Johnny Winter III

Johnny Winters III


Johnny Winters III Passes Away at age 70

Johnny Winters IIIOn Sunday August 3rd at 11am we said goodbye to one who was many things to so many people; a loving husband, a brother, a friend, and bandmate. as one of the greatest guitarist in the world was laid to rest.

John Dawson "Johnny" Winter III (born February 23, 1944) is an American blues guitarist, singer and producer.  Johnny and Edgar Winter were nurtured at an early age by their parents in their musical pursuits. Johnny Winter is known for his southern blues and rock and roll style, as well as his physical appearance. Both he and his brother were born with albinism.

In 2003 Winter was ranked 74th in Rolling Stone magazine list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Johnny Winter began performing at an early age with his younger brother, Edgar Winter. Johnny's first TV appearance was on a local children's television show that aired in Houston and Beaumont markets called the Don Mahoney and Jeana Claire show. Don Mahoney was a blind singing cowboy/kiddie show host in the Houston area for many years and Jeana Claire was his sidekick. Johnny and Edgar appeared on Mahoney's show when they were about ten years old, playing ukelele and singing.

His recording career began at the age of 15, when their band Johnny and the Jammers released "School Day Blues" on a Houston record label. During this same period, he was able to see performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Bobby Bland. In the early days Winter would sometimes sit in with Roy Head and The Traits when they performed in the Beaumont, TX area, and in 1967 Winter recorded with The Traits releasing a vinyl 45 under the group's name, Tramp/Parchman Farm, Universal 30496. In 1968, he released his first album on Austin's legendary Sonobeat Records, The Progressive Blues Experiment.[2]
Woodstock Reunion, Parr Meadows, Ridge, NY 1979. Photo by Bob Sanderson

Winter caught his biggest break in December 1968, when Mike Bloomfield, well-established as one of the best blues guitarists in the United States, who admired his playing, invited him to sing and play a song during a "Super Session" jam concert Bloomfield and Al Kooper were to perform at the Fillmore East in New York. As it happened, representatives of Columbia Records (which had released the Bloomfield-Kooper Super Session jam album to surprising Top Ten chart success) were at the concert. Winter played and sang B.B. King's "It's My Own Fault" to loud applause and, within a few days, was signed to what was then the largest advance in the history of the recording industry---$600,000.

Winter's first Columbia album, Johnny Winter, recorded and released in 1969, featured the same core group---called Winter at the time---with whom he'd cut The Progressive Blues Experiment, bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, plus Edgar Winter on keyboards and saxophone, and (for his "Mean Mistreater") blues legends Willie Dixon on upright bass and Walter Horton on harmonica. The album featured a few selections that would be considered Winter signatures over the coming years, including his own composition "Dallas" (a striking acoustic blues, on which Winter played a steel-bodied, resonator guitar), John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl," and B.B. King's little-known "Be Careful With A Fool."

The album's success coincided with Imperial Records picking up The Progressive Blues Experiment for wider release. The same year, the Winter trio toured and performed at several rock festivals, including Woodstock. With brother Edgar added as a full member of the group for the time being, Winter also recorded his second album, Second Winter, this time in Nashville, and unusual for the time in that it was a three-sided album. (The fourth side on the second disc was completely blank.) This album introduced a few more staples of Winter's concerts, including Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," two Little Richard songs ("Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Miss Ann"), and original songs such as "Hustled Down in Texas," "Fast Life Rider," "I Love Everybody," and "I'm Not Sure."

Contrary to urban legend, however, Winter did not perform with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison on the infamous Hendrix bootleg recording "Woke up this Morning and Found Myself Dead" from New York City's Scene Club. In his own words, "...I never even met Jim Morrison! There's a whole album of Jimi and Jim and I'm supposedly on the album but I don't think I am `cause I never met Jim Morrison in my life! I'm sure I never, never played with Jim Morrison at all! I don't know how that [rumour] got started."[3]

With brother Edgar having released his own solo album (Edgar Winter) and now going off to form his own R & B/jazz-rock group, Edgar Winter's White Trash, the original Winter trio disbanded and Winter formed a new band with the remnant of The McCoys---guitarist Rick Derringer, bassist Randy Jo Hobbs, and drummer Randy Z (who was, in fact, Derringer's brother---their real name was Zehringer)---and collaborated on songs picking up the rock and roll direction hinted by the Little Richard and Chuck Berry songs on Second Winter. Calling themselves Johnny Winter And, their album wore the same title and introduced a purely rock and roll direction, highlighted by Derringer's "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and a nimble cover of Traffic's "No Time to Live." When they toured, however, with Bobby Caldwell replacing Randy Z, they mixed up these new rock numbers with Winter's standard blues, captured on Johnny Winter And Live. This album included a new performance of the song by which Winter had caught Columbia's attention in the first place: "It's My Own Fault."

