with Johnny Winter and Jimmie
Vaughan. Each with his own band. This will be at the Metropolis, 59
Ste-Catherine Est, Montréal on July the fifth.
I saw Johnny last night in Guelph, Ontario. Overall it
was a good show. I normally catch him in Toronto (where he is tonight), but
when I found out he was coming to Guelph, I choose that location because it's
closer. Because Guelph is a small center, I expected the venue to be small dump.
When we got there, to my suprise, the place was a converted movie theatre (called
Club Denim)with a huge, high stage and was packed with 2000 people! We went
up to the second level balony and had a great view, if a little far back. Paul
James, a staple for years on the Toronto scene opened doing a solo acoustic
set of mainly Robert Johnson stuff. He was really good playing bass parts with
his thumb, melody with his fingers, singing, even some harp. After about 4 tunes
it got little boring though. Johnny came on to thunderous applause. His tone
was excellent, ballsy and nice and loud. He played the NYC set in order subing
"Sick & Tired " for "Just A Little Bit". He didn't do "The Sky Is Crying". He
did some very cool leads that I'd never heard before, really nice, as well as
a lot of his signature stuff. His execution was smooth and clean. At times he
was very fast. They did some nice rythm changes, and new parts in some tunes.
Each tune was very long, that's nothing new, and would have been OK except Johnny Winter
was repeticious. He'd use over and over (4 X in Sen-Sa-Shun) certain theme riffs.
It was a bit like NYC, but when the tune should end, back to the beginning again.
He'd be better to do double the tunes, half the length. His voice was pretty
much like NYC, maybe a little weaker. He made a couple of flubs, but nothing
major, and recovered fast. Tempo was a little slow on some tunes. He was a little
stiff going on & off stage and changing guitars. Most disturbing to me was the
side to side rocking, that he did constantly, even when not playing. I don't
know what causes him to do this, but it's weird. Anyway everyone seemed to love
everything he did, and from conversations I overheard, they were impressed.
Some grumbled that the set was short. He wasn't like 93, but still pretty good.
I think I caught him on an "on" night.
Wednesday, 8 July 1998 Toronto - Phoenix Concert
I have been a Johnny Winter fan since I first heard the
opening notes of 'Rock Me Baby' on 'Still Alive and Well' at thirteen years
of age in 1972. There have been several other players who I have loved to listen
to over the years, Jeff Beck, Jimi, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee and Eric Clapton
being the most notable. When it comes to blues and high energy rock, none of
these greats impacted me as much as Johnny. Johnny intoduced me to the blues.
I have seen him live 3 times prior this show. I have never seen any one else
play with the power and feel that Johnny demonstrated during these shows.
A group of eight of us attended the show at the Phoenix.
We were about 30' from the stage in a sold out room. The opening band was okay,
a very attractive female singer with a Joplinesque voice doing mostly covers.
I never did quite get her name, but they were an adequate opening act.
I have read the other postings on this sight regarding
Johnny's health, but felt that perhaps they were overstated, I mean Johnny in
his prime always looked more like a white haired 'Olive Oyl' than a Schwarzenegger.
I found his appearance to be the same as the previous times that I had seen
him, but his mannerisms were nothing like what I remember. It is quite obvious
that he is now almost completely blind, which would account for the side to
side sway that has been noted in so many other reviews. Can you say Ray Charles
and Stevie Wonder? His playing is what was most disturbing to me. The man who
I had seen on previous occassions was not there. 'Hideaway' was slow and repetitive.
'Got my Mojo Working' was a little better, but once again lacked the Johnny's
trademark energy. It was not until he did the slow 12 bar 'Black Jack' that
I got any enjoyment out of the show, although it lacked the blistering leads
that Johnny used to play, it did have some very nice progressions and the feel
that Johnny has always had was once again evident. He finally pulled out the
Gibson Firebird and demonstrated that even though he can't (doesn't?) play like
he once did, he is still the finest slide player the world has ever seen. His
encores 'Johnny Guitar' and another that I can't remember were okay, and most
of the crowd seemed to be into it by then. Johnny's Bass player and drummer
were rock solid.
I have very mixed feelings about this show. If I had heard
this band in a bar without knowing who they were I probably would have enjoyed
it very much. But because I have heard Johnny live and have been electrified
on these occassions, I feel that Johnny is past it. One of the guys who attended
the show with me and had also seen Johnny in the early seventies agreed that
he wasn't the same performer but was very satisfied just to be in the same room
as a legend. If you look at it from this viewpoint, Johnny can still be gratifying,
but I wish that I had not attended and instead kept the memories of past shows,
when he was the greatest live guitarist who I have ever seen.
JOHNNY Saturday, 11 July 1998, Johnny WInter at Pittsburg Blues Festival
WINTER ADDED TO 1998 PITTSBURGH BLUES FESTIVAL
PITTSBURGH -- Blues icon Johnny Winter has been added
to the 1998 Pittsburgh Blues Festival as the headliner for Saturday, July
11, 1998. This will be Winter's first Pittsburgh appearance in five years.
