Mark Epstein played bass with Johnny Winter from 1995/96 till 2001
Mark Epstein has released a bass tablature book called: “The Blues Bass Handbook”
Reviews: Instead of progressive harmony and fancy licks, blues bass playing is all about creating a great feel and locking it in. This book/CD pack teaches classic blues bass lines, as well as how to create your own. Once you know the bass lines, the author shows you how to apply them to different blues styles, covering topics such as: the 12-bar blues, the 1-3-5 theme, shuffle vs. walking bass, box patterns, tone, turnarounds and more. You’ll find everything you need to be jamming blues bass in no time.
For years, I’ve tried to figure out those simple but great-sounding blues bass lines from the records of Albert King or Johnny Winter. This book just lays them all out plain and simple, and has a very good quality CD to play along in various blues styles and tempi. It also has a very nice section on a wide range of turnarounds. If you’re a beginner, you can play along to the slower tracks right away, and even if you’ve been playing a while, it’s a great feeling to lock into the tight grooves on the CD. Highly recommended to all blues fans.
Johnny Winter Live in NYC 1997 Virgin/Pointblank 12796
By Tom Hyslop
Johnny Winter made some rock records early in his career, but it’s been Nothin’; but the Blues for the past 20 years. He reached a highwater mark with 1992’s Hey, Where’s Your Brother?, and now Winter is back with Live in NYC 1997, a smoldering concert document from one of the most accomplished guitarists in any genre.
Winter’s trio is rounded out by timekeeper Tom Compton and new bassist Mark Epstein, rock-solid players who add funky and unexpected twists. His Lazer guitar is still downtuned to D, though his tone is thicker than the lightly chorused sound he’s favored lately, and while the fluidity, imagination and precision of Winter’s playing is still head-turning, it seems more deliberate and measured than in the past. Winter’s singing, too, has changed: it’s clearer and less mannered, with his familiar growl making only a few appearances. Neither change should dissuade long-time fans, and, indeed, the slightly less urgent feel may help bring into the fold some who had felt Winter was too much.
Freddie King’s “Hideaway,” which Winter has been playing for years but had never recorded, includes all of King’s lines plus wicked overbends and chordal runs up the neck. Frankie Lee Sim’s Texas lope “She Likes to Boogie Real Low” rolls along unstoppably, providing the launching pad for several firebrand guitar breaks. Winter invests Ray Charles’ “Black Jack” with deep blues power; where he traditionally would blaze through a slow blues, his measured approach here emphasizes space more than speed. “Just a Little Bit” makes up for the lost notes with heartpounding soloing. Winter again proves to be one of the slide guitar greats on “The Sun Is Shinning” (not Elmore James’ slow Chess slide but a Jimmy Reed Shuffle) and “The Sky Is Crying” (James’ song, played more in the style of Muddy Waters).
Apart from absorbing and marveling at the playing, it’s instructive to take the change Live offers to look into the mind of someone who has listened to and played more blues than most mere mortals. Freddie King’s “Sen-Sa-Shun” turns up as the extended introduction to “Got My Mojo Workin’.” The similarity between the two songs makes the pairing a natural, but many have listened to each tune without making the connection Winter makes. Much of the melodic concept for the solo in “Black Jack” is adapted from “You Shook Me.”
Winter’s theme song, “Johnny Guitar,” is based on a Johnny “Guitar” Watson number; here Winter interpolates a snatch of Larry Williams’ “Boney Maroney.” Winter recorded the later song years ago, but its inclusion here is doubly significant because Williams teamed with Watson for a time in the 1960s. And when Snooks Eaglin’s “Drop the Bomb” takes things out on a very funky note. Winter fans won’t miss the extended nod to Johnny’s own “Fast Life Rider.” Live in NYC 1997 is a trip for the head as well as the ears from one of the greats. Subtitle this one “Genius at Work.”
Living Blues Aug 1998 (CD Review)
By PJ Klemp
Johnny Winter Live in NYC ’97 Pointblank 7243 8 45527 2 5
Hideaway/Sen-Sa-Shun/Got My Mojo Working/She Likes to Boogie Real Low/Black Jack/Just a Little Bit/The Sun Is Shinning/The Sky is Crying/Johnny Guitar/Drop the Bomb
When Eric Clapton, another blues/rock icon whose career took off in the ‘60s, revisited his blues lineage on Journeyman, the emphasis was on his return to the genre. Johnny Winter never left. Though he has been a blues loyalist for a third of a century, rarely has he treated listeners to such an in-depth guided tour of his roots.
With his credentials as a Texas blues guitar slinger firmly established, Winter heads off into territory populated by his heroes. Not many musicians can handle the combination of chunky funkiness and agile lyricism that characterizes Freddy King’s style, but Winter pulls it off. The opening track, a hot cover of Hideaway, slips and lurches in all the right places, capturing some of the master’s dazzling touch. By building a medley on an unlikely pairing of Sen-Sa-Shun and Got My Mojo Working, Winter marries King’s style with the rhythms of Muddy Waters ‘ Chicago sound. The effect is both jarring and thrilling.
When Winter sets aside his impressive guitar acrobatics, his more graceful playing is evident on the standout slow blues selections on Live in NYC. His cover of Ray Charles’ Black Jack, a tale of a life lost to gambling, is packed with tension and sorrow. He transforms Elmore James’ The Sky Is Crying into a dramatic slide guitar event, with swoops and quivers aplenty. Set off against James’ tune by its title, Jimmy Reed’s The Sun Is Shinning gives Winter another opportunity to flaunt his considerable talents as a flashy electric slide guitar player. As he dusts his broom on Reed’s song, Winter moves in and out of Delta stylings, even toying with the phrasing of Roy Orbison, all the while slipping and sliding his guitar like nobody’s business.
CD Review: Blues Access August 1998
By Steve Braun
Johnny Winter is like the flu. At the most inappropriate time, just when you think you’ve reached the apex of coolness, he gets into your bloodstream and takes over. I don’t care how conversant you are about the lives of obscure Piedmont rag pickers, there’s something about a squint-eyed guy with a shock of platinum hair, a snake-brimmed range hat, Rorschach-tattooed arms and a St. Vitus guitar style that just wins you over.
Now, the albino thunder god’s latest, Live in NYC ’97, is nothing revelatory. He’s gone live before, and if you’re looking for his hair-raising winterized treatments of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” and the Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash,” you’ll have to look elsewhere. This scorching 1997 show, recorded at New York’s Bottom Line, is strictly blues – and if Winter sometimes lapses into obligatory flag wavers like “I Got My Mojo Working,” well, as deep into the blues life as he’s gone, who’s got the right to squawk?
Some facts have got to be faced up front, Winter can play like a crossroads demon, but his singing voice is barely a shade more soulful than Tex Avery’s cartoon dog, Droopy. There are moments in this show, like on Ray Charles’ “Blackjack,” when he sounds about ready to give up the ghost. Winter has always sounded best when, as he did at Dylan’s Bobfest show a few years ago, he growls along with his machine-gun guitar licks. There’s plenty of growling here, but when his side licks get high and lonesome, his watery crooning can get hard to take.
The guitar work, on the other hand, is almost always stellar, even if there are times when his glassy lines sound a bit too often like Albert Collins. Stevie Ray Vaughan copped a lot from Collins, too, so who’s complaining? The disc hops off with a fresh, fluid version of “Hideaway,” then heads off-track with the more rare “Sen-Sa-Shun” and a rote “Mojo.”
Then it gets interesting. Winter displays his Texas roots on Frankie Lee Simms’ “She Likes to Boogie Real Low.” It’s the highlight, a cooking boogie number that lopes like an old mule. For the rest of the performance, Winter settles into his slide, groaning through, “Blackjack” and then blowing out wonderfully-twisted runs on Jimmy Reed’s “The Sun Is Shinning” and the Elmore James chestnut, “The Sky Is Crying.” Winter dedicates this disc to all his fans. But even those who consider him an occasional guilty pleasure, Live in NYC has lots to recommend.
CD Review: “Blues News” (German magazine)
As the review is not so good I leave it in German.
Nach sechs Jahren hat der texanische Bluesgitarrist und Sänger ein neues Album aufgelegt.Daß sein zwanzigster Longplayer eine Liveplatte geworden ist, kann Johnny Winter verziehen werden, da von neun Stücken lediglich zwei bereits vorher veröffentlicht worden sind. Aber: Mußte es ausgerechnet ein so übler Konzert- Mitschnitt sein? Winter’s Gesang ist uninspiriert, seine Gitarrensoli – ansonsten ein wahres Feuerwerk – bestehen aus plakativen Licks, die nicht selten in der Intonation danebenliegen und sich darüber hinaus regelmäßig wiederholen. Erinnert man sich an Winter’s fulminanten Auftritt mit “Highway 61” anläßlich des Konzerts zu Bob Dylans dreißigjährigem Bühnenjubiläum, dann kann man über seine Qualitäten an der Slidegitarre nur noch mitleidig den Kopf schütteln. Geradezu unzumutbar aber ist das ständig nervende Brummen seines Effektgerätes! Produzent Dick Shurmann, der bereits für die beiden vorangegangenen guten Alben des ständig von Gesundheitsproblemen geplagten Albinos die Verantwortung trug, hätte gut daran getan, diesen Mitschnitt, der selbst Hard-Core-Winter-Fans enttäuschen dürfte, nicht zu veröffentlichen.
Electric Blues CD Review Archive
Johnny Winter has been cranking out blues, rock/blues, and rock n’ roll for 40 years. He played blues when it wasn’t popular for white performers to do so. He often jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and worked with musicians as diverse as Rick Derringer, Muddy Waters , and his younger brother, keyboard and sax man, Edgar Winter. His scorching guitar style and usually ragged vocals are immediately identifiable, and not often copied. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing the phrase, “that guy sounds like Johnny Winter”.
Breaking a five-year hiatus, Johnny Winter Live in NYC ’97 showcases a set of songs Johnny says are dedicated to all his fans. While Johnny may have mellowed just a tad, and the ragged edge to his voice has smoothed somewhat, this recording is a great example of what Johnny has been doing for what seems an eternity. His playing is still crisp, acurate, powerful, and exciting. And although I never considered him to be a great singer, for some reason I always enjoy hearing him sing. There’s this kind of arrogance to his voice. Kinda like he’s saying, “I’m gonna sing it, and you’re gonna love it”.
There is a bit of everything on this CD, from rock ‘n roll to slow blues, and, my personal favorite, some nasty slide guitar. In my opinion, Johnny is the meanest slide player ever, bar none. I won’t go into describing the individual songs, except to say that they are all excellent, except for the last cut, The Bomb. This is one of those monotonous, repetitive songs that I just can’t learn to enjoy. There just has to be a better song that could have been used to close out this otherwise excellent set. If not for that song, I would’ve given this CD a 5.0 rating.
Whether you are looking for your first Johnny Winter CD, or you have his entire collection, I heartily recommend this CD. It is definitely one that makes you wish you could’ve been there, the real test of any live recording.
I can’t close this review however, without mentioning a couple of other Winter recordings. Nearly all of his recordings are great, but two stand out as must have items. Captured Live, recorded in 1976, showcases Johnny at his live best. This album is really more rock than blues, but is one of the most awesome live recordings ever. That set closes with the Johnny’s own Sweet Papa John,, probably the most powerful slide blues performance you’re likely to hear.
The other album is Nothin’ But the Blues, recorded in 1977. This one consists primarily of acoustic, Muddy Waters influenced blues. In fact, Muddy and his band perform with Johnny on the album. Probably the closest to traditional blues Johnny ever got. There is some electric guitar, but the volume is turned down and the emphsis is on the vocals. These two albums show two extreme sides of Johnny Winter, with most of his other recordings falling somewhere between these two boundries.
Yeahhh!!!!!!! This is a smoker. A must for all you dedicated fans. Just finished listening to the live album for the first time and it was certainly worth the wait. I’ve seen Johnny several times in the last two years doing this set and this was the next best thing to bein’ there. I have always loved his version of Hideaway and I’m glad to see its finally recorded. The melodic laydown of chord and lead work on Black Jack was blistering. His version of Just A Little Bit absolutely cooks and his slide work on The Sun Is Shining and The Sky Is Crying is excellent. The best, I must say, is this recording of Johnny Guitar.
This is a driving high energy stomp where he uses licks from back in the good ole days. Drop The Bomb is funk at its’ best. I thought the guitar work was flawless and the vocals really seemed quite good to me. Clear vocals with less of the growl of the seventies but certainly the growl is not gone. Overall, his vocals sound healthy. I see he is going to be in the south and California for the next month before returning to NYC.
If your in those areas, get out and see him. You will not be disappointed. Anxiously waiting for the video. Slatus sent out a post card announcing the album, video and interview. Only the second thing I’ve gotten from the fan club since joining in September of 1996. I hope Hugh is right about things looking up with Slatus but I have my doubts. I know you’ll enjoy the new CD.
I’m goin’ back for another listen. Frank
I guess I’ll split the difference with the opinions on the CD. I have to agree that some of the guitar playing is less than the best work Johnny has done in the past. I saw him live in 97, but the last time prior to that I’d seen him was 1975, so I don’t have a good basis for comparison. The last live performance I’d seen on TV was the “MTV Guitar Greats” performance, which was from the early 90’s I think. His playing on that was completely amazing. His playing when I saw him in 97 was not as good. On the other hand, I think some of this critique is judging Johnny solely on his solo guitar technique.
As I’ve seen Johnny say in interviews, he doesn’t want people standing there reverently studying every note he plays; that isn’t why he plays music. He’d rather see people up dancing around having a good time, and his ability to get people to do that is still amazing. I think most of the playing (lead or otherwise) on Live in NYC ’97 is excellent. The MUSIC is great. The BAND is great. Some of the guitar solos are merely GOOD. The only two weak points that stand out to me on the CD are (1) the solo on “Black Jack Game” (an absolutely incredible build up to that point but only an average solo) and (2) part of the slide lead on “The Sky is Crying” (off-key “zinging” above the 22nd fret).
I hope Johnny is soon able to exceed his previous performances, but, even with some apparently reduced capabilities, he’s still one hell of a performer. I think “Live in NYC ’97” is a great CD. Keep rockin’, Hugh
Well, we’ve had the cd for a week now. A lot has been said about it, mostly good, with several dissenting opinions. I think there’s room for all the opinions, and they’re all valid. No, this is not Johnny’s “Best” album, whatever that is. No, this is not Johnny’s “Worst” album, whatever that may be. Johnny has such a huge catalog of material that you’re going to get differing opinions on any aspect of it. I think, Jan, you hit the nail on the head. A more thoughtful and subdued Johnny. I personally really like this new cd. I already have Montreux, Barcelona, Captured Live, Massey Hall video, ad nauseum, if I want torrential floods of stunning speed/notes and pyrotechnical (is that a word?) gymnastics.
How ’bout a variation on a theme, people? He’s working comfortable grooves that seem right for him and fun at the same time. He’s obviously enjoying it, and damn it, so am I! Hell, you can dance to this stuff! Great slow blues boogies/shuffles from the best (I can’t help it, I’m listening to “The Sun is Shining” right now!). An older, safer Johnny still puts MOST other guitarists to shame (meaning that he’s very LISTENABLE and keeps you interested throughout a song).
I love this new cd: it’s different, it feels nice, it flows well, and it is a breath of fresh air. Plus, check it out: SOME NEW TUNES! Shock! No nth version of JJF or Johnny B. Goode, etc. Variety! Change it up! In summary, I can certainly see why our technical contingent might be somewhat disappointed, but this album can grow on you if you give it a chance. 🙂 Go Johnny Guitar!
I bought LIVE in NYC ’97 last Friday. At first I felt little disappointed. I had hoped that Johnny would really stick a bone to every sceptic’s throat, but instead of that I thought I found signs indicating Johnny’s sickness. When I listened to it second time, I realized at once that I had been totally unfair and immoderate. Johnny’s vocals are not as strong as before, but if you just let him, he can still easily make your socks revolve with his virtuous guitar. Just put your wrong attitude and prejudices aside. Johnny obviously suffers from the fact that many of his former recordings are so unbeatable. It is difficult to be better or as good as world’s best blues guitarist at his best ! After all, LIVE in NYC 97′ is an excellent blues CD – good old Johnny Winter with two world class musicians, Mark Epstein and Tom Compton. I wish I had been there when it was canned !
Mika of Finland
I loved Johnny Winter in the late 60’s and early 70’s but hadn’t listened to anything by Johnny since then until picking up the above set on the recommendation of a complimentary review in a British rock magazine. I must tell you I was stunned at the quality of this set. Winter is just BRILLIANT and I’m sorry I missed all the years in between. First, the production has a deep, vibrant feel, one of the best-sounding live CD’s I’ve ever heard. More important, Johnny’s playing is just scintillating – precise, authoritative, always on key, with hardly any errors I could detect.
Every lick shows the deep impress of his blues heritage but also has his inimitable stamp. I could cite many examples but in particular the rhythm and lead playing on the ninth track, that heavy funk-type number, just blew me away. When it stops one wants it to go on and on! And it’s interesting that Johnny can keep up this heavy sonic playing after thirty years of high volume stage playing. Clearly his ears are in good shape. Finally, there is his excellent singing. I liked hearing his actual voice instead of the bluesier or grainier style he used to sing in enjoyable as that was.
He is actually an excellent singer as he showed for example on She Likes To Boogie Real Low and what great guitar licks he played on that number to emphasise his vocals. Plus his drummer and bassist are real good players and compliment his sound perfectly. Just an outstanding set that deserves to be widely known. For example, much as I like Eric Clapton I think this set makes Eric’s Blues release of a few years ago look weak by comparison.
I would love to hear how Johnny’s band plays his phenomenal Be Careful with a Fool from his late 60’s record, “Johnny Winter”.
I will definitely seen Johnny’s band when he is next in my area and wish him much success with this current release and his future plans, and congratulations on maintaining this excellent web page.
Gary Gillman, Toronto.
Where was he since 1992? Doesn’t matter, he comes back deep from the heart of Texas to New York’s “Bottom Line” in Greenwhich Village.
First-class routine-gig with the sighs, “good that the albino is still there.
This web-page includes many reviews of fans and visitors of Johnny Winter concerts of 1998, the opinions expressed are responsibility of the individual reviewers, the webmaster does not necessarily share these opinions,
13 January 2000 Jim Porter’s Emporium 2345 Lexington Road Louisville, Ky 503-452-9531
14 January 2000 Val Air Ballroom 310 Ashworth Road Des Moines, Ia 515-223-6152
15 January 2000 Col Ballroom 1012 West 4Th Street Davenport, Ia 319-322-4431
17 January 2000 First Avenue 701 1St Avenue, North Minneapolis, Mn 612-338-8407
Review by Ray Stiles
32 years after the release of his debut, self titled album, Johnny Winter has gained almost icon status in the world of blues and blues-rock. There is a mystique surrounding Winter. He has a striking appearance-he (as well as his younger brother Edgar) was born an albino without pigmentation in his hair and eyes, has long, flowing, waxen white hair and is legally blind. Plagued with poor health throughout his childhood, his physical condition was marred even more from drug and alcohol abuse that has further taken its toll on his already frail body. He is thin as a rail, can barely see and needs assistance just strapping on his guitar. Watching him stand on stage you are struck with the impression that the slightest breeze would knock him over. His body is also covered with innumerable tattoos (surpassingly he didn’t get his first tattoo until he was almost 40 years old). When asked about it he said, “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.” I don’t know about the self-destructive part, but I guess its better than drugs. (He also said there was no truth to the rumor that he would get a new tattoo with each new album he released.) But in spite of what we see, it is, and always has been, his guitar playing that sets Johnny Winter apart.
