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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Johnny Winter: Albino Blues

JW3Johnny Winter (born John Dawson Winter III on 23 February 1944 in Beaumont, Texas) is an American blues guitarist and singer, well known for his albinism, as well as his musical skills. He is the first son of John and Edwina Winter who were very much responsible for Johnny and his younger brother Edgar Winter's early musical awareness.

He began performing at a young age with Edgar, who is also affected with albinism. 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 1968, Johnny began playing in a trio with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner. An article in Rolling Stone magazine helped generate interest in the group. The album "Johnny Winter" was released near the end of that year. In 1969 they performed at numerous rock festivals including Woodstock. Johnny's reputation was well cemented at this point that he can be heard performing with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison on the infamous Hendrix bootleg recording "Woke Up This Morning and Found Myself Dead" done at New York City's Scene Club.

In 1973, after struggling with a drug problem, he returned in classic form with "Still Alive and Well".

In 1977, he produced the Muddy Waters recording, "Hard Again". Their partnership produced a number of Grammy-winning recordings and he recorded the album "Nothing but the Blues" with members from Muddy Waters' band. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. He was on the cover of the first Guitar World in 1980.

There are quite a few Johnny Winter albums that are considered "non-official." A majority of these albums were produced by the late Roy Ames, owner of Home Cooking Records/ Clarity Music Publishing. According to a Houston Press article dated Aug 28, 2003, Johnny Winter left town for the express purpose of getting away from him. Roy Ames died on August 14, 2003 of natural causes at age 66. As Ames left no obvious heirs, the ownership rights of the Ames master recordings remains unclear.JW5

As Johnny stated in an interview when the subject of Roy Ames came up, "This guy has screwed so many people it makes me mad to even talk about him."

In a recent interview for North Bay Bohemian, a Northern California weekly, Johnny explained his current approach to music:

"Most of the stuff I do is fairly old," he says, which befits the lifelong bluesman. But don't expect to hear "Rock 'n' Roll Hoochie Koo," even though that was one of his signature songs back in the day. On this tour, Winter says firmly, "we're not playing any rock and roll at all."

The Smashing Pumpkins paid a homage to Winter by recording an instrumental song titled Tribute to Johnny, in which they try to resemble Winter's unique sound. The song was originally intended for their highly acclaimed 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness but was rejected and eventually turned as b-side on their Zero single and also was included in their box-set The Aeroplane Flies High.

Johnny Winter - Texas Pop Festival 1969

Johnny Winter - Roskilde Festival 1984

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