The Pittsburgh Blues Festival is an annual three-day
event celebrating the best in national and local blues music. In addition
to presenting outstanding musical entertainment, the Festival serves as
a major fund-raising event for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
The event has raised more than $80,000 to feed the hungry since its inception.
Diversity will be the buzzword for this year's event.
Other headliners for this year's event include Susan Tedeschi (July 10),
and the Brian Setzer Orchestra (July 12). Additional national recording
artists scheduled to appear are Los Straitjackets, The Atomic Fireballs,
Five Blind Boys from Alabama, Big Dave & the Ultrasonics and Jimmy Thackery
& the Drivers. Several local blues bands will also be featured performers.
Over a career spanning 30 years, Winter has
developed a fiercely loyal following across the globe. His most recent album
-- Live in NYC '97 -- was developed as a tribute to his fans. Winter polled
his fan club members and asked them to choose the songs for the live album.
He will now bring that renowned live show to the Pittsburgh Blues Festival.
"Adding Johnny Winter to this year's Festival
is a real coup for us," explained Ron "Moondog" Esser, musical director
for the event. "Whether you count Grammy nominations or sold out shows,
he has had a great run for more than 30 years. If you haven't seen him play,
you really need to get out to the Amphitheatre for this one. Johnny Winter
and Brian Setzer in one weekend...that's quite a show!"
For additional information on the Pittsburgh
Blues Festival, call 412/673-BLUE. For more information on the Greater Pittsburgh
Community Food Bank, call 412/672-4949.
Prices: $10 Friday, $10 Saturday, $12 Sunday
Tentative opening times
2:00 on Sunday
T-Shirts, etc. will be sold.
Readmittance will be permitted.
Autographed guitars will be raffled.
Fun will be had.
Guitar and Bass No 53 (France) July/August 1998
A Blues special explaining the guitar rechniques of the blues masters like:
Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Jimmy Page, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chuck Berry,
Freddie King, Johnny Winter, David Gilmour,
Peter Green, Robben Ford and T-Bone Walker. Johnny Winters blues guitar playing technique and tabs
is explained on page 40 and 41
Guitar and Bass No 53 (France) July/August 1998
S'il faut souffrir pour bien jouer le blues, John
Dawson Winter III avait un maximum de chances
de devenir bon. Albinos, doté d'un fort strabis
me, bégayant et maigre comme un clou, le bon
dieu des bluesmen l'avait sacrément chargé
I vient au monde en 44
dans le triangle d'or du
Texas, cette région du sud-ouest encadrée de villes comme Beaumont, Port Arthur et Orange, qui est particulièrement prospère : pétrole, construction navale, plantations de riz et pèche à la crevette ont attiré depuis un siècle des ouvriers de toutes ethnies. Leur apport en main-d'oeuvre fut certainement dépassée par leur apport culturel et surtout musical. Petit Johnny et son frère Edgar, tous deux plus blancs que blancs, grandissent musicalement dans ce brassage de courants musicaux. Après avoir tâté de la clarinette et du ukulele, Johnny passe à un instrument bien plus passionnant. Le père des garçons, musicien à ses heures, permet tout à ses fils rejetés par tous leurs camarades, même quand ils commencent à traîner dans les quartiers noirs ou pire, quand ils traversent la frontière vers la Louisiane pour déguster l'alcool et le blues. Avec Edgar, son frère cadet, albinos comme lui, il fonde le groupe "Johnny and the Jammers" et à peine âgé de 15 ans, il sort l'album "School Day Blues" qui ne laisse déjà aucun doute sur son talent de guitariste. Rejettés par le public blanc qui ne leur pardonne pas qu'on se compromette avec la musique des Noirs, et pas tout à fait acceptés par les gens de couleur à
cause de leur apparence d'albinos, les frangins essayent finalement une autre formule plus r&b qui se nomme cette fois-ci "Johnny & the Black Plague". Malgré quelques succès d'estime, Johnny Winter ne rêve que de jouer du blues, et il part en Louisiane avec un groupe professionnel "The Gents", puis en 62 à Chicago pour être dans la ville de ses
idoles : Muddy Waters et Howlin 'Wolf.
Des problèmes de drogue font avancer sa carrière en dents de scie et les disques alternent avec les cures de désintoxication. Vers le milieu de seventies, il décide de retourner à l'école pour se ressourcer. Las du stress du leader, il préfère
redevenir side-man chez son idole Muddy Waters. Ce fait régénère la carrière du blues-man noir et quatre albums, dont deux qui reçoivent un Grammy Award, sont le fruit de cette collaboration.