Born John Dawson Winter III in Beaumont, Texas on February 23, 1944 Johnny and his brother Edgar grew up surrounded by the blues, country and Cajun music. Johnny began playing clarinet at age five and later switched to the ukulele and then guitar when his hands were big enough. The two brothers showed an inclination toward music at an early age singing as a harmony duet fashioned after the Everly Brothers, winning talent contests and appearing on local television shows. By 14 Johnny had his own band and a year later he recorded the singles “School Day Blues” and “You Know I Love You” on Houston-based Dart Records, gaining the Winter brothers some local notoriety. When he was 16 he would sneak into the local clubs like Beaumont’s Black Raven Club, an all black club where artists like Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, Junior Parker and B.B. King performed. Johnny actually sat in with B.B. King at one of those shows. Another place Johnny would go was the Pleasure Pura Ballroom in Port Arthur, Texas where he would see Louisiana blues-men like Lonnie Brooks and Lightnin’ Slim play.
Throughout the early and mid-60s Johnny continued to play the more popular rock and roll but always came back to his one true love, the blues. His major break as a solo artists came about in 1967, after he had recorded an album with Red Turner (drums) and Tommy Shannon (bass) for an obscure regional label (Sonobeat). The Rolling Stone journalists Larry Sepulvado and John Burks heard the album and mentioned Johnny in an article they were writing about Texas music. They wrote, “Imagine a 130-pound cross-eyed albino bluesman with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest blues guitar you have ever heard.” That little piece catapulted Winter from local guitar hero to overnight international stardom and a major record label contract. In 1977 Winter was also instrumental in producing and playing on Muddy Waters’ Grammy winning album Hard Again.
This show at First Avenue was another in a series of comeback shows for Winter over the past 3 years. He is slowly gaining more strength and showing the dynamic spark of his early blues guitar prowess. Hunched at the shoulders and with his eyes closed most of the time, Winter never stopped rocking back and forth from one foot to the other as he played to a near sell out crowd of adoring fans.
With his patented headless Lazer guitar strapped over his stooped shoulders Winter began his set, as he always does, paying homage to one of his biggest influences, Freddie King. The instrumentals “Hideaway” and “Sen-Sa-Shun” were followed by “She Likes To Boogie Real Low,” “Just A Little Bit,” and Ray Charles’ smoldering ballad “Black Jack” as well as “Got My Mojo Working.” With the help of his guitar tech, he then switched to his famed sunburst Gibson Firebird guitar to showcase his phenomenal slide chops with a smoldering rendition of “The Sun Is Shining.” Influenced on the slide by Robert Johnson and Son House, Winter plays with the slide on his little finger and coaxes a sound out of that guitar that hearkens back to the heydays of delta blues. Interestingly Winter uses a piece of conduit pipe for his slide. “It’s just a piece of pipe,” he said in a Goldmine Magazine interview. “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 one.”
Most of Winter’s songs lasted at least 5 to 10 minutes with little break or comment between. Winter kept up a brisk pace and even though his guitar playing doesn’t have some of the “pyrotechnics” of other blues-rockers, his playing shows his complete understanding and mastery of the nuances of blues guitar. His playing epitomizes the very best elements of the Texas blues guitar tradition. For his encore, Winter returned to the stage and delivered a crushing rendition of his adopted theme song, “Johnny Guitar” (the tune first made famous by Johnny “Guitar” Watson). He even threw in his trademark “twirl” performed almost in slow motion.
Johnny Winter, this soft spoken, frail, tattooed, Texas titan, and blues-rock’s seminal illustrated (blues)man still has the ability to captivate an audience and mesmerize his fans. And you can feel his sincerity and sense his almost child-like quality when he sings, “they call me Johnny Guitar. I’m comin’ to play in your town.”
20 January Annie’s 4343 Kellog Avenue Cincinnati, Oh 513-321-2572
21 January 7Th House 7 North Saginaw, 3Rd Floor Pontiac, Mi 810-355-8188
22 January House Of Blues 329 North Deerborn Chicago, Il 312-923-2029
25 January Juanita’s 1300 South Main Street Little Rock, Ar 501-372-1228
26 January Hal & Mal’s 200 South Commerce Jackson, Ms 601-355-7685
28 January House Of Blues 225 Decatur Street New Orleans, La 504-529-2624
29 January Variety Playhouse 1099 Euclid Atlanta, Ga 404-524-7354
Because of the awful shape I saw Johnny in a couple of years ago here, I was very reluctantly dragged to see him this past Jan. 29th by a good friend who’d never seen him. It knew it would just tear me up to see the greatest bluesrocker of all time like that again. But against all hope I thought maybe it had been a fluke, and he’d have some of his old stuff. I’ve seen Johnny maybe 15 times over the years. I was a little too young to have seen him in his heyday. Though I listened to all his early records (and Edgars) and loved ’em, the first time I ever saw him was in 1977 in Austin at that great (and no longer existing) rockin’ palace, the Armadillo World Headquarters. Maybe he was just feeling good that night, or maybe it was because he was back home in Texas, but he tore the place down that night, and played for over 3 hrs. He mixed his hardest rock, blues, sat down on a tall stool and played his heart out. I was blown away, as I was many times to follow over the years…
It was worse than I could have imagined. The crowd was surprisingly large considering we were on the tail of a bad ice storm weekend here in Atlanta. He tried to play the same show everyone’s described for the last few years. He looked like death. He can’t sing at all any more, like all his breathe is gone. That great old voice is just gone. He could barely play too. Seemed like his band kept trying to pull him along, but he could hardly do it. He just kept this weird off-beat tottering from leg to the other going the whole time. When he changed guitars, I noticed his hand shaking real bad as he unplugged. Something is bad wrong with the man, I wish he’d get the help he needs (if anything can be done). By his recent interview in the GuitarWorld mag.(MAR2000), he still seems to have his mind. How can he not know whats happened to himself? I’m reduced to praying for a miracle, like some others I’ve heard. Until then folks, I’m “Hurting So Bad”.
1 FEBRUARY FREEBIRD CAFE’ 200 NORTH 1ST STREET JACKSONVILLE
3 FEBRUARY JANNUS LANDING 16 SECOND STREET ST. PETERSBURG, FL 727-896-1244
4 FEBRUARY CARE FREE THEATER 2000 SOUTH DIXIE HIGHWAY WEST PALM BEACH, FL 407-832-6397
5 FEBRUARY HOUSE OF BLUES 1490 EAST BUENA VISTA DRIVE LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL 407-934-2016
March 2000 Guitar World
Guitar World publishes an in-depth guide to Johnny Winter’s slide guitar playing style
May 2000 – Musik Express (Germany)
an article in the German Magazine “Musik Express” called the “Der Weisse Riese” that is “The White Giant”
06 May 2000, Cleveland OH, Odeon Concert Club
08 May 2000, St. Louis MO, Mississippi Nights
09 May 2000, Fayetteville AR, Dave’s On Dickson
11 May 2000, Wichita KS, Cotillion
12 May 2000, Denver CO, Fillmore Auditorium
13 May 2000, Grand Junction CO, Avalon Theatre
18 May 2000, House of Blues, Las Vegas
My review from Las Vegas. Only revision is that yes, he DID sing with the Firebird.
Fair warning : this won’t be the review I had hoped to write.
The Johnny concert in Las Vegas was last night. I haven’t slept.
Yesterday, I primed myself to see Johnny by listening to “Live in NYC,” twice in my hotel room before the show. I wanted to do this, so I could compare his 1997 performance to the one he’s now doing.
At around 6pm, I checked out of my hotel in Downtown Las Vegas, and took a taxi to the Mandalay Bay. That place is really nice. Aside from the architecture, one of the first things you notice is that all the cocktail waitresses have quite a bit of their ass sticking out of their costumes. That is convenient, because they all have great asses. I had dinner at the Mandalay Buffet, and had 3 piles of crab legs; among about 50 other things.
Entering the “House of Blues,” a guy asked me for “any extra tickets.” It must have been a sellout.
The “House of Blues” is quite elaborate. There were at least two restaurants, and at least 5 bars. The showroom is roughly a rectangle, with the stage on one side, and the three other sides being bars. I went to my seat on the Loge level to watch the first two warm up bands. The seats were very comfortable, with a good view of the stage down below. In front of the stage was a large open area where people were dancing and milling about.
I was seated next to a pretty darn good looking fourty-ish woman, and her even better looking 20 year old daughter. We didn’t talk… until later…
Beers 5 bucks. I was sober for the first Johnny concert in my history.
The crowd was the typical Johnny audience, but for some reason, everybody looks older. Do I? Biker types were sprinkled in, as usual (nobody noticed me in disguise). Drunk guys, drunk chicks. But overall, the same people, only mellower now. Mixed in with that bunch was about a 5% allotment of people who definitely didn’t belong there. WAY older than me, and well dressed. I suspect these were people who “wanted to see a Las Vegas show,” and didn’t necessarily know who Johnny was.
The first warm up band was “Grady Champion,” a young harmonica guy. Fair. He had a “chick” guitar player; also “fair.”
The second band was “Coco Montoya.” Sorta fat guitarist from southern California. Pretty good. He played a right handed strat type guitar left handed, complete with the low strings on the bottom; Hendrix style.
At the precise moment that the second band was wrapping up, I made my tactical move down to the stage. It was far easier than I expected. Nobody was pushing and shoving. I walked right up to the stage, slightly to the left. The stage came up to my chin. When the curtain opened, I would be the only guy directly in front of Johnny.
The crowd in front of the stage was quite “Johnny oriented.” Lots of people drinking. Sporadic “YA’s,” and yells of, “John-ny.” I eventually ended up between a pretty cool (and Johnny knowledgeable) muscle guy, and some other guy from Baltimore. The guy from Baltimore boasted that he had seen Johnny “16 times.” I couldn’t help but mention to him that I have seen Johnny, “somewhere around 25 times.”
Here we go.
House lights dim.
Sound of the Lazer.
There is Johnny, right in front of me, behind one of two monitor speakers. The mike stand is 18 inches to my right. Perfect.
The song was, “Hideaway.”
Black cowboy boots, Levi’s, a sleeveless black “Blues Brothers” T-shirt, slightly longer than shoulder length hair, straw hat.
Wow, I thought, Johnny looks … old …
I totally dig seeing Johnny. I dig Johnny.
My mouth dropped open because I was standing there watching Johnny right in front of me. My mouth remained open for the rest of the show.
Music Man amp.
Lazer sounds OK; let’s look Johnny over. Face looks pale. He’s lost some weight, you can see it in his face. Tattoos are fading, and no new ones. A couple rings on his right hand, none on the left. He’s wearing a watch. The white Lazer has rainbowish stars on it. I meant to count them for some reason, but never did.
Is it my position here by this monitor, or did Johnny just miss a lick?
Glance at the bass player. So that’s Mark Epstein. Precision. Nice sound. Drummer … new drummer … sounds OK … can’t see the drummer …
Wow. There’s Johnny playing the Lazer. I DIG JOHNNY.
OK, take a couple pictures. I had my APS mini camera with 400 speed film. Flash off, in respect for Johnny. Here we go. The usual problems with the mike stand being in the way, and the annoying stage lighting which was always anything but white, which is what I want. Real bad row of lights just above Johnny’s head. I ended up taking 20 or less pictures, and I don’t expect much. I did (forgive me), switch on the flash for a couple of shots when Johnny had his eyes closed. Hey, this seemed … important.
Later in the show.
OK, so He’s stickin’ like glue with the Live in NYC set. Fair enough.
Johnny looks old. I’m actually hearing mistakes. Mistakes? From Johnny? No. YES.
Johnny is rocking back and forth as he plays. He always did that, but it’s not the same. He rocks at the same tempo, even if it doesn’t match the song. Medication comes to mind.
Medication and mistakes, and he looks older…
But it’s SO BITCHEN to SEE JOHNNY RIGHT THERE.
Those ARE mistakes. Third song now, and I just saw the bass player actually cringe.
How could Johnny possibly make a mistake playing the guitar? He never did before. Well, if he did, he’d cover it up by playing the same wrong note again, as if he “meant to do it.” Perhaps with a spontaneously invented riff to blend it in. But he’s not doing that. Can he not hear it like I can? Standing in front of a wall of Marshall’s was never good for ones hearing. or could it be that he hears the mistake too, but can’t make the correction?
THERE’S JOHNNY. The crowd is diggin’ Johnny. People love him. These people are INTO the show. Drunk people dancing. People are yelling. This is definitely a JOHNNY CONCERT.
Several times per song, Johnny lays down a trademark lick and the crowd goes wild. WILD!
Johnny’s singing sounds OK. At least, not THAT bad. Maybe I’ve never even heard his singing in a concert because I’m always at the stage, and the speakers for the vocals are, “somewhere else.”
Later I realized that in the whole show, there was not one growled, “YA!” from Johnny.
3rd song. Confirmed. Johnny is off tonight. He’s up there, he’s playing, but it’s not like I remember him being up there and playing.
Wow. I can’t believe I’m seeing this.
Now I remember walking out of one of the especially awesome shows at the Country Club in the valley 15 years ago, and remarking to Chris, “How long can he keep doing this?” “Someday, he’ll slow down … ”
On the way to the show tonight, I thought that I’d yell out, “Broke and Lonely!” Because I’d really like to hear him play that one. I’ve been addicted to it lately. Now I’m thinkin’ I better not. He’s obviously sticking with the prescribed (sic) show, and I don’t want to confuse him.
I did, however, give him a “Whip It Out, Johnny” between songs once, which preceded a smile on his face. I know he heard me.
It looks like he’s having fun, but it’s like he’s struggling. There goes another wrong set of notes.
New song about to start. Bass player comes over to look Johnny in the eye. Says something. He did that before.
I smell pot from the audience behind me. Long live tradition.
He still has the fire. It’s INSIDE him. The show is LOUD. I can feel my shirt vibrating to the bass. He still has the fire, because he still plays the licks that makes the crowd go nuts.
But where is the innovation? Johnny used to always shell a few, “new licks” at every concert that would make my hair stand up. It was something I always looked forward to.
I dig Johnny. I don’t care what he does. I don’t care if he makes mistakes. I’ll go and see Johnny anytime, anywhere I can. I don’t really care.
Well into the set now. I noticed that there is a “Firebird sized” guitar case stage left. And now that you mention it, that “Roadie” looks like the usual guy, doesn’t he? He’s watching Johnny “very” carefully…
Not sure, but here is what I think happened next. I think he played, “The Sun is Shining” (a Firebird/slide song on the album), with the Lazer, ended the song, stopped, switched guitars, and then played the solo of the same song with the Firebird/slide.
Now, for the first time since the show started, Johnny has to move about 15 feet to change guitars. Evidently, the same guitar case is cut to hold both the white Lazer, and the brown Firebird. Johnny is moving SO SLOW. My father is 81, and he moves more fluidly. How old is Johnny now?
Wow. There’s Johnny. It’s the year 2000.
Bass player is keeping the crowd revved up during the guitar change.
Roadie helps with the strap, but Johnny feeds the cord through the strap and plugs the cord into the guitar by himself. On his first try at plugging the cord into the Firebird, he misses the socket.
Now I’m certain about all my thoughts. That seemingly insignificant motion solidified my feelings. Johnny missed the plug on the Firebird.
Johnny starts playing slide, cuts into “The Sun is Shining” again, while the other two pieces of the band are just idling.
THAT FIREBIRD SOUNDS SWEET. MAN, IS IT EVER GOOD TO HEAR THAT!
JOHNNY IS WHIPPIN’ IT OUT ON SLIDE!
He’s not doing the back and forth rocking motion with the Firebird on him.
He looks so much more natural now. He’s comfortable. He’s playing “at ease.”
Nailin’ it. OK, a couple notes off here and there, but much better.
THERE’S JOHNNY, PLAYING SLIDE ON THE FIREBIRD!!!!!!!!
CONFIRMED, YES, I’M HAPPY RIGHT NOW IN TIME.
Finally, back in sync with the Universe…
Take some pics, you idiot. Should have taken more. Should have done one with the flash.
Even with the rip-off Ticketmaster handling fees, admission has now been paid for.
Johnny on slide. There ya go.
Johnny with the brown Firebird.
Hmm. Johnny didn’t sing and play slide at the same time, I don’t think. Another difference from the album. Another difference from only 3 years ago.
I remarked to the muscle guy that I once saw Johnny play that same guitar … behind his head …
After the one slide song, the guitar switch was just as slow. Johnny ever so s-l-o-w-l-y placed the brown Firebird in it’s case as if it were a immensely valuable icon, which of course, it is.
More Lazer numbers. A couple extra songs (or more accurately, parts of songs) rounded out the set. We’re hearing the mistakes, sure, but we don’t care. Because THERE’S JOHNNY. Entire crowd turned apologetic a long time ago.
And You Betcha it was BITCHEN standing there in front of Johnny as he played, “Johnny Guitar.”
… and then he said good-bye….
Obviously only going to be just one encore, just like the album.
I moved back.
I left my place at the stage and found another one … way back … perspective time.
Encore was nice. After all, THERE WAS JOHNNY.
I left the show as soon as Johnny left my field of view. He played for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
My flight to Portland leaves in 67 minutes.
Got back to PDX around 3:30 am. I didn’t know what to do at that time of day, so I went to the grocery store, and then went fishing. This is what I came up with:
If we say that the 1997 Live album represents Johnny at 70% of his mid-80’s prime, and then subtract another 30% from there, it works out that Johnny is currently playing at 40% of what you may care to remember.
I DIG JOHNNY.
And even at 40% of his best, he’s still better than alot of others. ALOT.
And there are alot of other Johnny fans who love him almost as much as me.
So what if he’s not the “best” anymore. I already told ya 15 years ago it couldn’t last. What “human” could keep it up?
His records speak for themselves. Just like Hank Aarons do.
And he’s still Johnny. The only JOHNNY.
The only one.
There is only one JOHNNY.
But I’ll still go see JOHNNY whenever I can. That WON’T change.
I mentioned at the start about the fourty-ish woman and her pretty daughter that I initially sat next to at the concert.
As I was leaving the Mandalay Bay, both of them happened to come up behind me at the taxi stand. Late at night, we were the only ones there. I spoke briefly with the older of the two .
Right out of the blue, her words were … “I felt like crying.”
I know. And today I’ve learned it helps.
See you at the next Johnny concert.
20 May 2000, Doheny Blues Festival, Doheny State Beach, Dana Point California.
September 2000 ‘ Houston Headline Magazine covers Johnny Winter
16 Sep 2000, Mississippi Delta Blues Festival Greenville, Mississippi
This web-page includes many reviews of fans and visitors of Johnny Winter concerts of 1998, the opinions expressed are responsibility of the individual reviewers, the webmaster does not necessarily share these opinions,
Johnny starts the year with a series of concerts in January and February. A new drummer called: Vito Luizzi, joins the band.
