Personalities | Johnny Winter | Blues Devotion | Guitar Heroes

Blues guitarist Johnny Winter (b. 1944) was born in Beaumont, Texas. Albino and cross-eyed from birth, Johnny showed a precocious talent for music, taking up the clarinet at the age of five and switching to guitar after a brief flirtation with the ukulele.

Inspired by bluesmen like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Bobby Bland, he formed his first group, Johnny & The Jammers, with brother Edgar. Winter went on to play in several blues bands during the mid- to late 1960s. His break came in 1969 when an album he had recorded as part of a trio came to the attention of two Rolling Stone journalists who raved about it in the magazine, leading to its release as Johnny Winter (1969) on CBS.

Hailed as the new superstar blues guitarist, Winter played the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. His third album, Johnny Winter And (1970), confirmed his success and featured the song that became his signature tune, Rick Derringer’s ‘Rock’n’Roll Hoochie Koo’. Derringer was added to the band on second guitar as a foil for Johnny on Live Johnny Winter And (1971), a milestone in hard-rocking blues. Suffering from drug addiction and depression, Winter took a break, returning for Still Alive And Well (1973). He produced two albums for Muddy Waters, Hard Again (1977) and Waters’ final work King Bee (1980). His own Nothin’ But The Blues (1977) was made with members of Waters’ touring band.

Renowned for his fiery style, Winter has used various guitars. In his early days, he played a Gibson ES-125, but switched to an SG for Woodstock, although his first album was made with a Fender Mustang. His early slide work was done on a National Steel Standard, but for Live Johnny Winter And, he used a Gibson Firebird. For the next phase of his career, an Erlewine Lazer was his primary guitar. Johnny has also played an Epiphone Wiltshire extensively. He does not use a flat plectrum, preferring a thumb-pick. In 1995, The Smashing Pumpkins paid homage in an instrumental B-side ‘Tribute to Johnny’. Still touring despite health problems (he can now only play while sitting), Winter concentrates on the blues. A new studio album, Roots, was released in 2011 and featured a range of guest artists.

Essential Recordings

Solo: Johnny Winter

Solo: Johnny Winter And

Solo: Live Johnny Winter And

Solo: Nothin’ But The Blues

Personalities | Zakk Wylde | The Last True Hero | Guitar Heroes


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