Stylistique : Son vocabulaire technique peut se résumer en quelques mots : pentatonique, bending, slide, onglet, open tuning. En revanche sa démarche artistique pourrait remplir plusieurs volumes. Selon ses propres dires, il s'est toujours senti davantage "élève que prof". D'ailleurs, sa leçon quotidienne commençait toujours par la millième réécoute des enregistrements "Plantation" de 41 de Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters est son mentor, son père, et quelquefois son employeur. Il est au demeurant étrange que quelqu'un qui possède le jeu le plus fluide des guitaristes de blues, soit tellement inspiré par la technique rudimentaire de son gourou. Il se singularise par l'utilisation d'un onglet (thumb pick) qu'il n'emploie pas uniquement sur les cordes graves, mais aussi quelquefois en guise de médiator. Les gammes mises à contribution sont à base de pentatoniques qui se prêtent à merveille au jeu du blues. Ses accordages préfèrés sont le Open D, facile pour le slide (Mojo Boogie), mais aussi le Open A (Mean Town Blues, l love everybody) déjà plus rare. Toutefois la plupart de son répertoire contient des morceaux joués avec un accordage standard.
Instruments : Johnny Winter fut dans les années 70 un des rares guitaristes à utiliser des vieilles Firebird de Gibson. On pensait même qu'il était marié pour toujours avec cette guitare construite autour d'un manche conducteur et équipée de petits micros au son moelleux, quand il choqua 'tout le monde en jouant le blues sur une guitare sans tête nommée Lazer, construite par Dan Earlwine.
La Gibson Firebird trouve uniquement son emploi pour les morceaux en slide. Elle est accordée en Open D (Ré-La-Ré-Fa#-La-Ré)
Au niveau des guitares acoustiques, il possède plusieurs National. Les vieux modèles, avec les manches un peu tordus et les cordes à 3 kilomètres du manche sont réservées au jeu en slide, les nouveaux modèles lui servent pour le picking.
Côté amplis, ce sont des Music Man, acquis en 76 à l'époque où il jouait avec Muddy Waters. Leo Fender collaborait encore à ce moment-là avec la marque, et le son des Music Man se rapprochait davantage des vieux Fender Bassman et Super Reverb.
12 Albums :
"Johnny Winter" (69) "First Winter" (69) "Second Winter" (70) "Still alive and well" (73) "Saints and Sinners" (74) "John Dawson Winter" III (74) "Together" (76) avec Edgar Winter "Nothing but the Blues" (77) (avec Muddy Waters) "Raisin' cain" (80) "Guitar Slinger" (85) "Third Degree" (86) "Serious Business" (87)
Aug 1998 Johnny Winter in Vintage Guitar Magazine
Guitar July / August 1998
100 Years of the Blues with Johnny Winter on the front page
Lots of articles about blues players in it. Full article
on Johnny with recent pics and one from John Dawson Winter III era (fans
will know which one). Good close up of him smiling. Must be a very recent interview
because he talks about making Live
in NYC "last year". Also some brief words from Dick Shurman about the Alligator days.
Where Rock & Roll Meets the Blues: At the Crossroads
with Johnny Winter. by Robert Santelli
I met Johnny Winter for the first time in the mid '70's,
just as he was about to make a career shift from hard blues to hard rock. I
was a 20-year old, part-time rhythm guitar player in a Johnny Winter-inspired
blues-rock band on the New Jersey shore called Cobalt, and although I wasn't
very good, the band was.
Somehow, Winter heard about Cobalt. He traveled down from
New York City one Sunday afternoon in autumn to hear the band rehearse. Apparently,
he liked what he heard; a couple of weeks later, our lead guitarist, Doug Brockie,
and our drummer, Richard Hughes, were asked to join Johnny's band.
It didn't take long for the pair to accept the offer. After
all, Johnny Winter was still one of the true kingpins of guitar, despite '70s
pop music having distanced itself from the blues. Winter was (and is) still
perfectly capable of swarming his listeners with blues-driven, apoplectic solos
and ripping power chords of enough energy and volume to sandblast the sin out
of a soul and then sent it to kingdom come.
Johnny Winter took the best that Cobalt had to offer,
and both the band and my career as budding local star were left in his wake.
I didn't know it then, but he did me a big favor. I took up writing music instead
of playing it, which was the far more sensible path for me to follow. But it
was the experience of my Cobalt colleagues that taught me the lesson. Brockie
and Winter never really jelled, so Doug left the band to work with Ginger Baker.
Hughes stayed on, keeping a big beat for Winter on such albums as Still
Alive and Well and Saints
and Sinners. But the pressure of touring and being in the spotlight,
plus mounting personal problems, caused Richard to crash. One day I received
a phone call from a friend telling me Richard had killed himself. It was the
first time I learned how costly success could be in the world of rock and roll.
It was a lesson I've never forgotten.
Johnny Winter knows how unchecked success can rob a man
of his good sense and good health. It's no secret for instance, that Winter
has had his share of bouts with hard drugs and heavy times. Remarkably, Winter
has not only survived but has managed to continue his mastery of blues guitar
and turn out music that reveals just how far the Kenny Wayne's , Jonny
Lang's, and Mike Welch's still have to travel before they're close
to interpreting the blues with the same command and passion Winter demonstrates
whenever he plugs in.
The guitarist has traveled some difficult roads, and he
sinks at the mention of Richard's name. ("On the outside, he seemed happy
and all. But on the inside he was hurting. I know a lot of people like that,"
Winter sighs.) But these are better days, and right now Winter has a lot to
be happy about, like his latest album, Live
in NYC '97, a blistering account of blues rock from the Bottom Line,
where Johnny has held court on and off for nearly 20 years.