Finally after several years, Johnny does a European tour in July. In Finland he meets Gyorgy Karpati who wants to shoot a documentary on Johnny Winter
Friday, 29 January 1999 ROXY THEATER, 2004 MAIN STREET, NOTHAMPTON, PA, 610-262-7699
Saturday, 30 January 1999 PEARL ST, 10 PEARL STREET, NORTH HAMPTON, MA, 413-584-7771
All I can say to everyone is that I am ecstatic!! Johnny is back!! Sat night in Northampton was just incredible. For starters, he played longer than Ive ever seen him play, about an hour and 1/2. Though his set list was right off of Live in NYC, he played EXTENDED versions of each tune, and was throwing in licks that were not on the disk. He never once sat down, never even had his stool on stage, never once looked at his watch, and was even opening his eyes occaisionally to smile at the people in the front row..(me and my bro.. grin)
It was general admission so we got a chance to get right to the front, right in the center, about THREE feet away from Johnny, front and center. Like I said he played the set list right off of NYC, right up until “Just a Little Bit”, which he skipped. He also skipped “The Sky is crying”. I couldnt believe that with dropping two songs from the set he ended up playing an hour 1/2 while the disk is only 1 hour long! He was singing full sets of each verse at least twice for each song with solos in between. He only left the stage for a minute after “Sun Is Shining”, then came back for Johnny Guitar and Drop The Bomb.
He was smiling during Johnny Guitar and the crowd was just going wild. I’m still hoarse today. 😉 During Drop the Bomb, he was really getting into that riff from “Fast Life Rider” and so was I! You guys arent going to believe it, but during Drop The Bomb, he actually spun around on one boot in a full circle and started grinning!!!! He looked like he was about to start laughing. He was animated, smiling, opening his eyes, and he didnt miss (m)any notes. This was in contrast to the last time I saw him a little over a year ago, when he sat on his stool and looked at his watch between every song, and only played for 45 mins.
I dont know if he just had a lot of rest, or whether the crowd was getting him into it.. (we were really really loud and crazy), but we witnessed an awesome show. He played his white lazer with all the star stickers on it for every song but one, “Sun Is Shing”, which he played slide for. All in all, I just cant say how happy I am to see him smiling and playing. It was a night that will forever be burned in my memory, and I hope that it is an indication of the shows to come. I am still flying high! Well, time to get back to work, I hope I didnt leave anything out, and if I did and you want to ask me a question, feel free! Until later…
I saw Johnny in concert Sat. night at Pearl Street, in Northampton, MA. One of the reasons that I went to the show(other than the fact that I love him) was because of all the trashing of him that I have been reading everywhere. According to everything that I have read lately, the concert was going to be a horror show. Well, it was NOT! This was one of the few, if only, times that Johnny came out on time. I can remember back in the 70’s, waiting for hours for him to come out on stage.
None of that last night. There was a jam-packed house(I would guess 1000 people) and Johnny came out about 10:40PM. He was guided closely, but no one had to help him in any way. He walked very, very slowly to his microphone and seemed a bit unsteady. He looked weak, but not sick, in any way. He was given his guitar cord by one of his handlers, and he plugged it in by himself. There were two stools on either side of the stage, but Johnny stood through the whole show. He opened with HIDEAWAY and this was the only song that he missed several notes.He followed with SEN-SA-SHUN/GOT MY MOJO WORKING and the crowd was going crazy. I am not making this up!!!
The audience sang along with Johnny on all of the songs last night. Next came SHE LIKES TO BOOGIE REAL LOW, then SICK & TIRED, and BLACKJACK. Then Johnny said the thing that everybody looks forward to:”I’m going to play some slide guitar for ya”. He proceeded to do a nice version of THE SUN IS SHINING and then introduced the band. I know that it was Mark Epstein on bass, but I could not make the new drummer’s name out. He said ” good night” and left the stage. The crowd was screaming for an encore and Johnny came back after about 3 minutes. He did JOHNNY GUITAR and DROP THE BOMB, introduced the band again, said “goodnight”, and it was over. Here’s some points that I would like to share with all of you.
1) From what I had read lately, I figured that Johnny couldn’t play at all, and I would be lucky to see him play some chords. I went in expecting the worse case scenario. Except for HIDEAWAY, he played a pretty clean show. However, his playing was very calculated and methodical. He never improvised at all, staying within the song’s arranged chords and leads. When he first came out and plugged in to warm up, he reeled-off a flurry of practice notes, just like he has always done in the past. This was great!!!! He only came close to repeating this rapid fire stlye a couple of times during the show. I believe that Johnny can still play pretty fast, but in his condition, he does not like to take chances. He just plays whats comfortable to him(just my opinion).
2) At the end of SEN-SA-SHUN/GOT MY MOJO WORKING Johnny let out a big YYYYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! That was probably my most emotional moment of the whole show. It brought back all of those great memories that I have of Johnny, and I have thousands! The crowd went nuts too!!!!
3) When Johnny got to the lead part of SICK & TIRED he played the lead and chords for JOHNNY B. GOODE. That was cool. It wasn’t the lightning quick, million notes a minute lead that we have been so accustomed to, but it was cool!!!!!
4) Johnny can still play a good slide guitar. This was evident on THE SUN IS SHINING. He played fluidly and pretty fast. The audience, and myself, really loved it. The only tough part of it was when he was strapping on his Firebird. He picked-up the guitar alright, but he really struggled to bring the strap up and over his head. I had my doubts that he was going to be able to do it unassisted. But, after about a 10-15 second struggle, he managed to get it up and over. Then he had a hard time plugging the cord into the guitar. Again, he managed to do it unassisted.
5) Johnny did a spin during JOHNNY GUITAR(could have been during DROP THE BOMB). It was slow, but he did it.
6) I have to give the crowd a 10+. They absolutely loved Johnny from start to finish and cheered wildly throughout. They sang along with Johnny on ALL the songs. I really felt great for him!!!!!!
7) The show lasted 1 hour(10:40-11:40). Tickets were a bit steep at $28.00 a pop.
All in all I was happy that I went. It may be the last time that I ever see him in concert. I don’t know. He does not look sick at all, just very, very, very weak. He always looked frail, so I expected him to be thin. His vocals were a bit weak, but not terrible. Johnny seemed real happy throughout the show too! As Johnny left the stage for the final time, he waved and smiled to the audience, and I was happy that he seemed happy. If he is happy playing, then I guess I should be happy for him. I am just so used to hearing HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED or HELP ME from his haydays, that I have been spoiled will his blistering attack of old. If you have any questions, please feel free to write. Take care, hope all is well with everyone. Roger
Tuesday, 2 February 1999 HARPER’S FERRY, 158 BRIGHTON AVENUE, ALSTON, MA , 617-254-9743
I wished I had found this web site before I went to see Johnny rather than after seeing Johnny. I would have not missed it for the world, but I would have preferred to be prepared for what I was about to see. I have seen him six or seven times since my first (still have one unused ticket) concert on April 1, 1975 at the Music Hall in Boston. The last time was in the early 80’s. I recently bought “Live in NYC 1997” and assumed he was in top form. Reviews in this site don’t paint the same picture. Don’t know how they pulled it off, but it is a treasured addition to my collection.
Harpers Ferry is a small club with a decent high stage and good acoustics. I bought my ticket the day before the show and they had sold about 350 tickets at that point. I figure that there must have been a crowd of 500 or so there. When I came in Johnny was already playing and I could immediately tell he was not in form. I play in a band myself and I these are the opinions of someone who walked in sober and had one beer for the whole show.
The bass player (Epstein) and the drummer formed a tight rythmn section. Johnny for the first few songs was slighty behind the groove and at times they slowed a little to accomodate him. They did pretty much what everyone else reported with the exception of “Goin’ Down” which the bass player sang. It seemed like they didn’t expect to play it. Johnny would just play and they would follow him. At one point during a song he missed a chord change and hung in that chord for a while. The bass player and the drummer looked at each other and shrugged it off. Johnny seemed to figure it out and when he did move they were ready to follow.
Johnny sang only parts of songs leaving out parts of a lot of the verses and not forgetting any of the chorus parts. He seemed to struggle with leads, however, I saw occasional flashes of the old Johnny Winter. When he played the slide on his old Firebird the entire song was flawless – a true Johnny Winter gem. At one point to everyone’s surprise including his band he went from one song into the middle of another. When he used to do that years ago everyone in the band seemed to know he was going to.
Johnny looked frail at best. He stood close to the mike and swayed whether he was playing or not. He seemed confused and at one point wandered off stage after a song only to be turned around and sent back. He spoke a few times and there were a few Yeahs and Well Allrights and he told the audience how much he loved them. The crowd reaction was enthusiastic – everyone cheered and yelled, mostly out of respect and admiration. I would have not wanted to see what would have happened if someone heckled him.
If you decide to go see Johnny just be prepared. Either his management are scumbags who want to get everything out of him possible or he just needs the money, but if I were him I’d bow out gracefully. If he returns I will be there – not expecting to get blown away by his musicianship, but just to visit an old friend thats left me with a treasure of memories. We can all still listen to what he used to sound like….
Wednesday, 3 February 1999 LIFE, 58 BLEEKER STREET, NEW YORK CITY, NY, 212-420-1999
05 Feb 1999 -Daytona’s, 8501 Fort Smallwood Rd. Pasadena, MD.
Hey once again,
The show Friday night at Daytona’s was quite an event. Daytona’s is a small venue that (just a guess) mebby 350 capacity. The tickets didn’t sell up front very well at all, I got mine at TicketMaster the night before, and it was only the 29th ticket sold via TicketMasters. But joint was packed to capacity by showtime.
A Baltimore local blues band, Kelly Bell was the warmup band, and they were pretty darned good. There set was a little short of an hour and a half (just a guess, I didn’t have a watch), which surprised me, but they were recording for a live CD that night, so it makes sense.
The set change only took about a half hour and Johnny took the stage as soon as the set change was finished. This was the first time I saw him since 1992, so even though I’ve been on this list for nearly a year, and have heard all the reports I was somewhat surprised by his appearance. He was moving very slow, but with purpose. One thing I noticed because I was right up front is that one of the things that has progressed is his level of blindness, because even walking on stage and picking up his laser, his eyes were closed, in fact, his eyes were closed throughout the whole show – he didn’t once even glance at the neck of his guitar. Anywho, He played the white laser, and had a little trouble getting it cranked, the stage crew had to work on it for a few minutes, but he got it cranking and away he went.
He was a man with a purpose that night. He opened with HideAway (yeah, I know, big shock – I’ve seen him 18 times now, and ever since the early eighties, I have never seen a show that he didn’t open with that song – but it is a darned cool blues tune – I ain’t complaining) :o) And did pretty well, but was somewhat repetitive with the lead, but did an extended version. Then he did sen-sa-shun/mojo and did an extended version of that too. The crowd was absolutely going nuts by now, singing the “got my mojo workin'” part and everything. Then he did boggie real low, and was very tight for that tune. Next tune was Sick and Tired which was very good, then he did Black Jack, and the crowd was absolutely going nuts during the whole tune, and again as with most of the songs he did an extended version, and he was really on it.
Then he changed to the Firebird and did The Sun is Shining, and really did a great rendition, his slide playing was on the mark. Then he through in a new wrinkle, he turned to Mark Epstine and the stood there facing each other, and they did “Going Down” (my mind is still fuzzy on this, but I believe it’s an old, old fleetwood mac song???) and the new drummer did the vocals (mark helped with the backup vocals, but it was an obvious audience participation song and the whole crowd got into singing “down, down, down” (yadda yadda) it was really really funky! The funkiest version of any song I’ve ever heard Johnny do – twice as funky as drop the bomb. Johnny seemed to have a fair amount of trouble with his part, the prolly hadn’t practiced it enough but epstine and the drummer really had it going on – it blew me away~!!!
He finished the set with Johnny Guitar, and the crowd was loving it, sing the refrain – I guess that is a natural crowd participation replacement for Johnny B. Goode. His encore was Drop the Bomb, and he did fairly well, but his lead parts weren’t as quality as on the album. The crowd was absolutely nuts throughout the show – it was a really good experience.
I was very close, I stood right behind the video camera with the guy shooting, I pretty much got cornered there as I was talking to him (this is the guy producing the documentary that I wrote about in the other letter) – it was pretty cool, I sorta played guard for him, keeping people off him – I’m a pretty big guy, so I can block pretty good. One of the observations I made is that Johnny’s fingers are very stiff, and his ability to fret quickly seems to be hampered by the condition of his hands – he did a really good job considering – and mind you, this is just an observation from someone who is not a medical professional, but the problem seems systemic, in other words, it didn’t look to me to be a condition that has the ability to get a whole lot better over time. And he definitely is not his old spry self.
I went to the bus after the concert. I had never done that before, don’t know why, but I’m glad I went there last night. I got a chance to talk briefly with Mark Epstine, he’s a really cool dude. He is pretty much thrilled to death that he is in the privileged position of being Johnny’s bass player. Two guitars went in for singing, one was a dobro (sp’) – I thought that was really cool. I felt kind of stupid sending my ticked stub in for an autograph, but I hadn’t planned on hanging around the bus, so I didn’t have anything better with me. There were a lot of really faithful fans there, and they hung around quite some time even though the film crew was on the bus for over a half hour and impeded the folks ability to get to see him or get autographs. There had to be about 50 people there at the bus.
It was a fantastic night overall, and I’m really glad that I went. Wilk
06 Feb 1999 – Jaxx in Springfield, VA
Johnny Winter took the stage at about 10:25 and played, to the best of my recollection:
Boogie real low
Sick and Tired
Black Jack Game
The Sun is Shining-slide
Going Down-Vito Luizzi vocals (thanks Jan, for the spelling)
encore-Drop the Bomb
I’ve heard lots of his albums during his good and bad times. My impression going into the concert was that as blues musicians go, he was ok. And that the body of his work was revamped 50’s rock n roll tunes like Johnny B Goode. But I also knew he was getting on in years, so I wanted to see him at least once before he was gone.
His gear for the concert consisted of 3 music man 4×10 amps (only 2 of which were on), his white Erlewine Lazer, a 60’s Gibson Firbird, and a Boss Chorus pedal that he never turned off.
His bassist helped him up the 2 or 3 steps to get onto stage. And Johnny walked out on the stage in little baby steps. He looked “very” old and fragile. At one point he wanted his chorus pedal moved to a different location. And he had the bassist on his knees saying “you want it here’ No’ Here’…” From the looks of it, Johnny probably couldn’t have bended over if his life depended on it.. Also throughout the performance, whenever he needed to change guitars, he would baby step over to the side of the stage. Then a roadie would take one guitar off and put the other one on for him.
He opened up the concert with the Erlewine Lazer. He played lots of Architypal blues riffs. Nothing too hard and no solo’s that didn’t sound like memorized riffs. But he was ok. I was really amazed that he was as fluid as he was in playing. There were a few flubs, but unless you were a guitarist, you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Where he really shined was when he did some slide work on his Firebird. The tunes were all derivative of Robert Johnson songs. But then again so was just about everything that Muddy Waters played. And Johnny spent alot of time playing with Muddy. But I play slide myself, and I was again impressed with the fluidity of his playing. If he came out with an album composed totally of slide work, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
I never got to see Johnny in his prime, so I don’t really have any way to make a comparison. But he’s still doing pretty good considering his failing health.
But any opportunity you have to see a blues legend should be taken, there are so very few of them left, and Johnny Winters is no exception.
Saturday, 13 March 1999, Village Pub, 509 Main St, Port Jefferson, NY, 516-331-4309
Guitar World, June 1999
The latest issue of “Guitar World” (June 1999) features “1969, The Greatest Year In Rock”. There’s a nice little piece on page 94 discussing Johnny and his three-sided record album, “Second Winter”. ( I still can’t get over “Memory Pain”, the playin’ and the singing are equally phenomenal…..)
Friday, 2 April 1999, House of Blues, 226 Decatur, New Orleans, LA, 504-383-7918
Monday, 5 April 1999, Antone’s, 212 West 5th St, Austin, TX, 512-322-0660
Wednesday, 7 April 1999, Antone’s, 212 West 5th St, Austin, TX, 512-322-0660
I saw Johnny Winter last night at Antones in Austin. TX. This will be short to avoid repitition. I saw him here a year ago, and this was a marginally better show. It was the NYC set with “sick and tired” as an encore. He was stiff, lifeless, but seemed pleased with the fans and his music. Clifford Antone, Antones Records and clubowner, was there and screaming encouragement. The soon to be con, drug trafficing, never liked Johnny Winter’s rock/blues mix.
We have argued about this many times. I always said SRV supped heavily at J’s table, but the muttonhead never saw it. It was nice to see him being supportive now. J’s voice seems a little thinner still, but the band , except for Hideaway, followed him more easily. Johnny drifts in his tempo. Seems to be a difficulty with concentration, not his trademark shifts during extended jams. The crowd was very enthusiastic, and I talked to first timers and old-timers. The former saw a very fine bluesman and were impressed. The latter were a bit sad and shocked but admiitted he was still a fine, perhaps not as great, player. I find the voice is what I have a hard time getting used to. Weak, thin, and often out of tune. He is still an excellent, if inconsistent, player who enjoys his work.
About Johnny’s web site chat about his health: If he wrote that, I’ll wear a dress and sing show tunes at a Pat Buchanan rally. That’s probably as true as the mythical poll conducted for the song selection on his NYC CD. Here’s hoping he does some Hooker/BB Kingesque collaborration CD’s in the future. He’s still alive, but not well. But not worse.
Friday, 9 April 1999, Deep Ellum Live, 2727 Canton Street, Dallas, TX, 214-526-8077
Saturday, 10 April 1999, Calns Ballroom, 423 North Main, Tulsa, OK, 918-747-0001
Monday, 12 April 1999, Coyote’s, 408 Buttermilk, Fort Mitchel, KY, 606-341-5150
A quick review: Johnny’s playing was virtually flawless, but blistering riffs of 10 years ago are no longer there, nor are the strong vocals. He played the usual NYC set that we’ve come to expect, Johnny Guitar and the funk tune (I forget the title) being the encore. It was a bit awkward, watching him take baby steps on the stage, sliding his feet no more than six inches at a time, but he seemed to enjoy the show as much as we enjoyed seeing him perform (the 8th time for me).
An interesting side note: Edgar opened for him, but his guitar player had some sort of emergency, so one of the local roadies/soundmen sat in on guitar. He did well considering it was a last minute replacement, but struggled a tad with some of the 5 minute solo spots in Frankenstein. During one of the last songs, the real guitarist showed up with blood spilled on his shirt and an Ace bandage wrapped around his head! He finished the show spectacularly. I never found out how he got injured, though.
Edgar Winter came out and played 2 or 3 songs with Johnny, and Johnny seemed to light up when Edgar hit the stage.
Good show overall.
Tuesday, 13 April 1999, Coyote’s Louisville, 133 West Liberty St, Louisville, KY, 502-588-3888
Thursday, 15 April 1999, The Thunderdome, 370 Orleans Ave, Akron, OH, 330-376-7627
The latest issue of “Guitar World” (June 1999) features “1969, The Greatest Year In Rock”. There’s a nice little piece on page 94 discussing Johnny and his three-sided record album, “Second Winter”. ( I still can’t get over “Memory Pain”, the playin’ and the singing are equally phenomenal…..)
Tuesday, 8 June 1999, Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, South Street Seaport, New York City, NY
Thursday, 17 June 1999, Gilford NH, Meadowbrook Farm
Saturday, 19 June 1999, Portland ME, Stone Coast Brewing Co.
Sunday, 20 June 1999, Amagansett NY, Stephen Talkhouse
Tuesday, 22 June 1999, Reading PA, Top Of The Rock
Thursday, 24 June 1999, Recher Theater, 512 York Rd. Townson, MD.
Friday, 25 June 1999, Sussex County Fair, Georgetown DE,
Saturday, 26 June 1999, Jaxx, 6355 Rolling RD, Springfield, VA
‘Johnny plays Jaxx’
Well, it’s not that bad yet, but on Saturday night Johnny and his entourage were seen playing at Jaxx, the nightclub, in Springfield VA. Apparently his last gig before his, long anticipated, European tour. The evening was not without glitches though. The opening act, Pride Enjoy, a local Stevie Ray Vaughan cover band, was 30 minutes into their set when a loud crackling manifested itself in the Sound system. It took quite awhile to isolate the problem. At one point, one of Slatus’ people was helping out, and after several ear piercing feedbacks, said ‘I’m out of here’ and left the stage. At this point I thought the evening was in jeopardy. Slatus was hanging around and watching the progress, and didn’t look very pleased with the situation.
