February 23, 1944 — July 16, 2014
John Dawson Winter III was born in Beaumont, Texas. He and his brother, Edgar, both got into music early in their lives and after seeing artists such Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland, they fell in love with the blues.
In 1968, Sonobeat Recording Company released Johnny Winter's first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment. The small label's limited distribution gave the album limited success. In December 1968, while at an Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield concert at the Fillmore East, Bloomfield invited Winter on stage. His performance attracted the attention of Columbia Records executives in the audience and they soon signed him to "largest solo artist deal of it’s time." (from Winter site)
Johnny Winter released his first Columbia record in 1969. He toured and performed at festival after festival, including...
- Big Rock Pow Wow,
- First Annual Detroit Rock and Roll Revival,
- First Annual WC Handy Memorial Concert
- Newport Pop Festival
- Toronto Pop Festival
- Denver Pop Festival
- Newport Jazz Festival
- Atlanta International Pop Festival
- Laurel Pop Festival
- Forest Hills Music Festival
- Midwest Rock Festival
- Atlantic City Pop Festival
- Texas International Pop Festival
- Raccoon Creek Rock Festival
- Palm Beach Pop Festival
- Miami Rock Festival
- Mid Winter Pop Festival (the festival never actually happened)
Oh yea. He played at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, the festival that turned out to be THE festival of 1969 and, in the eyes of many still today, THE festival of all time.
Johnny Winter came on around midnight (Monday 18 August) after The Band and before Blood, Sweat and Tears. He played about an hour. His set-list was:
- Mama, Talk to Your Daughter
- Leland Mississippi Blues
- Mean Town Blues
- You Done LostYour Good Thing Now > Mean Mistreater
- I Can’t Stand It (with Edgar)
- Tobacco Road (with Edgar)
- Tell the Truth (with Edgar)
- Johnny B. Goode
Here's a YouTube of that performance (not a film).
Most know of Alvin Lee and his Ten Years After performance of "Goin' Home" from the 1970 movie or album. Johnny Winter did not get the Woodstock golden touch from either because he was not in or on either.
That did not stop his career. He successfully buffeted his way through rock and roll's many Scylla and Charybdis with a long career.
He kept on making albums (Winter discography) and fulfilled a dream by playing with and producing Muddy Waters. Winter produced Waters' , Hard Again (1977). He again worked with Waters on I'm Ready (1978). It was another Grammy winner.
Here's a great video from a movie on Johnny Winter. It's called Down and Dirty and was directed by Greg Olliver.
Johnny Winter died in Zurich, Switzerland on July 16, 2014. Writing in Rolling Stone magazine's David Marchese wrote "Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, releasing a string of popular and fiery albums in the late Sixties and early Seventies, becoming an arena-level concert draw in the process ... [he] made an iconic life for himself by playing the blues."