Backed by bass player Mark
Epstein and drummer Tom Compton, Winter makes
a solid blues statement on his new release, having filled the club with exhilarating
solos and blazing tributes to the likes of Freddie King ("Hideway," "Sen-Sa-Shun"), Muddy
Waters ("Got My Mojo Working"), Elmore James
("The Sky Is Crying") and Ray Charles ("Black Jack"). When placed next to White Hot Blues,
a compilation Sony/Legacy released last year featuring tracks from the dozen
albums Winter cut for Columbia Records between
1969 and 1980, you get a good idea of where Johnny's been and why he
remains the dean of American blues-rock guitar.
"Making a live album meant putting on record the songs
we've been playing onstage for a while now," Winter explains. "Last
year we were making some pretty good music, so a live album seemed like the
right thing to do."
The fact that Live
in NYC opens with a pair of Freddie King songs isn't necessarily
coincidental. "Freddie is one of my biggest influences," Winter says.
"I got to play with him a few times before he died [in 1976], and they're
some of my fondest memories. I think I'll always play some of Freddie's music,
out of respect for all the inspiration he's given me and the fact that we're
both from Texas."
Freddie King was born in Gilmer, Texas, in 1934; Winter
was born in Beaumont 10 years later. Young Johnny picked up the guitar at age
11. By the time he was 14, he was leading his own band, which included brother
Edgar on piano. By the mid '60's, Winter was becoming well known in Texas as
a guitarist who understood the nuances of blues and could rattle the rafters
with rock and roll when necessary. Fellow musicians saw him as a potential member
of a long line of Lone Star state blues legends, a legacy dating back to the
days when Blind Lemon Jefferson was lead around the Deep Ellum section of Dallas
by a young T-Bone Walker. Lightnin' Hopkins, Clarence 'Gatemouth'
Brown, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Johnny Copeland, Freddie King, Albert Collins and later Stevie Ray and Jimmie
Vaughan would with Winter, all keep alive the idea that Texas was the place
to hear riveting blues guitar.
"The thing about it is, there's very little difference
between blues and rock and roll," muses Winter. "It's easy to blur
the boundry. Back when I got my record deal with Columbia,
I was crossing back and forth, from rock to blues and blues to rock. In the
'70s and '80s I did the same thing - I'm still doing the same thing."
Need some proof? Check out a track like "Just A
Little Bit," from Live
in NYC, in which Winter winds up and pitches a rock and roll fastball.
Laughs Winter, "That's a boundary crosser, sure is. I'll stick that song
in the middle of some blues songs and people can get a real good idea how these
two kinds of music ain't nothin' but first cousins to each other."
Winter worked his way through hard rock and roll in the
mid '70s only to return to hard blues just as the rest of the music world was
coming to grips with punk, disco and arena rock. Winter also produced albums
for another mentor, Muddy
Waters (two of which - Hard
Again and I'm Ready - won Grammys), and recorded for himself Nothin'
But the Blues, a stunning work of acoustic blues that still stands among
Winter's best recording efforts.
As good as Winter can be with acoustic blues, he considers
himself far less effective without electricity energizing his instrument. "I'm
not good enough to be playin' much acoustic guitar onstage," he laughs.
"Man, you got to get so right; I mean, the tones, the feel, the sound.
Plus, acoustic blues guitar is just that much harder on the fingers. I really
appreciate when someone can blow me away with live acoustic blues."
In the early '80s, after fumbling the blues ball with such
mediocre albums as White,
Hot and Blue (1978) and Raisin'
Cain (1980), Winter was without a recording contract for the first time
since the late '80s. "It made me realize that you can't take anything for
granted. It was a bad time for the blues and a bad time for me," he remembers.
But Winter rebounded in a big way as of 1983 signing with Alligator Records, which resulted
in a string of memorable albums, including Guitar Slinger and Serious Business.
Almost overnight, Winter's guitar playing became more crisp and emotionally
intense, his sound more precise, and his song selection more in line with the
budding blues revival, inspired in part by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins,
the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and later, Robert Cray.
But Winter saved his best blues effort for 3rd Degree,
an album cut for Alligator in 1986, the same year he became the first white
musician to be inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame. Said
producer, Dick Shurman, a longtime associate of Winter's, "Johnny
wanted more than anything else to be considered a father figure for younger
blues artists. When he was on Alligator he was playing great blues because his
heart was very much into it."
When Winter left Alligator and settled in with the Point
Blank label - where he still resides - he brought Shurman with him to
handle studio production chores. It's one reason why Winter's sound has remained
consistent yet fresh and relevant in the '90s.
"Dick understands what I want from my sound, particularly
my guitar sound," says Winter. "I speak mostly through my guitar,
which is the way I always thought it should be for me. Dick understands the
language, so you might say we communicate pretty good when it really counts."
Though the blues is enjoying a popularity and rejuvenation
it so sorely lacked 20 years ago, Winter confesses that he doesn't listen to
as much contenporary blues as he perhaps should.