The problem was apparently corrected, but by this time it was history for Pride Enjoy, and the second band, Susan Angelliti, took the stage. They mentioned that Teddy brought them down from Massachusetts and were well received by the crowd. The guitar player did a good job backing Susan with tasteful licks, and helping with the vocals. Because of the earlier Sound problems, their set was cut short also. It was time for the main event.
Hideaway Got my Mojo/Sen-Sa-Shun She likes to Boogie Real Low Sick & Tired Black Jack Game Sun is Shining Going Down Johnny Guitar encore/Drop the Bomb
He did play a little better than he did a few months earlier at Jaxx. There were fewer (obvious) guitar muffs and seemed to play within his current style better. A couple of times during his set he would yell ‘yeaaa’ back and forth with the crowd a few times. He was well received and supported by the crowd who cheered him on and were sorry to see him leave after the encore.
The current band with Vito Luizzi, and Mark Epstein, did a good job backing Johnny although a couple of times it seemed they weren’t all playing on the same page. Vito, does a good job singing ‘Going Down’ and Mark does a good job following Johnny.
Johnny pulled the Firebird out for ‘The Sun is Shining’ and unfortunately, put it back in the case after the one song. This reviewer wishes he would play more slide. 2 0r 3 songs wouldn’t be asking too much and it is more forgiving within his current playing style.
Johnny is still using the white Lazer, but his playing was, repetitious, tentative, and lacking of emotion. There are others that would disagree with me though. A (non guitar playing) friend who was with me raved after the show that Johnny was really ‘on’. And challenged me to name someone who played as few notes so well. But I wasn’t there to degrade or disrespect my hero and rather decided to let him revel in his moment. Another (guitar playing) friend remarked he could see what ‘people were saying’.
So it looks like you’ll have to go see Johnny Guitar and form your own opinion. As long as he is still coming to my town I will be there to see him. Club Reviewer, …Gary
Another review of the same Jaxx show:
last night was an incredible show! catch him while you can. I’ve been reading how bad Johnny looks and was basically prepared to see him in the shape he’s in, but I don’t think most of the crowd was. I think after he started playing some most got over it and enjoyed the legend in front of them. the last time I saw him was 3 years ago and he was every bit as good this time if not better. the crowd was really responsive! every time he let a “YEAH” a huge roaring YEAH came right back at him. he may not move very fast but his fingers take care of all the business. he did do a spin at one point during a solo which was fun to see. You don’t go to see johnny to watch some one jumping around like a nut, you go to see the man wail and that’s what he did!
Here’s the show as far as I can remember it……my buddy weiser may have clouded a few things…the set list was probably close to his standard show with some differences
he opened with Hideaway which was much longer than the live in NYC version from what I remember. he got down to business right away. couple of flubs, but he was just getting warmed up. i personally like a few missed notes. that’s what live music is all about. this instrumental went on for a while and Johnny Winter has no fear of soloing!! every time I thought was about to close this one, he hit the turnaround and took off again. the longer the better…
next was Sen-Sa-Shun > Got My Mojo Workin’. much like his latest live album. really got the crowd going, everyone same along. and he was right into his groove playing now.
She Likes To Boogie Real Low. another great tune, again very much like the live album. great solos. I don’t know if it was me, but most of the tunes he played that were also off of the live album seemed to be longer than what was recorded. which I extremely thankful for! but then again it may be the buds (both kind) talking.
Black Jack. this song was incredible. straight blues the way it was meant to be. he brought the house down with his solos in this one. unbelievable. He kept building and raising the level, only to climax with a deafening roar from the crowd. any true Johnny Winter fan was in heaven at this point. this was probably my favorite song of the night, although he kept blowing me away all night…
“damn it, can’t remember the name of this song” which really pissed me off because it was different than his last live CD and I was expecting to see a repeat list for his show last night and it wasn’t! it was a great rockin’-boogie-blues tune. more excellent soloing that the crowd loved. where I was standing, front row about five feet from Johnny Winter, you couldn’t hear the vocals that well at all. if Jaxx would have had them turned up in the monitors it would have been fine, but the vocals were basically behind me. the price you pay for standing so close to greatness. tried desperately to remember a line from the chorus to help me figure it out this morning, but that got washed away. just remembered it grooved nicely and his playing was right on and everyone was boogying
The Sun is Shining. The place went nuts when he switched to slide guitar. goose bumps over took everyone when he strapped that thing on. in my opinion he is the best slide player ever. It was amazing watching him pull off his stuff so effortlessly. each tune just kept getting better. unfortunately this was the only song he played slide on, but at least we got this and it kicked ass. unbelievable to hear and see.
Going Down. that’s right, the Jeff Beck tune. This one ripped the roof off of the place. The drummer sang it and was right on with it. I assume he doesn’t have Tom Compton with him anymore and this new(er) guy brought a lot of energy to the night. They totally ripped it up with this one. long rocking solos. Johnny Winter stepped back from the microphone on this one and he, mark epstein and the drummer were huddled back near the drum kit just ripping it up. anyone that wanted to hear Johnny do some of his kick-ass 70’s rock tunes got just what they were looking for on this one. damn.
Johnny Guitar. his new anthem and boy did he deliver. these words seem to match the life he is living. he came and conquered! “they call me johnny guitar, i’m coming to play in your town.” and did he ever. this one again seemed a good bit longer than the CD also. As he ripped thru the solo on this one, he went into Bony Moronie. this was really cool, everyone around me was singing “i got a girl name Bony Moronie”. he didn’t go into the words but he definitely played it for a while. another gem of the night.
they left the stage for a couple of minutes as the crowd was screaming. He walked off on his own, slow and careful, but no one was helping him. he took care of his own shit. after a few, they returned.
Drop the Bomb. great instrumental groove rock. they seemed to take their time on this one. some really great bass jamming thrown in on this one (as well as few other spots in the night). at the end of some progressions you think Johnny Winter was done and then he turned it around and kept going. he was doing that all night. you gotta love him.
What a show! don’t miss your chance to catch this legend. I’ve seen him many time over the last 13 years and he’s as good now as he ever has been. He may look frail but his playing ain’t. He delivered all night and left everyone smiling. what more could you ask for.
take care, simon
Kulturmagazin, Live! Köln – July 1999
Der illustrierte Mann
Serious as a heart attack: Johnny Winter, der bleiche Bluespriester, ist zurück. Am 25. Juli läßt er im Tanzbrunnen die Eingeweide vibrieren. “Er ist der illustrierte Mann. Baby / Seine Tätowierungen sind überall”, heißt es in einem Song, den Freunde der Texas-Blues-Legende Johnny Winter geradezu auf den Leib geschrieben haben. Der “guitar slinger” mit der schlohweißen Mähne hat sich jede einzelne seiner Tätowierungen hart verdient -als hätte sich der Blues in seinen schlaksigen KÖrper eingebrannt. Vierundvierzig lange Jahre, seit Winter, gerade mal elf, zusammen mit seinem Bruder in einer Radioshow, für Amateure auftrat. Denn einfach war es nicht, sich als weißer Bluesgitarrist Glaubwürdigkeit zu erspielen.
Winter zog von Club zu Club, vom Lone-Star-Staat aus durch den tiefen Süden. Und auch als ihm 1968 sein Debütalbum “Johnny Winter” amerikaweiten Ruhm einbrachte, staunte noch der “Rolling Stone”: “Stellen Sie sich vor, ein 48 Kilo leichter, schielender Albino mit langen flaumigen Haaren spielt eine der erdigsten Bluesgitarren, die Sie jemals gehört haben.” John Lennon war begeistert, ebenso die Rolling Stones. Beide schrieben einen Song für den Bluesman. Eine stilsichere Serie klassischer Blues- und Hardrock-Platten folgte, immer wieder unterbrochen von Johnnys anschwellender Drogensucht und Schüben selbstmörderischer Depression. “Ein Dämon, schreiend, auf der Brust”, singt er in der Körperbeschreibung von “Illustrated Man”. John Dawson Winter III sammelte Tattoos: “Die Mona Lisa schmückt seine Wange / Auf der Nase prangt Van Gogh”.
Der Blues ließ ihn nicht mehr los:’ Bis sich 1977 ein Traum für Winter erfüllte. Er durfte das Comeback-Album seiner Ikone Muddy Waters produzieren. “Mit Muddy zu arbeiten”, resümierte Winter, “ließ mich spüren. daß den Leuten endlich klar wurde, der täuscht nichts vor, der kann wirklich den Blues spielen.” Das bewies der Texaner auf Grammy-gekrönten Alben bis heute. Nur hierzulande gab es lange, allzu lange, keine Gelegenheit mehr, den Bluesmeister zu hören. Jetzt kommt er -das erste Mal nach dreizehn Jahren -für ein einziges Konzert nach Deutschland, in den Kölner Tanzbrunnen. Im Vorprogramm die kaum minder verdiente englische Bluesband Dr.Feelgood. die jetzt mit Winter ihr 25jähriges Bühnenjubiläum feiern kann.
Kulturmagazin, Live! Köln
July 1999, First European Tour since years
Thursday, 15-16 July 1999 Pori Jazz Festival Finland.
Johnny played at Pori Jazz Festival in Finland on Thursday 15th of July. The venue was great. It was an old factory outlet, quite nicely decorated as an Louisina style clubhouse with woodoo fiqures etc.
J ohnny came on stage 11.15 PM and opened ofcourse with Hideway. And then played through almost the same set than on Live on NYC 1998 CD. His drummer Vito Luizzi did vocals on Going down, I guess thats an old Freddy King or Jimmy Reed tune, can’t remember for sure.
Audience did seem to like what they heard. Of course there was a lot of fans who haven’t see Johnny for a years and they were expecting more or less johnnybegoodebonymoronie stuff.
It was 1987 he was last time in Finland. And one sign that people really have been waiting for to see him was that the consert was almost sold out, 4700 tickets sold when 5000 was the maximum capasity. Robben Ford opened for him.
Johnny ended the consert with Johnny Guitar and encore was Drop the Bomb as alway nowadays. He did great vocals, very strongly, at Sick and Tired and nice piece of slide on Sky is cryin’.
I saw Johnny last time a year ago at Toronto and this time he was much better I think.
After the consert I went to meet Slatus (who I know since 1992) at backstage on their bus. He was really happy about the consert and the venue. I also had a chat with Mark Epstain who seemed to enjoy of their consert also. Johnny was happy too.
1 AM Johnny had an press conferense. There was about 15 journalist alltogether, and also 3 TV Stations from Finland. Johnny was in a very good mood unthough he seemed to be quite tired. He mentioned that he is going to start to work on an new studio album on spring 2000, I quess that was the news of the conference.
He sat there in front of media for about 20 minutes and after that signed album covers for people for about 10 more minutes. Many people also got a picture with him outside of the press room.
Next day he played an outdoor gig at the same festival but I didn’t saw that. I guess many people are worried about Johnnys healt but what I think that he is just getting older and ofcourse the past years has left marks on him, also others than his tattoos. He said that he is on a medication for anxiety and he knows that he is not anymore like he was on his 20’s or 30’s. But he loves to play and he will do tours as long as he just can be on stage. I see this just as an prosess of one persons life. Like with everybody else. John Lee Hooker is not like he was 30 years a go. Miles Davies was older and different on his late years. Keef is not teenager any more.
I think Johnnys fans has more problems with this fact than Johnny himself.
Thursday, 15-16 July 1999 Pori Jazz Festival Finland.
Monday, 19 July 1999, Cuarel Conde Duque, Madrid, Spain
Tuesday, 20 July 1999, Jardines de Viveros, Valencia, Spain
I saw Johnny Winter’s concert in Madrid (Spain) last 20th of july. I had not read yet any comment from this list, so I expected a Johnny Winter like 6 year’s ago (last time I saw him). When he came in the scenario, I was badly surprised. He seemed to be 80 years old. One week before I saw B.B King in the same place and he looked younger than Johnny Winter. As in all the tour, he played the same songs than in the last live NYC album, but real slow. He had serious problems to make a distintion between the fith and sith cord of his guitar. Anyway, song after song he was increasing his finger’s speed, and at the end of the concert he surprised everybody with a 360 degrees twist that all the public. He also made a bis, walking in and out of the scenario by himself, without any help. It was a pity that the concert lasted only 75 minutes.
Thursday, 22 July 1999, Festival del Grec Pueblo Espanol, Bacelona, Spain
Johnny played more or less the same set as usual, material from the NYC 1998 CD. Too bad he played only one slide, Sun Is Shining.
I had never seen him live. I have listened mostly to his Johnny Winter And Live LP and some others from that time, and IMO they are brilliant. When he first appeared on stage, I was shocked, as was most of the audience. He was guided by an assistant from the crew, just to get to the mic. He looked like he was 75 year old or so. Actually, I know some people who are in their seventies who look much much younger than Johnny (he is 55 now)
Anyway, once he got to the mic, he started playing Hideaway. Some flaws but, well, given the first impression, we were surprised that he could actually play. In fact, as the show went on, he gained fluidity and speed, specially in songs like Black Jack Game and Drop the Bomb. He sounded quite like the good Johnny Winter we all know, but at a 60-65% speed he could attain in his best years. This lack of speed was less evident in the slide song. I think he should play more slide, 4 songs or so would be good. He still has a good feeling with the slide and his Firebird. For the rest of the show he used the white Erlewine.
He played without moving his right arm at all, the movement was absolutely restricted to his hand, wrist and most of all fingers. He never stopped doing that litle movement from side to side, balancing, even when the songs were over and they were waiting for the encore backstage. Maybe he has some Parkinson, I don’t know. He was very stiff. Once while changing guitars he couldn’t even plug the cord himself to the guitar, he had to be helped. Of course he was always helped when changing guitars, and I guess it was impossible for him to pass the strap over his head. Too big a movement.
Once the concert was over we went to his bus. We got the tickets signed by Johnny Winter, although we didn’t actually see him signing, it was his manager who took the tickets, closed the door and 10 minutes later opened the door and gave us the tickets signed. Who knows, maybe Johnny Winter was already resting in bed and someone signed for him. Anyway it was a good souvenir.
Overall, I would go again to see Johnny Winter, but I feel very bad for seeing him like he is nowadays. He has good guitar playing in him still, though. Bye.
Saturday, 24 July 1999, Blues Festival (Johnny Winter, Jonny Lang, Dr. Feelgood, B.B King) Luxemburg
I saw Johnny Winter in Luxembourg on Satuday night at the the Luxembourg Blues Festival. The opening act was the Blues Company. The secound band was Johnny Lang, a great newscomer Bluesband The third band on stage was Dr. Feelgood, a band from Great Britain. The band plays Blues Rock. They were great.
Then the time came for the main event. This was my first time seeing Johnny Winter live on stage. He entered the stage at 11:00 p.m.
The opener was Hideway. Then he played through almost the same set as on Live on NYC 1997 CD. He played the same songs as Gary Eagle already has listed.
The band members Mark Epstein on bass and Vito Luizzi on drums did a good job. I think, Johnny’s health condition is really bad. He looks like death warmed up. It’s the said truth. I feel sad. He wasn’t even able to put back his guitar in the case without help. They also had to lead him to the mike. The last act of this evening was B.B.King and Band. I have to say he used to be better, than he was that day. You hardly heard B.B.Kings guitar, but a lot of wind instruments.
The next day, July 25th, I went to see Johnny in Cologne Germany at Live Music Hall. The opening act again was Dr. Feelgood.
Then the time came again for Johnny. He played the same kind of songs as the day before. Although his health isn’t the greatest his music still sound awesome. The people seem to like his music. For myself he is the greatest guitar player in the world. I just hope his health condition gets better, so we can see him Live on stage for a long time
On Saturday, 24 July, Johnny Winter was the headliner, together with B. B. King, at the Blues Circus Festival in Luxembourg. He was on scene for one hour (10.45 – 11.45 p.m.), which is in my opinion quite good at his actual state of health. He nearly couldn’t move, but played a wonderful guitar. The public (6000 people) was quite enthousiastic. Some people came from 300 km and more just to see Johnny Winter. Other groups were the german Blues Company, Jonny Lang, Dr. Feelgood and B.B. King with his orchestra. It was for the first time that Johnny Winter played at the same festival with B. B. King. Johnny Winter didn’t give any interview. It was forbidden to take photographs of him outside of the scene. On scene, photographs were allowed as usual for the first 3 songs (with a special press-card).
Sunday, 25 July 1999, Music Hall, Cologne, Germany
This concert in the Music Hall in Cologne, was orginally announced for Tanzbrunner.
Tuesday, 27 July 1999, 013, Tilburg, Holland
I just returned from the Tilburg show. Here are my quick and personal impressions.
If it wasn’t for you people on the list I would be terribly shocked at seeing Johnny. Fortunately I had read the reviews of recent shows, so I had a hint of what to expect.
I was hoping for something of the level of Live in NYC, which of course is Johnny Winter at ca. 60% of what he used to be, but not too bad eiher.
The opening made me fear for the worst. Hideaway at maybe half the speed of Live in NYC, and Johnny had trouble keeping up the pace. This went on for the first three pieces. He played like Charlie Watts plays drums, just after the beat, but hen a little later.
During the preparation of the the stage I spotted Teddy Slatus. The description someone on this list gave a while back was unmistakeable. Slatus was leading to the mic with his flashlight and during the show he stood with his arms crossed, looking at his watch now and then (did we fill the contract – one hour minimum). Oh yes, start 22.15, end 23.30.
After the first pieces thing got better. Black Jack went very well, with Johnny taking off on licks he didn’t do on Live in NYC. All licks seem memorizd. Hideaway is extended by repeating many of the known riffs, same procedure for other songs. During Black Jack however, I heard him taking one-note or maybe two-note risks and get away with it.
I think Black Jack worked so well that it got Johnny in a good mood. Eevn Slatus was applauding fromt he back.
The crowd went wild when he put on the Firebird for the slide thing. Went nicely also. He did sme nice slide licks warming up. The slide was in is jeans pocket so it would be Johnny’s body temparature (…).
During the encore Drop the Bomb Johnny did his slow motion spin described earlier on this list TWICE. The second time he almost fell over. His bouncig from one foot to the other also brought him close to the edge of the stage (got me some good photo’s I hope).
As for the crowd, people were generous, but I heard some people around me (the first few rows – hard core fans I expect) saying things like pathetic, we’ll never see him again etc.
Got to the parking lot too late. A few people were there who had given their ticket to some guy. who brought them back after a while with Johnny’s autograph on them. He wouldn’t take my ticket to the bus because they were leaving. I looked at the darkened windows of the bus trying to decide whether to wave or not. I didn’t, he couldn’t see me anyway. Thanks Johnny for your music of the last 30 years or so. Luckiliy I have the records to remember how brilliant you were.
I have taken some photo’s. If some are any good I will scan them and put them on my homepage. I’ll let you know.
Tired but satisfied. Not a bad show, taking everything into account.
Wednesday, 28 July 1999, The Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland
Johnny Winter brought magic to a capacity crowd in Amsterdam’s “Paradiso” last night. Though I was familiar with his recordings, I’d never actually seen him live before. You can’t consider yourself a serious fan of Muddy Waters, without running into Johnny Winter … (but it’s grossly unfair to suggest that he is, or was, “just a sideman to Muddy “) … For a long time, rumours have been going around that he is in serious ill-health…. declining… a “shadow of his former self”…. I once saw a giant and personal hero, who, sadly, was just that; and who gave an embarrassingly bad performance, which was to be one of his last.