Winter's momentum was throttled when he sank into heroin addiction during the Johnny Winter And days. After he sought treatment for and recovered from the addiction, manager Steve Paul courageously put Winter in front of the music press to discuss the addiction candidly. By 1973, he returned to the music scene with Still Alive and Well, a basic blend between blues and hard rock, whose title track was written by Rick Derringer as a salute to Winter's overcoming his addiction. The follow-up album, Saints & Sinners, continued the same direction; this was followed by another concert set, Captured Live!, which featured an incendiary extended performance of "Highway 61 Revisited." In 1975 Johnny returned to Bogalusa, Louisiana to produce Thunderhead's album, for ABC/Dunhill, which featured future band members Pat Rush and Bobby "T" Torello.

In live performances, Winter often tells the story about how, as a child, he dreamed of playing with the blues guitarist Muddy Waters. By 1977 he got his chance. With his manager creating Blue Sky Records to be distributed through Columbia, Winter got the chance to bring Waters into the studio for Hard Again. The album became a best-seller, with Winter producing and playing support guitar on the set that included Waters veteran James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Waters, I'm Ready (this time featuring Big Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee. The partnership produced Grammy Awards, a best-selling live album (Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live), and Winter's own Nothin' But the Blues, on which he was backed by members of Waters' band.

Waters himself told Deep Blues author Robert Palmer that Winter had done remarkable work in reproducing the sound and atmosphere of Waters's vintage Chess Records recordings of the 1950s. The albums gave Waters the highest profile and greatest financial successes of his life.

Winter produced two Grammy Award-winning albums by Muddy Waters, Hard Again and I'm Ready . At least three of his own albums were also nominated for Grammy Awards.

  • He was one of the many acts to perform at the Woodstock Festival, playing a nine-song set that featured his brother Edgar on two of the songs.
  • He was on the cover of the first issue of Guitar World in 1980.
  • In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
  • He is the 'Johnny' in the Smashing Pumpkins b-side "Tribute to Johnny," off the single "Zero."

More information - wikipedia/Johnny_Winter






Personal Note:


by Charles Flowers


After Johnny and Edgar Winters became famous, everyone in Beaumont, where these boys grew up, claimed to have known them or hung out with them.  I was no exception.  Although I did not know them personally, I encountered them on several occasions.

One such occasion was in 1956-57 in the South Park area of Beaumont, where I lived.  I went to a barber shop on Highland Park Avenue next to the Lamar Theater.  Going in to get my haircut,  I met two young boys there also getting hair cuts. Who would have know that these two young fellows would grow up to both be world class musicians!,   I was only seven years old and had no idea they would someday be famous.

After I grew up, I was part owner of The Guitar and Banjo Studio in Beaumont.  We kept up with the local musicians in case they might come into our shop.  Johnny Winters was becoming famous for his bluesy music and played at many local dives around Beaumont.  This was in 1969-70 and Johnny played many times at a joint out on Hwy 105 called the Hayseed Tavern.  It was a pretty rough place.  I heard they had to hang chicken wire up in front of the bandstand to protect the musical groups from getting injured by flying beer bottles during bar fights.

One Friday night after midnight I stopped in for breakfast at the Dobb's House Restaurant on Calder Avenue in Beaumont.  The counter was packed with 15 to 20 fraternity men from nearby Lamar Tech, our local college. A purple Packard hearse parked out front and Johnny Winters came inside and stood at the counter to order food to go.  I looked outside at the car, which had the windows rolled down and spotted members of his band. One man sitting near the open window reminded me of the Russian  man in the movie Doctor Zhivago, popular at the time, since he looked very much like actor Rod Steiger and was wearing a Russian-style fur cap.

As Johnny tried to place an order, the frat boys got unruly and started calling him all sorts of names and making fun of him.  The taunting was extremely rude and got so bad Johnny let the restaurant and walked around to the drive-through window to complete his order and wait for his food. Even though the taunts were falling on deaf ears after Johnny left the restaurant, the boys continued.  As I was paying my tab, I told the boys I thought it was rude of them to be doing this and acting like idiots but they shrugged me off as I left.

Shortly after that incident, Johnny Winters went on to New York as the newest music sensation and became famous.  I have often thought about that night and considered Winters new found fame to be poetic justice.