"I'm still tryin' to catch up to all the good blues
I still haven't gotten from the past," he explains. "I don't know
where the blues is goin', but I know where it's been, and that's plenty good
100 Years of the Blues with Johnny Winter on the front page
of Live in NYC.
Also: Interview with Rick
Blues revue, July/Aug 1998 (CD Reviews)
Hard Rockin' Blues
ard Rockin' Blues (Simitar 55182): Minnesota-based
Simitar Assembles 11 blues-rock tracks recorded primarily during the past decade.
The label said it wanted to showcase songs with "wild guitar breaks that
are some of the artists more well-known songs." Included are choices such
as Albert Collins "Hooked on You," Johnny Winter's "Rain,"
Luther Allison's "All the King's Horses" and Jeff Healey Band's "See the Light."
Winter's contribution to this collection, White Hot
Blues, instantly lives up to its name with the six-string mugging of "Rock
Me Baby." This CD is a raw, energized blend of blues and rock.
Considered by many to be the premier white blues guitarist from Texas (including
SRV), winter certainly makes his bid for that title with the psychedelic fusion
blues of "Memory
Pain" and the wailing "Hustled Down in Texas." "Too
Much Seconal" and "TV Mama" break things up with
their acoustic approach, but White Hot Blues wraps up where it began with one
of the all-time best party rockers, "Johnny
Winter Live in NYC 1997 Virgin/Pointblank 12796
"Hellhound on My Trail: An All-Star Tribute to Robert Johnson"
|In September, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum presented a concert titled "Hellhound on My Trail: An All-Star Tribute to Robert Johnson" at Cleveland's prestigious Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra. The concert - which featured Johnny Winter, Taj Mahal, The Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, Robert Jr. Lockwood (Johnson's "stepson" Keb' Mo', jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson, John Hammond, and Jimmie Vaughan - was the finale of the rock hall's week-long tribute to Johnson's influence on rock 'n' roll.
Friday, 4 September 1998, Oakland County Fest., Pontiac MI
Johnny Winter is by far my favorite guitar player. I have
seen him at least 15 times since the Guitar Slinger tour, although a lot less
frequently in recent years. In the 90's I have gotten used to "some" shows that
did not have a sustained drive, but at least had high points. Others still were
very good. While none the shows I saw with the bass player after Jon Paris,
but before this new band were very tight, they had still had high points.
I wish I could say that Johnny didn't play as bad as some
of the reviews I have read. But I can't. I am grateful that I was prepared for
this show by reading some reviews first. So there is no confusion:
Johnny couldn't play a lick.
There was six or seven seconds on the slide guitar that
may have been a lick. The best lead in this flurry would have been worse than
the worst lick on highway 61 of Captured Live. It was painful to watch. He had
trouble even playing rhythm guitar. The band really covered for him a lot.
Initially I bought into the idea that he wasn't stoned
or drunk. While watching I felt bad for Johnny thinking he indeed had some sort
of massive aging disease. In hindsight, I think it is more likely that he was
stoned out of his mind. I am pretty sure that he has been in this condition
for so long that he has worked out a set that he can "play" in this condition.
There was no point for him to play a concert like that.
I attended the concert with my uncle, who initially turned
me on to Johnny Winter. After the show I got to re-hear the story on the "legendary"
show in the 70's with Edgar
Winter where Johnny was so stoned that he just stood there swaying back
and forth not able to play a note. Every so often a roaddy would catch him from
falling down. The next Detroit show was the unofficial "apology" concert where
Johnny smoked licks for 20 minutes before even letting the band play a note.
I do not think Johnny will have an apology for this concert judging by the other
The venue was great. It was outdoors as part of a festival
with three stages. Johnny Winter was the head liner for that night. Believe
it or not, Jeff Healey played before Johnny Winter, at 7:00pm. I saw the last
½ hour of Jeff's show, which was great. I hoped Johnny Winter would be pumped
up and play his best. Unfortunately, I think that was the best he has left.
After reading the other review of this concert, I really
don't know what to say. In my opinion, there was no "authority" in Johnny Winter's
playing. I think the guy must have either been too stoned himself or just trying
too hard to find something good in the show. Anyone who has seen a good Johnny
Winter show and thinks that they will see that now will be disappointed (or
even devastated). To really understand how bad this show was, I do not think
Live in NYC ?97 was a good performance. It was a masterpiece compared to this
show. The entire show didn't even come close to the intro licks before hideaway
from the CD. I would call this the "shouldn't have been tour".
While I explain the show thinking Johnny was too stoned,
my uncle thinks it must be more physical, likely due to years of abuse. I guess
I'm hoping for a come back after he cleans up. My uncle's also had a technical
description of the show. On Live at NYC 97, Johnny kind of plays ta-da-da, ta-da-da,
ta-da- da. For this concert, he plays ta-da-skip, ta-da-skip, ta-da-skip, basically
skipping every third note. The combination of the fact that he played the whole
set very slow, with no licks, skipped every three notes and couldn't play rhythm
lead to an overall disappointing show.