Once had been enough. I didn’t want to see Johnny Winter for the first, and I found myself thinking “the last” time, as a has-been… To be quite frank, my expectations were riddled with doubts and fears. I had heard from friends who had seen him before – quite a while ago, because he doesn’t drop by Europe “every other week” – that a typical Johnny Winter show was short: “45, maybe 50 minutes, comprising 3 or 4 numbers which ‘go on forever’ , and that’s it!” When he came onto the stage at exactly 10:00pm, he seemed, as I expected; frail and thin, and indeed: seemed to have lost a lot of his sight.
But albinism is not kind, and Johnny Winter has, apparently, not been overly kind to himself either, so it may come as no surprise that he looks less than “in the prime of life”. The applause was huge as he came on stage and was helped to the microphone and started to play… My first reaction was that this was an artist who (still) has a rare talent. It just flowed from his fingers… you could just tell… there was a masterly quality in the ease with which he played … Sure: there were a few minor mistakes here and there in the first few numbers as he settled in and who could expect otherwise….
Within minutes I was aware that my fears for his failing ability were unfounded: he may be past his prime (I can’t really say!), but even if that is so, he is still a master – a class act. When he changed guitar to play slide, I was in blues heaven. Johnny Winter is blues to the bone and he showed it last night. I only wish he had played some acoustic…. but you can’t have it all. His voice, I can attest, is not what it used to be, but I felt the sound quility was not great anyway last night. He spoke to the crowd a couple of times, but I couldn’t catch what he said. He seemed, in any case, to be in good spirits and seemed to be en joying himself and that was heart-warming. Johnny Winter is not a stomping, prancing, jump-around-the stage artist – he may have been once, I don’t know: but if he ever was, his health certainly doesn’t permit that anymore.
Despite his sedentery presence, he brought magic and surprising energy to a delighted crowd. After one encore, he left us and he waved behind him as he went. I was treated to 75 minutes of Johnny Winter last night. 75 minutes of a living blues legend. Despite fears for his health which cannot be dismissed, I felt a certain amount of confidence that I may have the pleasure of seeing him again. I hope I will. if you ever get the chance, then, as they say: “Run, don’t walk…..”. On a live album with Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter gives credit to Muddy as a number ends, by hollering something like: “yaaaaaah-that’s-the-man…. the man’s the best!”. That just about sums up how I felt about last night’s memorable performance by a great artist. He was, of course, sold out. I was just “sold” :- Regards, PeterG — Peter Gallagher, Amsterdam
Another review of Johnny Winter at the Paradiso Amsterdam
Me and my friends had decided to meet in a pub to have a drink before the show. I was walking past Paradiso, about one hour before the concert. just in time to see a touringcar arrive. After a short while a thin figure, bent, wearing a straw hat on top of his long white hair, carefully stepped out of the bus. Immediately it became clear that this man was in the late autumn of his life.
Supported by one of his roadies the legendary Johnny Winter very slowly shuffled towards the side entrance of the club.
I had never seen Johnny Winter play live. My first acquaintance with this blues-legend was in the late seventies, when a “Rock Palast”-concert in Germany was broadcasted live on television. I still have a half an hour audio-recording of this concert which I play regularly and treasure very much. In 1986 I started the “Mean Town Blues Band”, and Winter became a great source of inspiration. We played some songs from the 3rd Degree and the Guitar Slinger album. Around 1990 the “Mean Town Blues Band” performed as a support-act before Johnny, also in Paradiso. Unfortunately, I had just left the band and was living abroad. For the ones who played then it still is an unforgettable experience.
Johnny started playing at 22.00 h. sharp. Only a few bars of Hide Away were enough to find out that he had trouble keeping the pace of his rhythm-section. His fastness was gone, and he limited his solos to the more simple licks, though quite sufficiently. During the whole concert he moved his weight from one leg on the other, and this was about the only movement he made, beside his hand moving up and down the neck of his guitar. It has to be said that the 1500 people present treated the guitar-hero with great respect. The Paradiso-audience is a very critical one and especially American bands seem to have trouble with this venue. I noticed that a lot of local pop-musicians where present. The crowd applauded heavily after each song.
Johnny made some bad mistakes in the song-schemes, but all of these were repaired instantly by the bassplayer and drummer, so well that non-musicians probably did not notice at all. There were a few moments that some of his old vigor was suddenly there again, especially playing bottle-neck. Johnny’s singing was very soft. I have played in Paradiso myself five or six times, and I know the sound on stage is always very bad, so considering this circumstance Johnny still did quite well. Funny detail: both Johnny and the bassplayer, each had two amplifiers and speakerboxes, both identical, of which only one was used, so in case one amp would break down, they could immediately use the other one. After a 45-minute performance there was one extra. Johnny had so much trouble walking that he did not leave the stage, but just moved to the side of it, pausing for about 3 minutes, before doing just one single song for the encore. During this last song he surprised the audience by suddenly making a swift 180-degree turn.
Me and my friends wouldn’t have liked to have missed this concert. Although it was too much of a contrast with the super guitar player of the 70’s and the 80’s, it was great to see this living legend perform. It may be hard to accept, especially for the more loyal fans, but everyone gets old some day.
Marc Crolla, Amsterdam
Friday, 30 July 1999, Luzern Blues Festival, Luzern, Switzerland
Saturday, 31 July 1999, Devilstones Night Festival, Heiden/Westf. Germany
Sunday, 15 August 1999, Bethel, NY, Yasgurs Farm
Tuesday, 7 September 1999, Seattle, WA, Show Box
Sen-Sa-Shun/Got My Mojo Working
She Likes to Boogie Real Low
Sick and Tired
Black Jack Game
The Sun is Shining
Goin’ Down or (Down, Down, Down) sung by Epstein
Drop the Bomb
The Showbox was standing room only with a huge dance floor and extended areas around the dance floor for standing. There were only a few tables and chairs located near the bar, but no matter where you were you could see the stage well, even with people standing in front of you.
Since I wanted to take pictures I got close to the stage. I wanted to see Johnny from beginning to end. I watched Johnny enter the stage with the rest of the band, Mark and Vito. Johnny stood in his usual place with his familiar fan turned on in front of him.
Johnny wore the same straw hat that he has been wearing on tour lately. He wore a black t-shirt with cut off sleeves and the design on the front of it looked to me like a small white line drawing of the Blues Brothers. He wore jeans and some nice, trim-looking suede boots, making him look like anything but a cowboy.
Johnny’s movements and looks were exactly as have been described in past reviews and posts, no better, no worse. But he came out with a smile as he has always done. To me he presents as an exhausted, frail man who has lost his affect, who has been on the road an awfully long time, actually since a teenager. Most of the time his guitar playing seemed automatic. Johnny seemed to find comfort moving from one foot to the other. It was a lot more subtle than I expected. From observing him it was undeniable that he is a true blues man with a gigantic blues spirit, and continues to live on the road the best way, and only way he can, in order to play his music just for us, his devoted fans.
Eventually I began to accept and realize that seeing Johnny after so many years did not prove to be as devastating as anticipated. It was an emotion-packed night. Yes I cried but I also laughed, smiled, yelled and screamed, danced, and wiggled every part of my body, just as I have always done when I have had the privilege of getting to see Johnny live.
Johnny did improvise some really hot stuff as he was getting into ‘Black Jack Game’ toward the end of the song. He began the solo on this song sounding a bit repetitious. But even Johnny’s repetitiousness in a guitar solo are better licks than most other guitarists, because you know it won’t be long before he finds a way out, making it sound as if it was intended to be that way from the beginning. Johnny is simply doing the style of music he seems comfortable with at this stage in his life and he does it well. At some point that night I realized I had to accept the Johnny that was playing on stage. Intellectually I had accepted the changes in Johnny that the years had made on him, but emotionally I had not, and did not feel I could until I was able to see him perform in person.
In some ways I envied the majority of people there to see Johnny because they were there to have a good time, as they had always done in the past. Most were seemingly unaware of Johnny’s limited repertoire as he and his band performed the same show night after night. So I realized at times I was probably listening more intensely to his playing than the multitude of happy, fun loving drunk partiers who were ecstatic to be there with Johnny. After all it is a reality that I had a lot of concern for Johnny as I entered the Showbox to hear him live after such a long, long time.
Mark is fantastic and is always smiling and reacting to Johnny’s sound. He attacks the music by physically playing the bass as hard and heavy as he can. He has a genuine look of enjoyment and exceptional body language. Occasionally he will go over to Johnny so he can stand near him and they can play certain parts together up close and more personal. Only on one song did it look as if it was Johnny’s idea to move closer to Mark in order to play by interacting with him. The rest of the time it seemed as if Johnny was unaware Mark was deliberately getting close to him. Mark was doing it anyway no matter if Johnny was aware of the fun Mark was having on stage with him.
During the show I could not keep from noticing details, some I was looking for, and some just jumped out at me. This was not to scrutinize Johnny that night. I have always done this because there are certain gestures, moves, expressions, curious actions, that I anticipate seeing because they have been a part of Johnny’s persona for so long. One happening that jumped out of nowhere was noticing the electric fan blowing on his face and hair. I enjoyed seeing his hair move away from his face and thought of how comforting that breeze must have felt on his skin. All the while he stood so emotionless with fingers flying all over the fretboard, eyes closed, making this sound we all crave, and it looks as if it is done so effortlessly.
I was especially pleased with the Seattle crowd because I never heard anyone yell out a request for any song, not even a yell of ‘rock and roll.’ I felt this was quite respectful, almost like the crowd ‘felt’ they somehow understood this was something done in the past and is no longer necessary.
The acoustics of the Showbox were excellent making the show sound like it had professional enough sound quality to become a CD.
Then Johnny headed over to the side of the stage to strap on the old Firebird, that gorgeous guitar that just looks so natural in Johnny’s hands – almost an extension of Johnny. Vito played a really enjoyable drum solo while Johnny took the time needed to get the Firebird properly in place. During this time I was standing on the dance floor and a guy must have noticed me taking notes and said, ‘You can put down he is fucking incredible.’ Like I didn’t know this already!
Of course the crowd went nuts when he started playing slide on ‘The Sun is Shining.’ Johnny was ripping it up on slide and it made you feel so happy. It was just heart wrenching hearing him play slide. He is the master. It was amazing because at times he looked as if he was about to fall asleep he was so relaxed and familiar with playing slide on his Firebird.
Then he strapped on the Lazer again, pulled his hair out from under the strap, and slowly walked back to the mike. The crowd was yelling, just so excited that he was standing there about to play another song. Then Johnny said something to the audience and I believe it was announcing that Mark was about to do a song. I believe it was named ‘Goin’ Down.’ Then Johnny walks over Mark and they are standing facing one other. Johnny played guitar and Mark sang. Toward the end of the song Johnny walked over to the far edge of the stage and turned a knob so the end of the song had both his guitar and Mark’s bass making a nice loud sound, not too loud, but it was quite an effective ending to the song.
Then ‘Johnny Guitar’ started up and it was a true crowd pleaser. It is amazing how much energy and emotion you can feel from this song, especially if you look at Johnny while he is playing and singing, looking completely emotionless, yet the song moves. It seemed a conundrum to me. During this song I almost missed his one and only turn around of the night because I was having so much fun jumping around not watching Johnny on stage. Fortunately I just happened to open my eyes and caught him at the right moment.
The crowd was psyched and the band was through – Johnny, Mark and Vito left the stage. But it wasn’t long before they were called back and the encore was ‘Drop the Bomb.’
Here it was the last song of the night and Johnny dove into this song harder than any song of the night. He gave it his all on guitar. As the other guys were singing Johnny was standing there putting down some heavy licks. Mark was just driving that bass furiously and Vito was as eager as a teenager with his first drum set. The three of them were cooking.
Then Johnny gave the names of each band member and what they played and he looked genuinely happy to be there. He said, ‘God bless you, good night,’ and the three of them left the stage. You knew immediately that was the end of the show.
You’ve got to respect Johnny even more for he is someone who can drag his fragile body from town to town, country to country, and continues to give his all.
The days following the show seem to make enough of an impression that song lyrics automatically come in your head at no warning. You begin to clearly hear Johnny singing and playing guitar and there is no music coming from anywhere. The sound is totally captured inside of your head. This is proof that you have experienced an excellent show by a true master, and that it touched both your conscious and subconscious mind.
Johnny had done it again for us and how fortunate it felt to have experienced yet another night being able to let go of all inhibitions and worries and rock out with Johnny again, feel the blues and all emotions with him again, be able to open your heart and give him all your love and respect once again.
Wednesday, 8 September 1999, Portland , OR, Aladdin Theatre
Friday, 10 September 1999, San Francisco, CA, Fillmore West
Review: “Johnny Winter Blues Review” at the Fillmore (San Francisco), 9/10/99
Man, it had been a l-o-o-o-ong time since I had last seen Johnny Winter. I think the last time was at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in the early ’70’s. He was with Rick Derringer then; the “Johnny Winter And..” days. So, when I saw he was playing at the Fillmore Friday and Saturday, 10-11 Sept. during my visit to the Bay area, I decided to check him out again. So I went last night (Friday).
I got to the Fillmore ticket window about 8:30 p.m., bought my $21.50 ticket, and was about to go in when up rolled this huge grey and black touring bus.like it was there to pick ME up or something. Several people (roadies, friends, ??) rolled out and disappeared into the fenced in backstage entrance, but soon reappeared with a BIG plate of salad covered with plastic wrap and a bowl of fruit which they took into the bus. The interior bus lights were on and I positioned myself to be able to look through the front windshield into the bus. There HE was, tattoo’s and all, a Richard Petty-like hat on his head over that long white crop of hair, wearing a black sleeveless T-shirt and blue jeans, slumped forward over one of the front seats in the bus talking to someone. I only got a look at HIM for a minute or so before one of the crew pulled some curtains across the entry-way between the driver seat and the passenger compartment . But what I did notice immediately was how incredibly thin HE was. I also notice how incredibly big, and decked out, the inside of the bus was. I could see table and the kitchenette towards the front, the crew bunk-beds on the side further back, and what appeared to be a sitting area further on in. Man, this guy shits in HIGH cotton !!
I continued to hang around out front, hoping to get a couple more looks through the winshield and, as luck would have it, the curtains got moved aside a few minutes later and I could see Johnny sitting down about half-way back in the bus, with his white headstock-less guitar on his lap, apparently running through some warm-up licks. He was turned away from me, so I couldn’ t see his face or the front of the guitar. Then the curtains in the bus were once more drawn and that was that, so I went on inside the Fillmore to grab a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and catch the opening acts.
The first opening act had already started: a singer named Susan Angeletti who reminded me of Mama Cass (although somewhat less rotund). She was good, as was her three-piece back up band. The guitarist played what looked like a ’57 re-issue Strat through a VOX combo (AC-30 ?) amp and had great tone and stage presence. He reminded me of Ronald Reagan, Jr…yes, folks, that is what Ron Reagan, Jr. would have looked like had he took up playing guitar in a rock band instead of dance and, later, journalism. He played with his fingers, a la Jeff Beck, although the trem on his Strat was cranked down against the body and the arm not installed. It looked like he had a couple orange DOD or Boss stomp boxes on the floor, but from my vantage point right then, I couldn’t tell for sure. Anyway the band was good.I enjoyed them for the brief 20 minutes I watched them play.
Next up was a rockabilly band, fronted by ex-Stray Cat bassist Lee Rocker. These guys SMOKED, and were extremely entertaining. Lee reminds me of a scaled down Andrew Dice Clay, all decked out in leather, hair slicked up and back in a pompadour, and a cigarette dangling from his lips. (The Fillmore is “supposed” to be non-smoking, as are ALL public establishments in California, but what the F..K !). It was “battle of the Telecasters” between the two guitarists, one playing through an old Super Reverb and the other playing through a newer looking, beige Tolex covered, oxblood grill Deluxe Reverb (re-issue, I guess) with extension cabinet. It was hard to tell who was the “lead guitarist” cause both these guys traded off so often and both were very good. The “Deluxe” guy was a big boy, lookin’ like a Billy Bob or a Bubba , and obviously had the country and rockabilly chops down pat, but also really cooked on a few blues-based numbers. The Tele he played had an autograph on it “To Mike from Scotty Moore” and some date I couldn’t make out written in black marker on the body above the neck pickup. The other “Super Reverb” guy played a similar Tele, and did some nice slide work on what looked like an original black Danelectro double cut-away. He reminded me of a cross between Rory Gallagher, Bruce Springsteen, and Brian Setzer. Of course, Lee Rocker hi’sef played an upright bass with a large, tri-angular “DANGEROUS” sticker on the back. He did most of the singing, too. Like I said, these guys SMOKED and really got the house rockin’ during their 45 minute set. I wish I knew who that Bubba-tele player was..
Then came Johnny.
Now this is where it gets tough for me, cause I need to be charitable out of respect for Johnny Winter and what he has been to music. I mean, the guy is an INSTITUTION in rock and roll, and perhaps THAT is the crux of the matter. And I have copped more licks from Johnny’s playing than I care to admit. Anyway, when Johnny appeared walking up the steps to the stage in the right wings, he was being helped up by his other band members: the drummer and bassist. He had on the same garb I described earlier, and had the white Laser guitar strapped on around his neck. He didn’t really walk, but shuffled feebly across the stage as if his legs couldn’t move. And when he finally stood still, he constantly rocked back and forth shifting his weight from one cowboy-boot clad foot to the other in a steady, never ending manner which went on ALL NIGHT.like if he stopped he would fall over. Damn, was he ever SKINNY. I mean, his jeans just hung on his feeble frame of a body. He looked like he was 80 years old, although damn proud of it, and I noticed how frail his arms looked. And his hands .almost feminine.
He plugged into one of his two pristine, like-new MusicMan 410-HD’s through a Boss Blues Driver (the ONLY external effect he used) and started into “Hideaway “. YEAH !!! .that was Johnny Winter’s tone and licks coming out of that amp’s speakers. But was it really Johnny playing ? With my eye’s closed, I could visualize Johnny stalking the stage as he used to years ago, long and lanky with that white hair flying around and the long neck of that Firebird Trashing all over. But when I opened my eyes, here stood what appeared to be a puppet.a wind-up-doll of Johnny Winter shifting monotonously back and forth from one foot to the other and completely out of sync with the beat of the music, and with eyes squinted constantly closed. I rarely saw him open his eyes all night, but he is an Albino and the bright stage lights probably bother him). I was about 10 feet back from the stage, and just a little left of center, and I could clearly see he WAS playing, and even blowing, some of his well-worn licks. But it looked very weird to see him like that.shuffling side to side to some rhythm in his head other than the beat of the music. It crossed my mind that maybe Johnny’s playing was (dare I say it ?) TAPED.DUBBED IN.like the Jan and Dean thing when Jan tried to make a comeback. But no, those riffs were coming from those fingers and that guitar, no doubt about it.