This past Labor day weekend I attended the "Arts, Beats
and Eats" festival in Pontiac Michigan, specifically to see Johnny Winter. Following
is my review of the show:
Let me start by saying that like many other contributers
I have been playing music and listening to Johnny for 20+ years now and have
seen Johnny play live seven times previous to this past weekend's show.
The show was held at the Phoenix Plaza which is an outdoor
amphitheater located on top of a large parking structure. It was a warm summer
night, with the sky clear and the temperature about 75 degrees.
The opening act was Jeff Healy who played very well for
about an hour. Johnny took the stage at about 9:30pm. to a thunderous welcome
that was obviously apprieciated. I hadn't seen Johnny in about five or six years
and he certainly looked older. (Although after reading other reviews I certainly
wasn't "shocked" at his appearence.) Johnny played the "Live in N.Y." playlist,
except for the deletion of "The Sky is Crying" and the addition of "Sick and
Tired". Hideaway started out in a slower swing tempo with a few verses repeated.
Johnny obviously uses this tune to get his fingers moving as the tune employes
a few licks in almost every neck position and I'm sure there is no "warm-up"
time for him. By the end of the tune Johnny was playing the lead licks with
the same authority that you hear on the new album. Johnny's playing on "Sen-sa-shun/mojo"
and "Boogie Real Low" as well as subsequent songs was smoother. The band's/Johnny's
timing did NOT drift as reported in some other reviews and Johnny's voice was
clearly audible throughout the show. Johnny's singing was very spirited and
he had several loud "YEAH!!!" cheers for the crowd. Eventhough he doesn't bellow
it out like he used to, his registers are still very clear (and his lyrics still
The only slide number on the firebird was a superb rendition
of "The Sun is Shining" wich was greeted to a huge ovation.
The encore was of course "Johnny Guitar" and "Drop the
Bomb". Johnny played a commanding version of Johnny Guitar and included riffs
of several old songs in Bomb.
All in all I'd say Johnny was having an "ON" night; and
from what I hear from others who attended his last show here in Detroit, this
one was much better.
Johnny had a big smile on his face many times and was
obviously having a good time and appreciating the crowds positive response.
He also did one of his patented "spins" in the middle of "Drop the Bomb".
Johnny is also obviously still drinking, but not enough
on this night to affect his performance.
After the show a few fans congregated at Johnny's tour
bus and I was able to get Johnny's autograph on the pickguard of my Gibson firebird
guitar, wich really made the evening special. The best free concert I've ever
seen!! Yes Johnny is getting older, but he's still a blues master and guitar
Saturday, 5 September 1998, Chicago IL, House of Blues
Johnny played pretty much the same set he has been playing.
He came out at 10:30 and played until midnight, including the encore. Nobody
helped Johnny to the stage though, he practically ran onto the stage and immediately
let out a growl before he even started playing. The place was packed but tickets
were still available at the door.
He is not what he used to be, but who is? His performance
was NOT depressing and pathetic, it was alright, still some hot licks coming
from Johnny. The slide part was the highlight, and I wish he would just play
slide for the entire show. The performance was okay and it was worth the whole
trip to Chicago just to be in the same room with the blues legend. As long as
the fans support Johnny, I believe he will keep touring. The crowd certainly
didn't care what Johnny did, he could of just sat there smoking cigarillos --
there was a standing ovation from 10:30 until 12:00. The biggest cheer came
during the "spin," which Johnny did during the Firebird slide tune. some notable
1.) girl that was in my party actually saw a fan shoot
up while standing next to her when Johnny started playing.
2.) two T-shirt designs and b/w photos for sale.
3.) little Slatus Management cards were handed out: fan
club is $35, (doesn't say what you get) $10 hat, $20 poster, $2 guitar pick,
"let me in" "brother" CDS for $15, $2 fake tattoo, some other stuff....it says
something like: "Be a part of a legend - 1-888-Blues-89
4.) the tone of the concert and the room sounded great
Monday, 7 September 1998, The Rave "Milwaukee, WI"
Having seen the greatest guitar player ever at the Rave
in Milwaukee, I can only say thanks a million, Johnny. Regardless of whatever
ails you, it took a great deal of courage to get up on stage and perform with
the skill and perfection you posess. I commend you for providing us with the
best playing over the years, and wish you well so that you can continue playing
for a long time to come.
It saddens me to read all the critisism in this forum.
The only thing that made for a bad concert was the venue. The volume was much
too high for the poor acoustical situation. All the distortion and feedback
did no justice to the "Pale Master". There were also THREE opening acts that
were very difficult to appreciate, and only allowed for Johnny to play six pieces.
I only hope that Johnny can play in LaCrosse and that
it will be a better venue. 'Til then, be well and keep rockin', Johnny. Love
Tuesday, 8 September 1998, The Cabooze "Minneapolis, MN
Wednesday, 9 September 1998, Shadow, Omaha, NE
Slick Rick from Omaha here to give y'all a review from
front row at Johnny's gig last nite in Omaha, Nebraska.
I arrived to the venue called the "Shadow" near "Old Market"
area of downtown Omaha. The "smallest" club I ever been to to see a concert
of a "big name" ...must seated 300-400 max. I was glad...Loved the "intimate
setting" atmosphere. After getting a beer or two, I checked out the Johnny Winter T shirts...they
had 2 black T's. I passed. I thought they were pretty bad..The opening band
"Tommy Castro Band" came on at 8:30. Never heard of him before..but everyone
seemed impressed with the band. Played "good time" bluesy rock n roll" with
touch a soul. Very tight, and was appreciative to the audience. Signed posters
and CD's at rear after their 90 min set. A good band, that I might look into.
From CA i believe.
At 10:00..I new I had 30 minutes till Johnny Winter hit the stage....Had
couple brews and talked to some fans. I informed them both about the "reviews'
from the web sites. They were like.." is he gonna play Highway 61??"...what
about `"Johnny B Goode???`````'....or `'Hoochie Coo???''...."probably not" I
replied.....Neither had bought or heard the NYC 97 CD....But I also told them
there have been some real "positive" reviews of late in Chicago and Michigan.......
At 10:30pm...the club music stopped and out came the band....(NO..the
flashlight man did not lead Johnny to the stage or adjust his mike....Johnny
adjusted his mic, gave a growl, and went into "Hideaway"....
The stage area up front was not really full yeat so I
got closer...and within about 4 songs I was "dead center" from Johnny..about
3-4 feet. I could almost touch his mic stand!!!....lucky me, I brought my camera..and
got some cool, close shots.
For the next 90 minutes Johnny Winter played the entire "Live in
NYC" CD plus "Sick and Tired" --minus "sky is Crying".... The crowd definately
got into the show..and lot of couples were dancing. Real highlight was when
he brought out the Gibson for "Sun is Shining"....My favorite highlight...Johnny
played some mean slide!!
The Live in NYC 97 CD was played exactly...and I loved
it..since I playit in car a lot. and I never saw Johnny miss a note!!...After
the show..crowd was talking how he sure played some amazing "BLUES"....Everyone
seemed to definately enjoy the show. Johnny did his spin on "drop the Bomb...and
thanked the audience ...and unfortunately the show was through...
A night of some great BLUES GUITAR PLAYING...by the living
JOHNNY HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!!------
I them scrambled to my car..and grabbed an few Johnny Winter LP's
and CD covers..and went looking for the tour bus. Behind the backstage door
was the bus and already about 6 fans waiting with posters, LP's,etc...First
person to come out was the bass player Mark Epstein. I chatted a minute with
him, and got him to sign my LIVE in NYC CD cover. At this time I recognized
a "grey haired guy (Terry Slatus) ..He was ushering the contest winner from
Omaha radio to "visit Johnny" in the bus. The guy brought about 12 of his friends
on the bus. About 15 minutes later they came off. Told me they met Johnny, shook
hands, and got phoots with him, and autographs. The rest of us finally got our
chance. A road crew member said he would take one item each to have Johnny sign.
I gave up my "Still Alive and Well" LP Cover....and 10 minutes later it came
back with the auograph over the forehead. While their I met the biggest Johnny Winter fan
I ever seen. Said he's seen Johnny 10 times since 74 and was going to his next
gig in Olathe , Kansas. Even the road crew and Terry Slatus knew him!!...Kept
saying "I LOVE JOHNNY!!"....and has never left a Johnny Winter show without an autograph
or meeting Johnny..cause "JOHNNY LOVES HIS FANS!!!"..."I LOVE JOHNNY!!" He said
his gun cabinet at home is "filled with Johnny Winter autographed posters, tickets, LP's,
etc....A real die-hard. Man, he was something!
Thursday, 10 September 1998, Beaumont Club "Kansas City, MO" or Roadhouse
Rubys, Olathe, KS
Tuesday, 15 September 1998,State Theatre, Kalamazoo, MI
Friday, 18 September 1998: Vinoy Waterfront Park, Tampa, FL
Saturday, 19 September 1998: Pompano Beach Amph, Pompano Beach, FL.
Saturday, 26 September 1998:
"Juke Joint Jam" an informal jam session featuring
G.Love, Chris Whitley,Johnny Winter Sonny Landreth, George Thorogood,
Joe Louis Walker and others......... Saturday September 26 8:30 pm The
Odeon - Cleveland, OH
Friday, 6 November 1998: Water Street Music Hall, 204 North Water
Street, Rochester, NY
Saturday, 7 November 1998: Sideshow, 1830 Abbott Road, Buffalo, NY
Monday, 9 November 1998: Vogue, 6259 North College Ave, Indianapolis,
Headliner: Johnny Winter
Other Acts: The Silvertones;Howard & The White Boys
The doors opened at 7:00 and the Silvertones took the
stage at 7:30 for an hour+ followed by Howard and the White Boys(This band cooks).
Johnny Winter was introduced at 10:30 and got to his guitar by 10:36 or so.
Had a big buzz out of his amp and this required some line switching (buzz never
really went away). The show was on.
Hideaway (A rather sedate 10 min. version of the Freddie
King classic, a little underdriven, but smooth.)