As the set progressed, I realized that he was dragging out some of his old standards like “Got My Mojo Workin”, “Boogie Real Slow (With the Lights Down Low)”, and “Johnny Guitar” into extended jams which allowed him to repeat many of his trademark licks over an over. He played about 10 songs during the course of the 1-hour set, and the crowd LOVED it. . I mean, that’s Johnny Winter up there. And if he can’t jump around to Jumpin’ Jack Flash anymore cause of arthritis or whatever, WHO CARES !?!? If he were pushed out in a wheel-chair, the crowd would have gone just as nuts over his music, although his vocals were so frail and muffled you could hardly hear him. His trademark “YEAH”s into the mike were more like a whisper than a roar. And if he lost the beat, or blew a lick from time to time.WHO CARES ?!?! Let’s put it this way: if Johnny would have just shuffled out on the stage, squinted into the lights, whispered a strained “YEAH” into the mike, and hit ONE NOTE.the crowd would have LOVED it. As it was, he DID play a few of his trademark standards, and had killer tone to boot. And I almost forgot: halfway through the set, he pulled out that old brown reverse-headstock Firebird from somewhere behind the amps, strapped it on, and ripped off some great slide work for a couple numbers, which just whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Then he went back to the Laser.
It was clear that Johnny had a great time playing, even though he physically could not show it except for the smile on his face. And from their response, the crowd loved Johnny, too. I heard one guy ahead of me bitch about Winters performance, and another told him that if he didn’t like it then get the F…K OUT.
Did I enjoy it ? Well, it was cool to see Johnny again be able to command an audience like he does. Sort of like Pope John raising his hand in a blessing and everybody falling down on their knees so as to get the maximum benefit from it. His tone was KILLER, and watching his fragile fingers walk (but not necessarily run) over the fretboard of his Laser and rip off some great blues licks was great. He had a way of leaving his ring finger holding a E- note at fret 5 and moving his middle and forefinger back to play A and C notes at fret 1 and 2 that I thought was pretty cool. It was a very fluid and interesting move . It was easy to follow what he was playing and how he was playing it. I learned a few new things. It was clear to me, though, that he was playing exactly what he has been playing probably every day for the past 30+ ( or maybe 40+) years…nothing more and, I felt, quite a bit less. No improvisation going on here, folks. Just tried and true blues licks that have stood the test of time.
Johnny Winter.God Love Him.
Saturday, 11 September 1999, San Francisco, CA, Fillmore West
Hi This is a brief post, I still have to get all my thoughts in order.
Vito is the drummer. He came out with Mark at the bus signing.
They both sang Jeff Beck’s tune I’m Going Down.
The Fillmore was pretty much PACKED.
The crowd LOVED Johnny Winter.
5.Johnny’s guitar playing improved alot. Still not the Johnny Winter of years ago tearing up & down the fretboard like a MAD DOG. But he did not miss notes,fumble etc… He found a position on the git example E 12 fret and played his solo across the strings sometimes going to the 15th & 17th frets sometimes. He played it safe. It was GOOD! I’m a player myself so I studied him closely. The solos were not all the STANDARD NYC LIVE solos. As I said he STRETCHED out.
He took chances and got a great APPLAUSE after his solo in Sick & Tired.
He burned on Slide on The Sun Is Shining.
Vocally is still very, very weak, still slurred some words, could not hit some notes. Seemed very MEDICATED.
Most of the set was NYC ’97 minus SKY IS CRYING. Approx 1 hour.
10.Could change his own guitars (get them off), but could not PUT THEM BACK ON. The roadie put them over his shoulder and strapped them on. I was about 30 feet from the stage.
11.He can barely see. Took him minutes almost 2 or 3 to walk to center stage after changing guitars.
12.He did his classic SPIN on Drop The Bomb. No problem. Michael Jackson might have watched Johnny Winter!
Monday, 13 September 1999, Ventura, CA, Ventura Theatre
Thursday, 16 September 1999, West Hollywood, CA, House Of Blues
Saturday, 18 September 1999, Santa Ana, CA, Galaxy Theatre
Sunday, 19 September 1999, S.J. Capistrano, CA, Coach House
Tuesday, 16 November 1999, Toad’s Place – 300 York Street – New Haven, CT
On Tuesday night 11/16 I went to see Johnny perform at a club called Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut. I have had the pleasure of watching Johnny play live many dozens of times in the last 25 years. This review is most difficult. I learned along time ago not to compare his 1970’s style of playing to his playing style of the 1990’s. They are different because he obviously wanted them to be. I personally like the idea of being able to separate the transitions he has made through the years. I do believe though, that it is fair to compare those performances in 1992 (with Edgar) to now. The overall style and set list has not changed.
Last night was the first time that I was truly disappointed by what I saw. I had not seen Johnny since November of 1997. Forget the pale and skinny frame. He looked like that in 1974 and that has never really been an issue for me. He is who he is, just like the rest of us. What bothered me was that when he came on stage at 10:40pm he seemed disorientated and somewhat unaware of why he was there. I’ve seen him better than 40 times and at least 10 times at this venue and I never felt the way that I did last night. My day long anticipation of the event turned into concern.
This was new to me. His moves and gestures were of a man 20 years older than he. He took baby steps to move to the mic and needed help with every aspect of what he was doing. Normally, it’s a loud yeah! to the audience and than a ripping intro before he begins Hideaway. Last night was just a weak start to Hideaway which was mostly off key and slow motion with regard to tempo. A lot of missed notes and really, a “goin’ through the motions” display. Hideaway has always been one of my favorites, but I couldn’t say that last night. In fact, every song of the set was slow and dragging. I had this persistent pounding of my foot as if to say “come on guys, pick it up a bit”. It was alittle frustrating. It was basically Johnny Winter sleep walking. His vocals were weak but I didn’t expect a change because I knew this of his performances in the last few years. He held his own.
Vito on drums was good but not a Tom Compton. Mark on bass was outstanding. I believe that he really helps to hold things together. At one point Johnny announced that he was going to play some slow blues. He stood there perplexed for a moment and asked “what is the name of the song?” Anyone familiar with the set knew it would be Black Jack Game. Mark came to his side and reminded him. Johnny played The Sun is Shining where his slide playing was perfection. It is absolutely amazing how second nature playing the slide is for him. I thought that this might be the turning point in the show. He came back with Johnny Guitar which is what I always look most forward to but he really didn’t seem to have his heart in it.
The show ended at about 11:55pm. I must say that the audience participation was tremendous. It was a packed house. From the outset, he was welcomed with cheers like I haven’t heard in some time. This went on through the entire show. It felt great that the audience was giving him the respect he deserves. There were two warm up bands. The first band, I didn’t catch the name because I arrived just as they were finishing up, featured Bobby Tirello on drums. Hadn’t seen him in years. The second band was Susan Angeletti. She had a great voice but I thought the band was mediocre.
Let me just say that I have never had the heart or reason for that matter to be critical of one of Johnny’s’ performances. Last night really through me for a loop. Call it shock if you will. I hope someone else on this list was there so that they may voice their opinion as well. My goal is to tell it like it was, not how we would like it to be. Believe me, that is most difficult for me. Now, I’d like some opinions. Don’t you think it would be in Johnny’s’ best interest to drop this set list and start performing different material at live performances? It seems that they are all (the band) no longer animated by these songs and that it has become somewhat tedious to perform them each night for so many years. They are still playing the Live in NYC set. It seems like it has become more like a job than anything else. I notice the stage crew has completely changed. Are changes like this and Tom Compton leaving related to some dissatisfaction with the situation? I’m throwing it out there in hopes some of you more knowledgeable about what’s happening could comment.
In closing, I still believe that Johnny on his worst day is better than most guitarists on their best. However, if I just compare Johnny to himself over the last seven years I see the deterioration. It was difficult to watch last night. I know of the stories about medication for anxiety. If this is the result than he needs a new doctor. Maybe it was just an off night. My head wants to be told that but my gut tells me something else. Please don’t hold this review against me. I think Johnny is the greatest guitarist of all time but a certain reality must be realized.
Thursday, 18 November 1999, Theater For The Living Arts – 334 South Street – Philadelphia, PA
Friday, 19 November 1999, Daytona’s – 850 Fort Smallwood – Pasadena, MD
I saw Johnny last night at the same venue I saw him in February of this year.
I won’t rehash the playlist, it’s the exact same as the one he has been playing – no new surprises, that is in no way a complaint though. He still has the same cast of characters too.
He hit the stage around 11:15, and the first thing that struck me is that he was moving MUCH better than he had been in Feb. His health seems to have improved a great deal. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t like he leaped on to the stage, he had to have help on the steps, but he was able to walk with less assistance, and the “grandpa shuffle” was gone.
He still didn’t do a great deal of moving around, stayed at the mike almost the whole time with the exception of a couple of interactions with Mark during the lead parts, and of course he and Mark were facing each other during the entire song for “going down” (that’s the song that Gino sings). And yes, he did rock back and forth the whole time, But overall, he needed a lot less assistance.
His playing was still somewhat repetitive, but there was a marked difference in the quality of his guitar playing. Yes there were a couple of flubs, but I always caught one or two in just about every of the now 18 shows that I’ve seen.
However, he stretched out and had a LOT more impromptu lead inserts into his lead playing. You will pardon my inability to say it correctly, but I don’t play guitar as some of you do, but he threw in some pretty hard tabs into certain points of certain lead breaks. Overall, his playing was MUCH improved. He was hitting the frets much better than he did in Feb., and it was clear from his apparent overall health improvement that he had more energy and was a lot more at ease in his playing. There were actually a few lead parts that blew me away – a glimpse of the Johnny of years gone by.
When he pulled out the Firebird for “The Sun is Shining” he absolutely tore the joint apart! His slide playing was very good! I am still amazed by the fact that he is IMHO head and shoulders above anyone else that has endeavored to play the slide guitar.
The crowd was surprisingly small – it was by no means a sell-out. But the people there were for the most part Johnny fans, and gave him the respect and usual shouts, screams, and applause that he so richly deserves.
I was right up front, a mere 8 feet or so away from him. One of the things that struck me was the joy that he obviously felt from being in (what I have come to understand) is his favorite place in the world – playing in front of his fans. It was clear at a few points that he could genuinely feel the love that was emanating from the crowd in his direction.
Now let me be clear: He was by no means back to what I feel is his pinnacle, circa 1993, but he is obviously doing better than he was a year ago – even his singing was improved, not by a large degree, but improved, non-the-less.
Saturday, 20 November 1999, Jaxx – 6365 Rolling Road – Springfield / Alexandria, VA
Jaxx 20 Nov 1999
Johnny Took the stage: 10:24pm
Boogie Real Low
Sick & Tired
The Sun is Shining
Left the stage: 11:36pm
encore: Drop the Bomb
Show over: 11:45pm
f playing better means fewer muffs then it was better than his appearance here in June. He did have a few, but not as obvious ones. His playing was safe and without emotion. Johnny plays the same set for so long it’s more like a job than what I would call fun. Not bad pay for an hours worth of work. (As long as you can get it). The performance was repetitious and lacking in dynamics.
The stage was lit from the back and not once from the front through the entire show. It was probably my imagination and not intentional on Jaxx’s part but, as a result, Johnny was a shadow on the stage and it was hard to see his features as he played. I’m sure if you tried to take a picture without a flash you could forget it. I think the ‘no pictures’ change was spur of the moment. Otherwise, why would they have allowed everyone to bring them in?
His vocals were weak. In general, I thought he appeared weaker this time. The constant shifting from one foot to the other was there and he no longer changed his guitar himself. The roadie putting the guitar strap around him and plugging it in for him. There was no spin in ‘Drop the Bomb’ ,as before, and I’m glad he dropped it. He might feel like a Hundred Bucks but he moved like 25. He wore his Brown Hat, Black Blues Brother shirt, Jeans, and Boots.
Same Gear. Music Man Amp, HD4-10, mic’d in the front and back. Boss Chorus CE-2, White Lazer, and Firebird for slide.
He played through the motion for ‘The Sun is Shining’. I personally think it was weaker than previously although I’m sure someone else may not agree. One thing that was different, Mark would play a little riff on the bass while Johnny was changing to and from the Firebird. I imagine so that most watched him instead of Johnny while he deliberately, and carefully, changed guitars.
Teddy Slatus was in attendance. One item was allowed on the bus for an autograph after the show.
Mark Epstein-Bass Vito Luizzi-Drums, vocal on Going Down
Please do not post this elsewhere without permission.
Another review of Johnny Winter at JAXX
Went to see Johnny Winter at the bottom line on the 28th of Nov. For the very first time. Now I have remembered Him only from the 70’s. Johnny Winter and was the album, and I began to play lead guitar from then on. Until then I was only considered as a half-assed rythm player. Before I went to see Him, I purchased some of His cd’s: Mojo working, Still alive and well, and anthology. I was all jacked up. I had forgotten how great this guy was. Well, you could imagine my disappointment as I saw, what looked like a guy about 90 yrs old being helped on to the stage.
Just 10 minutes before that I was telling my wife, who accompanied me, how great this guy was. How it was Johnny Winter who got me off my ass and inspired me to really play the guitar! Well, I thought, maybe He is stoned or just getting over the flu or something. Well, my wife, who has been a nurse for over 20 some odd yrs tells me she has seen patients who looked like that before. I asked her what was wrong with them? She said this is what a person looks like who is either dying of cancer or aids, or something fatal as that.
Now I’m in way stating a fact, just giving an observation, I loved Johnny’s playing and would never maliciously start any rumors. As Johnny was helped putting on his guitar the audience came alive and starting yelling, “We love ya Johnny.” John then started playing, I guess the same songs as on His live in NYC 97. Man, I almost broke down and cried. I had once idolized, which I considered to be, the best guitarist of them all. I mean the best. I have seen clapton, van halen, stevie ray vaughn, and listened to a lot of Hendrix, whom I consider equally as great.
I could not believe that such a musician could sound like such an amateur after playing for over 30 some odd yrs. It leaves me to believe that He is either dying, or has the worst type of arthritis known to mankind. Johnny, I will always listen to your records, but don’t do this to your fans, I mean I spent a lot of money on those tickets and am in bad health myself, but even I would not perform if I was unable too. If your sick, get help, if not then maybe its time to retire.
Tuesday, 23 November 1999, House of Blues – 114 Mount Auburn Street – Cambridge, MA
Wednesday, 24 November 1999, House of Blues – 114 Mount Auburn Street – Cambridge, MA
Friday, 26 November 1999, Pearl Street – 10 Pearl Street – Northampton, MA
Saturday, 27 November 1999, Northern Lights – Rt. 146 West – Clifton Park, NY
Sunday, 28 November 1999, Bottom Line – 15 West 4th Street – NY
Highlights of Johnny Winter include the release of the long awaited live album: Johnny Winter Live in NYC recorded at the Bottom Line Club in 1997
This web-page includes many reviews of fans and visitors of Johnny Winter concerts of 1998, the opinions expressed are responsibility of the individual reviewers, the webmaster does not necessarily share these opinions,
Tuesday, 10 March 1998 – Johnny Winter Live in NYC released.
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 plane.
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 well.
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 into Johnny.
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 gone.
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
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 Cincy.
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 of that.
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. Sincerely, Greg
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 longer.
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
01 Apr 1998 – “Bottom Line” Club New York
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. No more.
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.
As 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 CD! Russ
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 that show?
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 teens?
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 too.
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 clubs?
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 Joplin?”?
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 out.
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 live album?
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 that.
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 record out?
Johnny Winter: They were real supportive of it. They couldn’t believe it.
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 true?
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 of ’em.
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 a slide?
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 one.
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 Waters ?
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 thing.
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 set.
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
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 performing.
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 much.
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 exploitation.
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!!!!!
After 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 Johnny show. Trasher
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.
If 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 ’70’s.
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 by rote.
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.
The Eric 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. Rock on, Pat Harrington
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.
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.
1 Jul 1998 – Orillia, Ontario
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
Thursday, 2 July 1998 Ottawa – Confederation Park
02 Jul 1998 – Ottawa Blues Festival
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! Elie
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) applause.
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 review.
Blues Access – Summer 98
CD review of Live in NYC.
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.
Tuesday, 7 July 1998 Club Denim, Guelph, Ontario
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. Peter
Wednesday, 8 July 1998 Toronto – Phoenix Concert Theatre
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
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 for me.”
100 Years of the Blues with Johnny Winter on the front page
Living Blues Aug 1998 (CD Review)
CD review of Live in NYC.
Also: Interview with Rick Derringer:
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.”
White Hot Blues
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 B. Goode.”
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 reviews.
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. Chris
Johnny Winter Oakland 4-Sep-1998
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 very cool.)
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 genius
Saturday, 5 September 1998, Chicago IL, House of BluesJohnny 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 observations:
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 ya forever,
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 legend himself!!
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, IN
Vogue Night Club Indianapolis, Indiana, 9 Nov 1998
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 out)
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. Peace
Wednesday, 11 November 1998: Hollywood Theater, 123 South 5th St, Lacrosse, WI
Thursday, 12 November 1998: Riviera Theatre, Chicago, Illinois
Saturday, 14 November 1998: 3rd Street Theater, 1204 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA
Sunday, 15 November 1998: Citi Lounge, 209 N Superior St, Toledo, OH
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. Daniel Morrone
18 Nov 1998 Theatre of Living Arts. Philadelphia,
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,
Johnny Winter is opening the year with 6 concerts in January. Opening act is Rick Derringer
Friday, 17 January 1997- Detroit MI, Majestic Theatre
Concert review by: Steven M. Baker
Every time I see Johnny Winter he looks worse but plays better. That was the case again when he played Detroit’s Majestic Theater on January 17.
The Majestic is a sleazy old dump with a capacity of about 600. There are usually tables and chairs set up in front of the stage, with standing room and a bar in the back. We arrived early in frigid weather to try to get a table, but the doors finally opened, we rushed in – and no tables! We then knew it would be a wild night …
Rick Derringer opened up with a bluesy set that, in addition to his own hits “Hang on Sloopy” and “Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo”, included Johnny Winter’s “Still Alive and Well” and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy”. He seemed to be having a lot of fun, and the crowd did, too.
By the time Johnny took the stage, with Tom Compton on drums and Mark Epstein on bass, the Majestic was packed elbow to elbow, the floor was already ankle-deep with empty beer bottles, and marijuana smoke filled the air. A slice of heaven!
Johnny looked even more corpse-like than the previous three times I had seen him (all since 1991). He move VERY slowly on stage. Except for his fingers. His playing was simply jaw-dropping. He launched into the smoothest, cleanest, fastest, wickedest guitar playing I’ve ever heard. He is the only musician who has ever caused me to spontaneously yell out “YYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs. It is so striking to see this ghost standing completely still and playing this stuff. Any other guitarist would have to contort his whole body into a pretzel to come close to getting those riffs out. Yet Johnny makes it looks absolutely effortless. Every solo was an encyclopedia of blues and rock riffs.
As for the set list, Johnny Winter played several songs which I couldn’t identify. The ones I did know were “She Likes to Boogie Real Low” and “Sick and Tired” from the “Hey, Where’s Your Brother?” CD, and “The Sky Is Crying”, which Johnny Winter played on the old Firebird while seated on a stool. The Lazer came back out for the last two numbers, which were followed by an encore of “Johnny Guitar” , also from the “Hey, Where’s Your Brother?” CD.
All in all it was a fantastic performance. I would say that Johnny’s playing was smoother and cleaner if somewhat less vicious and attacking than the other times I’d seen him. I can’t wait for the next time!
Another review from the same concert!
I have been following Johnny’s career for about 25 years. I’ve seen his performances dating back 20 years, including a concert at Masonic Temple with Muddy Waters , James Cotton & Johnny. I’d say that I’ve seen no less than 10 Johnny Winter concerts. He had never disappointed me with his mastery of the guitar! He is by far my favorite blues musician. You’d be hard pressed to find a finer guitar player!
That is why it pains me greatly to tell you that I could not believe how poor his performance at the Majestic Theater (1/17/97 in Detroit,MI) was. He had absolutely no energy. When he sang, it sounded as if he was under water. You know I am sure how impressive it is to watch him play the guitar? Well, he looked like an 80 year old man trying to eek out a living. Even his gait was feeble, he shuffled along the stage! There were no rabid patented Johnny Winter licks being ripped off on the guitar, instead just very slow deliberate poorly played riffs. In fact playing that poorly, he was even missing notes along the way.
I called the Majestic people after the performance and asked them if he was gravely ill. They had no information about his health, but they said that they had heard he was at times not showing up for booked performances with no explanation. Is there any way that you can find out what could be causing him to play so poorly? By the way Rick Derringer opened for Johnny and played very well.
Even today I am at a loss for words to tell you how distraught I was to actually witness Johnny Winter play as poorly as he did last Friday. Again, if you have any way of finding out what his physical condition is please let me know.
Monday, 20 January 1997: The Rave, Milwaukee
Wednesday, 22 January 1997 – Chicago IL – House of Blues
Concert review from: Milwaukee Journal.
…Thin as a Gibson guitar string and white as the driven snow, Johnny Winter always presents a pretty strange aura.
But even weirder was 600 or so pony-tailed, chain smoking, slightly balding 40-somethings Monday night at The Rave happily singing the chorus to “Hang On Sloopy”…(later)…There was little doubt on this bill, however, that Winter was the main attraction. Whether rifling through notes quicker than a machine gun (I didn’t see that) or slurring chords on a slide guitar, he reminded the crowd that a 52-year-old albino can still lay claim to being among the top electric guitarists…
Gary Reviews both the Milwaukee and Chicago concerts.
I attended the Johnny Winter concerts at The Rave in Milwaukee on Jan 20 and at the House of Blues in Chicago on Jan 22. Attendance was great, with the House of Blues sold out. Rick Derringer was touring with him, and opened the show with his trio, playing mostly blues but throwing in “Still Alive and Well”, “Hang On Sloopy” and “Rock-N Roll Hoochie Koo.” I was quite impressed with Rick’s playing. He was obviously benefitting from touring with Winter, in that I heard a lot of Johnny’s licks in Rick’s playing.
Johnny had his usual trio ensemble, and did material from the last 2 Point Blank CD’s on his Erlewine Lazer guitar. He also played 2 slide numbers on his Firebird, which guitar is almost as big as Johnny. Johnny’s performance was a little better in Chicago, but his health and playing were obviously compromised at both shows. As a long time Johnny fan, having seen him a dozen times in 20 years, I consider him the greatest living blues guitarist, and his influence on my playing and the great joy I get from listening to his playing and singing is something I will cherish forever.
Many have commented on Johnny’s frail appearance and poor health, which is obvious to all. At these 2 concerts, his performance was a shadow of his former self, and it was painful to watch, knowing what he can do when feeling well. We came away from these shows almost wishing we hadn’t seen this happen, because of Johnny’s true virtuosity as a guitarist. He did play the shows, and we must respect him for that, but he appeared to be in a lot of pain, or perhaps struggling to play under the influence of pain killers. The way he moved on stage reminded me of when I had a herniated spinal disk, with absolutely no movement of the hips. Perhaps he has a back injury. It’s a terrible struggle to play and sing when you are not feeling well, but play Johnny did, as best he could.
Another thing that we lamented at these shows was the number of people there, mostly in their 20’s, who were seeing Johnny for the first time, after hearing all the older guitarists they looked up to rave about Johnny. These people came away wondering what the big deal was, because Johnny was not very good. We realize that Johnny is a living legend, whose recordings will stand as the very definition of blues guitar playing, but these new listeners were not impressed, and it probably would have been better if they had just listened to the records, rather than see Johnny like this.
My buddies and I hope Johnny’s health improves, and that he can tour again sometime in good form. But even if he has “passed his peak”, we are very grateful to him for all he has given, and all that will live forever in the recordings he has made. He is a true living legend, who deserves due respect.
Gary Casper, 26 Jan 97
Sunday, 9 March 1997 – Bottom Line NYC
The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village in New York City. The Bottom Line is a small venue – 200 people. It had small row tables with chairs in the front , and other individual tables and chairs in the back.
They served food and alcohol, and the crowd wasn’t rowdy, but they were enthusiastic. The crowd was mostly in their 30’s and 40’s. They yelled for him to play “Highway 61” and “Wide Open Hand,” but he ignored them.
There was a press release notice on the program.
It Headlined: “BLUES LEGEND JOHNNY WINTER AND MANAGER TEDDY SLATUS LAUNCHING CPW RECORDS WITH HIS FIRST RECORDING IN THREE YEARS.” The notice states: ” New York, October 20, 1996. After a three year recording hiatus, legendary guitarist Johnny Winter and his manager Teddy Slatus, have formed CPW records (Central Park West). CPW’s inaugural project will be a live record by Johnny Winter featuring some of Winter’s most celebrated recordings such as “Highway 61” and “Johnny Be Goode.” Winter has personally hand picked each cut according to the wishes of his most devoted fans. Winter will begin recording at S.I.R. studios in New York City after the first of the year and will feature his Blues based musicianship as well as a few surprises from guest artists he has played with over the years.
The opening band was The Michael Hill Blues Mob, a local band (from NYC).
Johnny played 2 guitars; they were the Erlewine Lazer and the Gibson Firebird for slide. Tom Compton – drums. Mark Epstein – Bass.
Sunday, 6 April 1997 – Louisville
It was Sunday night April 6th 10:30PM. It has been 3 long years since the real “thin white duke” had played Louisville. With a cold beer in one hand and a video camera in the other I was ready. The house lights went down and the volume went up. First came Johnnys standard opening “Hideaway”. I was hoping he would start with something new but I was just glad to see him. Up next “Got My Mojo Working” followed by “Just A Little Bit”, “Sick & Tired”, “Blackjack Blues”, “The Sky Is Crying” (*pulled out the Firebird on the last 2) “Johnny Guitar” and a closing instrumental that had some of “Fast Life Rider” licks thrown in.
On a scale of 1-10 I gave it a 6. Why you ask? Well Johnny spoiled me back in 94 when he played an outstanding 2 hour show. From start to finish he was on fire. And so was his bass player at the time Jeff Gantz who did a 20 plus minute version of “Turn On Your Lovelight” with him and Johnny sharing some vocals (its true I have it on tape) that reminded me of the ‘Together’ album with Edgar. Plus the club he played is not a great place for a show. and to be honest he look as if he was just going thru the motions and keeping a close eye on his watch.
Johnny is going to record live at the Bottom Line in NYC April 13-14 for at least the start of his next CD. He’ll be doing a few dates around the northeast and midwest in early April.
I recently returned from seeing Johnny Winter in Cincinnati, OH and Louisville, KY. I was glad to get to see him again.
The show in Cincinnati was not real good. Johnny Winter didn’t do much but play rhythm. At one point it had become so monotonous I was slightly angered by it. Johnny Winter rarely opened his eyes, sang little and when he did you couldn’t hear him, and he used his pinkie little if at all when he played. It was not the Johnny Winter of old at all. I clapped and cheered out of respect for Johnny Winter but not because I really liked it. Jeff Ganz was not there. His new bass player wasn’t very good. Tommy Compton did not do much either. It appeared neither of them wanted to play any better than Johnny Winter was playing. johnny Guitar was the only song they played that I recognized.
The Micheal Hill’s Blues Mob that opened for him was pretty good. They are an all black blues band. It was refreshing to see some black men playing some good music. He was around after the show signing autographs. Micheal Hill is a good guitarist and nice and considerate man. His band is worth going to see if you get a chance. I told him Hendrix’s Red House would be a good addition to the songs he was playing live.
After the first show I wondered alot about Johnny Winter. Is he weak? Is he sick? Does he feel he is not compensated well enough? Is his skill detereorating? I went to Louisville to give him another chance. He’s Johnny Winter. He always deserves another chance.
The Louisville show was much better. Johnny Winter played pretty good at times. He played You’re Humbuggin’ Me plus I noticed parts of Sweet Papa John. He played another song I’ve heard alot but could not figure out what it was. The bass player was better too. Tommy Compton still didn’t do much though. Johnny Winter smiled a couple times at the Louisville show. He was totally expressionless in Cincy. In Louisville he jumped up and down once and spun around. That got a cheer out of everybody. It was somewhat comical but it was nice to see Johnny Winter trying to have a little fun.
Micheal Hill’s Blues Mob was better in Louisville too. Tony Stewart, the drummer, did not do alot in Cincy but he played great in Louisville. They played Red House. That was real cool. It was nice to see him play a song I wanted to hear him play very much. They played a song of their own called Bloodlines that was very good. The way they played, Micheal Hill’s consideration, and the playing of Red House, a song I asked them to play got them a new fan. I plan to buy their Bloodlines CD soon. Overall the Louisville show was pretty good. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
After the show I was able to get a man outside Johnny Winter’s bus to take the CD cover to my Muddy Water’s Hard Again CD in to him to sign. I was pleased about that too.
I apologize it took me so long to get this letter out but I’ve had a little trouble at home
Thursday, 10 April 1997 – Buffalo Showplace
Just got home from Johnny’s date at Showplace Theater. I am real pleased I showed up! It is impossible not to attend a show of his if it is possible to drive there and it’s only 20 miles from Niagara Falls Ont. to Buffalo N.Y. He went on at 10:30 and played ’til midnight. An early show for Mr. Winter and a longer set than I have witnessed in quite a while, maybe 15 years or so. Animal Planet opened and I heard the last 3 tunes. Classic rock in a trio format and they closed with “Hush” from Deep Purple circa 1968. Local act from what I heard. Sound was nice. Showplace is an old film theater in the college area of Buffalo and has been highly neglected cosmetically but has alot of character and the room has a nice warm sound.
I managed to grab a pen from a bartender and copy out the set list so here it goes:
Hideaway: Uptempo and spirited.
Mojo Working: Half time and real neat. Nice arrangement. Tom Compton was busy in a nice way.
Boogie Real Low: Lots of showing off on the headless and a very nice groove between Mark and Tom. Probably 10 minutes .
Just A Little Bit : Old standard. First time I heard Johnny do it. Nice soloing and great to hear him growling a bit! He seemed to be having fun.
Black Jack: Slow blues. The open-tuned firebird came out and everybody knew it by the sound of the room. More interesting thumpicking than wild scales and leads. Solos were somewhat concise,but man, the feeling!
Mojo Boogie? The old brown Firebird again opened tuned and it was the intro to Mojo Boogie but the lyrics were different. Same tune, same arrangement, but nothing about Pine Trees in Georgia or the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Real Strong. Mark and Tom laying down the shuffle real nice!
Sky Is Crying: Beautiful! Subtle intro of 2 notes and nice pocket playing from the band. Johnny’s voice was happening on this one . Headless was really being played. Worth 10 times the ticket price on it’s own!
Sick And Tired: Old Chris Kenner R and R tune off the last Pointblank record that the band played with lots of guts. Crowd went nuts!
Johnny Guitar: Kicking version! Tom and Mark were having fun playing and the tempo was up. Best chops I’ ve seen from Tom Compton since Johnny hooked up with him 10 years past. He still has the beautiful wood Ludwigs and he sounds like he’s more into Johnny’s music than ever. I can’t say enough great things about Mark Epstein (bass). Young guy. It looks like he seems to have listened to a bit of Randy Jo Hobbs ( Johnny’s bass player from late 1970 ’til 1976).
Johnny and the boys closed with a funky groove tune that had ( believe it or not) a chord pattern close to the ” Average White Band’s ” ” Pick Up The Pieces” Believe it or not that was the root of the tune. It really worked for them and he let Mark the bassist stretch out. Memorys of Randy Jo Hobbs picking! Nice!
Another review of the Buffalo Showplace concert.
The Ghostly Duke of the Blues – by Sharon Schneider
Never could he pass by unnoticed. The hawkish profile, pale, pale skin and long, wispy white hair, let alone the skeletal tattooed arms, would draw every eye no matter what his occupation
Though some on his staff minimized it, something was not quite right with John ny Winter. He needed assistance changing guitars, moved like he was under water, plus the road crew had to shine flashlights along the floor of the brightly lighted stage. He stood rigid as a statue through most of the hour and a half performance, and barely opened his eyes while he played. But could he still play? Yes, like any talented mere mortal. His breathtaking command of slide guitar could not be detected, and stumbles on fingered notes could. Even so, he still possessed an extra incalculable something, that’s indescribable.
The compacted, standing hundreds, who came to the Showplace Theater on April 10, could have cared less that he was no longer the performer he used to be; they’d come to see a legend of memory. His glory days of the late sixties and seventies brought him gold for the recordings Live/Johnny Winter And, plus Still Alive And Well. Through the years he proved himself a fan and friend of the blues and the men that play them. When Muddy Waters career was sagging in the eighties, Winter produced four albums with him on Blue Sky, and two of them, Hard Again and I’m Ready, won Grammies. Most of the albums Johnny’s made include generous servings of blues based or blues songs; he was the first white artist to be inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame.
his night, the 54-year-old Texas bred guitarist, accompanied by bass and drums, did solid blues, The Sun Is Shining, Got My Mojo Workin’, Black Jack, I Just Want A Little Bit, The Sky Is Cryin’, Sick and Tired, a taste of Freddie King, and his own, Johnny Guitar, all in hard rockin’ style. Seldom did he address the crowd, and his singing voice seemed about the same, though it could have been miked a bit better.
Johnny now lives in NYC, and a couple of albums are in the works, label unknown, to be recorded live at The Bottom Line.
Sincerely hope I wasn’t too harsh in this, I really do admire the man!
Sunday 13/14 and16 Apr 1997 Bottom Line
I must thank you and all the contributors to this great web site The Johnny Winter Story . I along with two friends ( John Mc & Mike S.) traveled form Manchester, England, to see Johnny Winter perform at New York’s Bottom Line club, We were able to do this from information gained from this web site. Thanks again. Please find following information on the gigs for reference, information, use on web page etc.
We booked for both nights at the above, 13th & 14th,
Sunday 13th Cancelled
We nearly died to find the gig had been cancelled, some guy officially videoing the concert, said it was due to “Johnny Winter having some problem with his wrist or arm ” The club said we could have a refund for the ticket or Johnny W. had re scheduled the gig for Wednesday the 16th and our tickets were valid for that night. We fortunately had booked our return flight for the Thursday 17th so we were able to attend the re-scheduled gig, We departed from the Bottom Line Club that night concerned Johnny W. may not be able to make the other nights
Fortunately our fears of non-appearance were unfounded. I would tell you about the layout of the club but it was well coverd by A review elseware on this web page. Anyway it went like this:
9.00pm with Hugh Pool, solo performer guitar vocal & blues harp ,who gave an enthusiastic and enjoyable hour of music.
10.00 An announcement was made to clear the bar area to allow Johnny Winter to enter the building. ( I thought this was all very “Michael Jackson” Hype-ish !!!.) Which he did, ready to go with Earlwine Laser in hand.
A short time later He appeared on stage to a rapturous reception. He played a selection of his tunes starting with Hide away, and including Bogie Real Low, Sick & Tired, Got my mojo workin, a couple of slide guitar tunes ( sorry I don’t know all his material ), Just want a little bit. Then an encore of Johnny Guitar, followed by an instrumental Jam of James Brown’s Sex Machine.
I was concerned from the overall standard of his performance Johnny was not well, his movements were very slow and he was feeble looking,( when he changed his guitar putting the strap over his shoulder he looked like he would never make it!!) his playing was by his own recorded ( studio & live ) standards very mediocre, This in view of the previous nights cancellation and his unique no compromise guitar sound Had me doubting if the live recording he was taping that night would be worthwhile.
Bass Guitar Mark Epstein
Drums Tom Compton
Wednesday, 16 April 1997 – Bottom Line
Exactly the same as Monday with one exception, Johnny Winter played superbly with authority articulation and style in abundance, Great night, Fearsome performance.
We were very happy we had seen Johnny on that night, it would have been a disappointing outing if we had just seen the Monday gig and I feel sorry the audience on Monday would not have seen Johnny at his best, although if enthusiasm and noise are anything to go by They loved it anyway
For any guitarists out there Mike S. and myself gathered the following:
Johnny Winter Used the following equipment:
Earlwine Lazer Guitar Tuned in D i.e. Normal Tuning dropped one tone : EADGBE to DGCFAD
Gibson Firebird open tuned for slide. (I think I know this tuning but do not want to mislead you, I didn’t recognize his slide tunes so I had no reference to hook the excact tuning, ya know how it is with slide!)
2 Music Man 4X10 combo amps (1 for Standby possibly ? )
just read the piece by Sharon Schneider, and I identified with most everything she said. Wednesday night, I saw Johnny at the Bottom Line, in NYC. I guess I should preface my remarks by saying that I have been a devoted listener since 1969, and I definitely have a spot in my heart for the man and his music. I’m as loyal to him as he is to the blues.
That having been said, the show could hardly be considered vintage Johnny. As Sharon pointed out, he looked not just skinny (as he always did), but downright fragile. When he came off the tour bus parked outside, he was quickly helped in to the club by Teddy Slatus and company. Yes, he followed the flashlights onto the stage, and yes, he had help switching from the Lazer to the Firebird, and back again. What bothered me was the lack of movement once he reached the microphone. With feet firmly planted, he did little more than sway back and forth in an alomst catatonic state, seemingly unable to move, even if the music made him feel like doing so. (Note: At one point during the encore, he tried to do a spin, and almost fell over.)
Once he started playing (I believe he opened with Hideaway), all would have been fine, but there seemed to be a few things missing. For starters, his voice seems to have lost alot of its juice. Perhaps the sound system at the Bottom Line is partially responsible, but that unique, raspy sound from the past is all but gone. For those of us who really love his voice, it takes away one dimension from the overall performance. As for him missing a few notes, there’s no question that he did. His playing is not quite as controlled and sharp as it used to be. Sometimes you get the feeling that he is “thinking” the music one way, but his fingers can’t quite catch up with his head. Still, the missed note here and there did not detract substantially from the overall feel of what was going on. I did notice that on some of the breaks, his selection of riffs was somewhat repetitive. Play a break, sing a verse, play the exact same break again. There used to be a little more variety.
His slide work on the Firebird is still quite good and pure (although I hesitate to mention that the opening act, a guy named Hugh Pool, did some slide work on a National Steel guitar that was incredible). Throughout the show, Tom Compton on drums and Mark Epstein on bass were absolutely first-rate. They both seem to be wired-in to Johnny’s moves, and show real feeling for what he was doing.
The crowd, as always, was very enthusiastic. Between numbers, people took to shouting out their old favorites: “Cheap Tequila!”; “Bony Moronie!”; “Master Mechanic!!!” I wanted to shout, “It’s My Own Fault… but play it just like you did on Progressive Blues Experiment!” I decided to keep my mouth shut.
In the end, I was glad I went. It was my little way of saying, “Thanks, Johnny, for 30 years of great music”. Even if he doesn’t do it the way he used to, hell, who does? We’ve all seen the great ones in all fields slow down a bit, be they athletes, actors, or musicians. The man is still a legend to me, and I’ll come to see him even if he’s playing in a wheel chair. Long live the king!
May 1997 – White Hot Blues-Cover
In the summer of 1968, John Sinclair and the MCS put on something called the Motor City Rock Festival- a ton of bands and three headliners over two nights: The Five, Sun Ra and Johnny Winter. Sunburned and ornery as only a teenage purist can be, I wanted to skip Winters’s set. He’d been hyped in Rolling Stone as an albino celebrigeek, and I figured any guitar player noted for the paleness of his complexion could not be worth much. My girlfriend, who’d already seen Johnny, told me that if we stayed, I’d love him. I listened to her, and then I listened to him, and felt that love. What Johnny did that night was one of the most indelible blues or rock show I’ve ever seen, white hot music under cool blue spots. As Johnny roared through his Muddy Waters gone to Texas show, he got off what are still some of the most stinging slide riffs ever played in my presence. And though he may have slowed the pace a time or two, the band never stopped rockin’. Not for a minute.