Got My Mojo Working (A bit lackluster. Howard and the
White boys did this number in their set and the place nearly caught fire)
Sick and Tired from the play list. He was warmed up by
time this number came along.
Boogie Down Low (Knock Off of Louis Jordan's "Blue Light
Boogie") Bass and Drums are all over Johnny's guitar. High spots happened when
thet would take it down low and let Johnny crawl.
............................Just warming up I guess.........................
Black Cat (Great number......He's in the groove here on
Walk The Dog (He sat on a stool with his firebird and
slide and wailed. Crowd pleaser)
Johnny Guitar (Standard. Still rocking)
Instrumental (driving number)
Show Over 01:10:00
I believe that everyone was surprised that it took Johnny
so long to walk across the stage and get his guitar strapped on! There was a
type of reverential silence as if everyone's longtime hero was walking the last
mile. It was understood that he no longer had the same store of energy as he
did some years ago. His vocals were not raucous, but I'm certain he was pushing
out all the vocals that body could give. It was great to see him play....way
short show, but entertaining nonetheless. His slide number was the highlight
of the night. He seemed to gain strength and ferocity in his playing when seated.
Did I mention the light show? It was good. The shapes looked just like poppies.
Wednesday, 11 November 1998: Hollywood Theater, 123 South 5th St, Lacrosse,
Thursday, 12 November 1998: Riviera Theatre, Chicago, Illinois
Saturday, 14 November 1998: 3rd Street Theater, 1204 3rd St SE, Cedar
Sunday, 15 November 1998: Citi Lounge, 209 N Superior St, Toledo,
Tuesday, 17 November 1998: Graffiti Showcase, Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, 18 November 1998: Theatre of living arts, Philadelphia.
I recently attended the Johnny Winter show on 11/18/98
at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia. I was fully prepared for what
transpired only because I have been keeping up with the review section of this
site. Still though, I (along with everyone else in the audience) was nearly
left in shock at the site of Johnny Winter. His playing has faltered and he
looks like he's nearing his own demise. I heard an interesting analogy after
the show from someone who had been backstage when Johnny came off after the
show. They had said that his management and entourage treated him like "an elderly
grandmother." More specifically, it's like when your grandmother comes downstairs
in a hideous floral print dress and everyone is required to tell her how beautiful
she looks and that she looks as good as she did 30 years ago. Well, apparently,
his manager and company spoke to him that way regarding his playing. It was
kind of sad...
On a brighter note, I was extremely impressed with the
opening act, Killin' Floor, who stole the show. They were young (couldn't have
been more than 20 years old) and highly energetic. Kind of like a young Johnny
Winter. The crowd was highly enthused by the show that these young gentlemen
put on... They played for one hour and the crowd (including myself) was mesmerized
by every note. It's good to see a young up and coming blues band that rocks
so hard. I picked up one of their flyers and plan on checking these guys out
again soon... you should too if you're in the Philadelphia area.
We all payed our respects to the great Johnny Winter...
I can only hope that he does what is best for himself.
I wish I could report that last night's Johnny Winter
Concert was a satisfying, memorable experience. As it is, I can only report
that it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I last saw Johnny in Philly
about 4 years ago, and, while he didn't look in tip top shape, I felt he put
on a good show, He did some flashy fretboard work and some tasty slide.
The man I saw last night LOOKED like Johnny Winter(only
thinner) but played like a shadow of the man. Aside from my shock at his appearance
and mannerisms, I could not muster up much enthusiasm for the music he presented.
The show kicked off with a tune (I did not make a set list) so middle of the
road slow it sounded like a 45 played at 33RPM. About 3 songs into the show
it was apparent that Johnny has lost his singing chops also. He mustered a weak
YEAH a few times but had no growl to his voice.
I am not a guitarist, but I have heard a lot of blues
tunes played by some top guitarists including Johnny. It sounded to me like
he was missing and slurring notes right and left. There was very little fire
in his playing and the speed was definitely missing on all songs.I'm guessing
the Lazer guitar is about all he can lift at present. When he broke out the
slide guitar (for 1 song!) he sat and held it in place with his body. He had
considerable trouble attaching the strap and amp cord on the larger guitar.
I am 1 year younger than Johnny Winter but he looked old
enough to be my father. If you saw him on the street bouncing from foot to foot
with his eyes closed as he did onstage, you would think he was a pathetic panhandler.
I kept thinking that this might be the last tour of one who was a GREAT rock/blues
guitarist not too long ago.
The concert lasted 1 hour almost to the minute, then the
band came back and played "Johnny Guitar" and 1 other song before retiring for
good. I could not get over how many people clapped and cheered and yelled for
Johnny. Apparently these people had no comparison to this show or they would
have been as distressed as I was.
I will try to forget this concert and concentrate on the
Johnny Winter I saw play with Rick
Derringer so many years ago. I will dust off my old albums, put them on
and remember a better time. I hope somebody will do something to rehabilitate
Johnny Winter or at least stabilize his condition so he does not deteriorate
any further. The whole night made me feel sad.
Chasing the Winter Blues
An article on "Johnny Winter" called "Chasing the Winter Blues" eaact date of publication unknown,