Like so many of the greatest players of the Sixties (Dylan, Hendrix, Bloomfield, Clapton), Johnny Winter did not make much distinction between the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. That’s why what you get here is as much classic rock–including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Good” and perhaps the best version of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” ever put on tape–as classic blues. What makes these records blues are the long, elastic lines Winter’s guitar strings out, the undercurrent of sadness that balances the exuberance, the structure and the origin of some of the songs (“Messin’ With The Kid” from Junior Wells, “Rollin’ And Tumblin” from Muddy Waters, “Rock Me Baby” from B. B. King); what makes them rock is the relentlessly attacking sheets of notes, the sheer physical exuberance that Johnny pours into the music, the refusal to bend to the pain they express and the sheer pace and force, which don’t lift for a second, even on tracks as downhearted as “Too Much Seconal”.
All blues musicians are essentially artists in pursuit of some fundamental truths about themselves and the people around them–about the human condition as they have known it. The music is about exploring as deep inside yourself as you can stand to go, and learning how you’re connected to everyone you’ve ever encountered; about individual expression standing on the shoulders of all that has come before it. For Johnny Winter, that has been a lifelong task, from his first bands in Texas to the big-time rock ‘n’ roll career he had when he made the first of these records, to his great work with Muddy Waters and his departure for a territory that still engages him, out there on the road somewhere, maybe in your vicinity as this new collection spins. He is a true bluesman.
But he has also never lost his rock ‘n’ roll heart: For Johnny, that great Chuck Berry story about the country boy who carried his guitar in a gunny sack and strummed to the rhythm of the locomotive wheels is his own story. Yet, what called to him was finally not just his name in lights but the far more enduring sound of the blues itself. No matter what anyone imagines, he’s the real thing, and as such must be heard to be believed and understood. The grace note is this: Everyone who listens up is amply rewarded. As a scoffing skeptic who became a fan, I’m living proof.
Tuesday, 24 June 1997 – Pontiac, MI, 7th House
Well, I finally got to see Johnny Winter last night for the first time. He played at the “Seventh House” in Pontiac, Michigan. The “Seventh House” is a fairly small, intimate setting to see a concert in. The stage is set in one corner of the room with rows of seats arranged in a semi-circle around the rest of the room. There is also an upstairs balcony which also curves around in front of the stage. There is also a bar. The seating capacity is 400. Tickets were $25.00, all general admission. So we got there about an hour before the doors opened and managed to get seats right in front. The place was packed. The seats were all taken plus many people were standing.
An opening band called “Motorjam” (rock with a HARD edge) came on at 9:00 and played until 10:00. The stage was then set up for Johnny Winter. Johnny came out at 10:30 and played until midnight.
I have been a little concerned recently because I have occasionally heard some people out here say that he looks bad and appears to be sick. I was very close to him during this concert and I didn’t think he looked bad or sick. However, his voice isn’t as powerful. That familiar growl is gone and he doesn’t seem to be able to project much volume with his voice. It is also very obvious that he is going blind. He had to be pretty much guided onto the stage and to the microphone by one of his aids who shined a flshlight on the floor in front of Johnny Winter while they walked. Johnny appeared to follow the circle of light in front of his feet. The guy was also pretty much rubbing shoulders with Johnny Winter as he guided him to the mike. It was obvious that Johnny could not have got on stage and found the microphone by himself, his eyesight is that bad. This blindness may be what some people are interpreting as feebleness. He is unsure of his footing because he simply just can’t see where he is going.
He already had his guitar on him and when he got to the mike he was handed his guitar cord. He held it up right in front of his face while he adjusted it in his fingers so he could plug it in. His eyes never focused on anything throughout the concert. It’s so obvious that he’s going blind…I’m surprised I’ve never heard anyone out here mention it.
He started the show with an instrumental, “Hideaway.” He doesn’t play as fast anymore but his playing was clean. Extremely clean. I could have listened to him all night. To the best of my ability here’s his set-list
1)Hideaway 2) Got My Mojo Working 3) She Likes To Boogie Real Low 4) Sick and Tired (almost 10 minutes long!) 5) Blackjack 6) Not really sure about the name of this one, it had lyrics about “sunshine on both sides of the street” and “we can really, really rock and roll.” (15 minutes long!) 7) The Sky Is Crying 8) Just A Little Bit 9) Johnny Guitar
He than left the stage and was called back for an encore. He than did two more songs.
10) A longgg instumental. Not sure, but I believe it was an instrumental version of “Got To Find My Baby” from the “Let Me In” cd. 11) His final song was one that I didn’t recognize at all and I can’t really remember any of the lyrics.
He played some fairly long versions of most of the tunes.
He than thanked eveyone for coming and said “God bless you.” His aid than walked up next to him, shined the flashlight on the floor in front of him and guided him off-stage.
As I said, his voice is not strong anymore and his playing has slowed down. It is definately evident that years of indulging in certain vices have taken their toll on him. However the perceived feebleness and sickliness and “glazed over” look on his face that some people have described can be attributed I believe to his inability to see where he is going, or to see much of anything for that matter.
All in all it was a good concert. I’m really glad I got to see him live (and up so close!). As I said I could have listened to him all night. He still has that inimitable Johnny Winter style, and his playing was sooo clean.
I brought the booklet with me from the cd “Nothin’ But The Blues” and after the concert I went around the back of the building in the alley and saw his tour bus. I waited there with about 25 other people who had albums, ticket stubs, etc. His manager came out of the bus and gathered everything from us and took it in for Johnny to sign. So I now have a cd of “Nothin’ But The Blues” with Johnny Winter’s signature across the front of it.
Good show. The audience was very enthusiastic. Everybody seemed to really enjoy it Johnny got a LOT of applause after each song. He really seemed to be having fun playing and entertaining the crowd.
I’ll definitely be back next time he comes to town.
Gregory A. Conn
Thursday, 26 June 1997 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Big Dogs
Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa and unfortunately Johnny has left the building. As promised I said I would share a few more thoughts about Johnny Winter’s June 26, 1997, gig at Big Dogs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Johnny Winter web page, at the end of the “Timeline” section, there is a very detailed description of Johnny’s concert two nights earlier in Pontiac, Michigan. The show in Cedar Rapids followed that format very closely. It started about 10:30 and twice during the show Johnny checked his watch, and left stage at about 11:45, only to come back and play another 20 minutes with Johnny Guitar leading the encore.
A little over 1 1/2 hours of assault with a 6 string. No one in music, and I mean no one puts more licks into a unit of time than Johnny. I have read other reviewers discussing his ill health and feebleness but I agree with the Pontiac reviewer that Johnny Winter can barely see. Is he the picture of health, absolutely not, but, this is the first time in the last 3 times I have seen Johnny Winter dating back 5 years that he stood as he played for the entire show. The show opened with the instrumental “Hideaway”. Johnny Winter’s first attempt at vocals was almost inaudible, and I felt his voice may have lost its sting forever, but it grew stronger with each tune and I thought “Sick and Tired” sounded anything but that vocally.
Being from Beaumont, Texas, (Johnny Winter’s home town) originally, it’s hard to be objective when you love the man for the way his guitar can transcend you, but for those people who say Johnny Winter is a shell of the musician he once was, I say get a life. Johnny Winter at half speed would be about twice as good as the second best guitarist on the planet. And trust me, he was far from half speed. With all due respect, Johnny Winter can sleep walk through any licks ever laid down by Clapton, Beck, Page, Eddie V, Satriani, etc.
This was a great show! Tom Compton (drums) and Mark Epstein (bass) created a most excellent musical canvas to work with, and Johnny Winter’s masterful strokes painted a picture that was worth a thousand words, all superlatives. My guess is that most people who have been hung up on Johnny Winter missing a note in a warp speed run must be on the verge of signing major record deals themselves, because although I am no musician, I feel I have a keen ear, and his finger work is as clean as anyone I’ve seen in years. And if you factor in the Johnny Winter degree of difficulty, I’d give him a 9.95 on a 10 scale.
If you don’t believe me, go to the show and when the Illustrated Man cranks up the opening notes of “Boogie Real Low”, look at the crowd, not Johnny. The 15 person deep dance floor in front of the stage looked like a mosh pit for the 40 somethings. The smiles on the faces and a groove that even I could shake with is hard to describe. The ambiance was electric. The band even played a sampler from the Average White Band’s “Cut The Cake” and I have never seen a more diverse group of people (ages 20-60+), or hair styles (long hairs to no hairs) or hair colors (grey hairs to blonde hairs), that were totally synchronized by one guitar. That’s when you know it’s special.
Leave the cameras at home, security had a zero tolerance policy for the shutterbugs. Johnny Winter is selling 8 x 10 glossy black and white photos and after the show, if you go to the tour bus, Johnny Winter’s manager will collect items, take them on the bus for Johnny Winter to autograph and then hand them back out. I was a bit dissappointed with the T-shirt design but that was the only downer of the day. I also had the privilege of rapping with bassist Mark Epstein from New York.
He’s been with Johnny Winter for the last couple of years and hopefully for many more. As an interesting side note, he also played in Tennis player John McEnroe’s Band and spoke highly of his lyrically abilities. Tennis anyone? Mark’s a down to earth cat and on stage has an uncanny ability to follow the direction set by the Guitar Slinger. Mark Epstein on bass and Tom Compton on skins put down a back beat that even this 42 year old white boy could find. Add Johnny Winter’s still smokin’ lightning runs on top of that and what you have is what I hope heaven is all about! To summarize the show using internet lingo, when Johnny Guitar comes to your town, “GO THERE”!
As Johnny Winter said to finish the evening, Thank you an awful lot and GOD bless you!
Sunday, 24 August 1997 – The Bottom Line New York
Review by: Steve Stewart
Sunday August 24th was a warm evening in New York City and in Greenwich Village at 4th Street and Mercer, Johnny Winter was booked into the Bottom Line.
My wife and I were spending some time in the city and I was anticipating seeing Johnny for the 25th time since ”73 in a big way! Being Canadian it occured to me that I was catching him play in the town that put him in the eye of the world back in late ’68 when he left southeast Texas and headed north to fame and fortune.
At 9:00 the club was three-quarter capacity and 10 minutes later guitarist Richie Kotzen came out to play a set of rocking originals that lasted 50 minutes. New York was polite.
Johnny stepped out of his managers wheels and walked in the front door with a small entourage just before 10 and settled backstage. It was obvious that this was his town.
At 10:30 he took the stage and broke into Hideaway. The sound was right-on from the word go. Hideaway was followed with Got my Mojo Working, Sick And Tired, She Likes To Boogie Real Low, and other standards he plays in his set these days. The open-tuned old brown Firebird came out after 45 minutes and he cut loose with a shuffle that i did not know but sounded alot like Mojo Boogie. The Firebird really tore the set up more than anything!
Yes, Johnny is fifty-three and-a-half years old and he doesn’t play guitar with the attack he did in the seventies .And yes, his voice doesn’t have the guts and range it had and he isn’t the charismatic showman he once was, but his guitar style, soulfulness and incredible presence on stage are everything! And he came out to play for New York and they loved him.
Another review by: Michael
Just saw Johnny Winter, for the first time, at The Bottom Line in Manhattan. It was a short set (well under an hour and a half including encore). Johnny, as many have commented, looks incredibly frail these days. He moves slowly and awkwardly and he needed assistance when he switched guitars. Frankly, it would be no exaggeration to say that he looks and walks like a man in his eighties.
He began with an instrumental and then went into ‘I’ve Got My Mojo Working’. He leaned heavily on ‘hey, where’s your brother’ — playing ‘She Like to Boogie Real Low’ and for an encore ‘Johnny Guitar’. While he obviously can see very little, he’s not totally blind. He was able to find his way to his guitars on the side of the stage and to his microphone at the front and center. He also looked at his watch several times (so he must be able to see that as well).
The band (bass and drums) was fine, though the bass was mixed too high. Again: I can not exaggerate how frail he seems. He really does appear like a man decades older.
Well, that wraps up the bad news. He seemed to be enjoying himself throughout the show (though he did keep looking at his watch.) His voice, while not being as strong as it may have once been, is still far from shot. He remains a fine, credible blues singer. And I can assure you — he is still an excellent guitar player. He maintains a fine tone (clean yet mean) and he is a paragon of taste.
Everything he played was fluid, fierce, purposeful and distinctly Johnny Winter. He’s incapable of self-indulgence and he never meanders. If you closed your eyes (as, I must confess, I often did to better appreciate the music) the contrast between what you were seeing and hearing was remarkable. On the last song of the (pre-encore) set he played slide and he was superlative.
Frankly, the pathos of his present state was overwhelming — clearly not just for me, but for the audience as a whole. Still as a musician he commands admiration and respect. Not pity.
I recommend that all Johnny Winter’s fans see him if they ever get the chance. I’m honored to have seen him play tonight. And I can’t express how much I envy those of you who had the chance to see him perform in even better days.
Friday, 19 September 1997 – House Of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC
Review by: Hugh Odom
Well, folks, I saw Johnny live Friday night for the first time in 22 years. I was not dissapointed. Judging from recent posts to the list, I was very worried he would cancel, or come on very late, or be in such bad shape that I’d be sorry I had gone to see him. I am very happy to say that none of those things were true.
The show at “House of Blues” in Myrtle Beach, SC started at 9:00 pm. The opening act was “the Eddie Bush Group” of Charleston, SC. Eddie is obviously a talented guitarist, but he is of the “2 million notes per second/ 22 effects pedals/ volume knob always on 11” variety; a complete contrast to Johnny. Some of the crowd enjoyed Eddie, but he was mismatched with Johnny. His show lasted until 10:00 pm.
After 10:00, the place really started to get packed. While not absolutely full, I’d say the crowd was close to capacity. Johnny started promptly at 10:30 pm. As soon as the curtains parted, the crowd went nuts; Johnny was obviously pleased at the response.
The set list for the evening was:
Hideway (instrumental)- Played for almost 15 minutes; some cool interaction between Johnny and the bassist. Tasty guitar work, and a great drum solo.
Got My Mojo Working- A somewhat different than traditional version. A little slower and easier sounding.
Boogie Real Low
Sick & Tired
Black Jack Blues
Just a Little Bit- More outstanding TIGHT interaction between Johnny and the bassist.
?? (slide)- I’m very sorry to say I did not recognize this song. Johnny announced he was going to play a little slide for us- the crowd (including me) went bonkers! A Firebird was pulled from a massive road case and he swapped it for the Lazer. He played a few slide licks before he walked up to the mic and the crowd loved it. The song was strait blues, with something in the chorus about “I’ve got knew shoes, you got nothing to loose, ….”. Nice slide work, but not necessarily outstanding.
Johnny then quickly introduced the band and yelled “God bless you and good night”. The drummer was Tom Compton but I did not get the bassist’s name. The band had been playing just about an hour at this point. Given some of the reviews, I was very worried that would be it for the night, but the crowd rose to the occasion. After about 5 minutes of thunderous applause, random howls and wolf-whistles, a chant of “Johnny-Johnny-Johnny” was started. When he came back on the crowd really went nuts and there was definitely some “spring” in his step- which meant a lot.
When he yelled “YEAAA” in the mic, it was the well-known trademarked Johnny Winter howl. He launched into Johnny Guitar which went for about 15 minutes. The bassist then started the audience clapping in unison, and they played what I can best describe as a “funk” instrumental. The feel of it was something like the opening riff for “Waitin’ for the Bus” by ZZ Top, if you know that song. Some really rippin’ guitar by Johnny with absolutely no cliche licks. I think this song really showed that the man has still got it. In the middle of this song,
Johnny actually did a “spin” on stage, which had to take a big effort on his part- the crowd loved it. Almost exactly at 12 midnight, the band walked off, and it was obvious there was no chance for a second encore. (I guess I’m spoiled by the previous “3 encore” Johnny Winter shows I’ve been to!).
While Johnny’s guitar work was not “blazing”, it was excellent and without fault as far as I could tell. Some of his licks were a little repetitious but he did not appear to “stumble” at all. He and the bass player had some really tight coordination that was great to listen to, and his guitar tone was the best I’ve ever heard (IMHO). His vocals were much softer than his traditional trademark growl. He sounded great, just different. Sort of a “kinder, gentler” Johnny Winter.
My impression of Johnny’s condition was that he was not emaciated or gaunt (maybe he caught up on his eating over the summer). On the other hand, it was obvious from his movements on stage that Johnny has some kind of physical problem. He moved very slowly and deliberately, and did not even tap his foot once all night. His way of moving reminded me of the way I moved when I injured my back a year ago. You don’t do anything quickly for fear it’s going to hurt- BADLY. The one thing I noticed conspicuously missing from his guitar work was that trademark lick he does where he chords high up the neck while rapidly strumming over the end of the fingerboard. I don’t think he wanted to move that much. IMHO Johnny is suffering from severe arthritis or something with similar symptoms. I wish I knew, ’cause I’d change my donation to the “United Way” to suit.
I am very happy to say that the crowd didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass that Johnny wasn’t howling or jumping all around or trying to outdo the opening act with flaming guitar work. You could tell that Johnny put his heart into it and the crowd responded accordingly.
Johnny played his usual white Erlewine Lazer through 2 Music Man 4 x 10″ combo amps. He had two effect pedals, one near his mic stand that he could operate and one back near the amps that I saw a roadie kick in when he plugged in the Firebird to play slide. The Firebird looked cherry; I’d guess it was a recent re-issue.
The bassist played a tobacco sunburst Sadowsky 5 string through two sets of Hartke 4 x 10″ cabinets (I couldn’t make out the amps). If anybody knows who this guy is I’d sure like to hear. Being a bass player myself, I’d say this guy has my dream job. He really had the ability to throw in some “flash” while still always playing a solid bass groove, and he looked like he really enjoyed himself. He definitely inspired me to play better at my band’s gig last night.
Keep Rockin, Hugh Odom
Saturday, 20 September 1997 – Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Review by: Sam Voige, Atlanta
I was priveledged to see Johnny’s September 20th show in Atlanta at the Variety Playhouse. The Variety is a really cool music venue–it’s an old neighborhood moviehouse converted into an urban music pit. First, the crowd of about 1000 was treated to an enthralling opening set by locals Gracie Moon. When Johnny hit the stage, I was a little bit shocked by his mannerisms and appearance. His gate was very slow and deliberate, and he moved little while playing and singing, just swaying back and forth. His guitar work nowadays is still as skillful as ever, but not as forceful and pyrotechnic as it once was.
His voice is soft and tinny, lacking that raspiness and nasty growl. It’s obvious that he is suffering from some sort of illness or just plain physical deterioration, probably due to the years of el vivre loco. His set list was virtually identical to his last Atlanta gig two years ago (boogie real low, Johnny guitar, etc,etc). All in all, it was great to see Johnny again. I’ve seen him play about 20 times and have been a fan for 25 years. It’s kind of like watching Arnold Palmer play golf. You know that Johnny isn’t what he once was, but you still dig him for fighting the good fight and still having enough left to get up on stage and kick booty. That’s what its all about. Johnny has probably forgotten more guitar licks than most contemporary hot shots ever dreamed about having. Johnny Winter is truly an American original, and I hope someday he is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Review by: Carroll Davis
Well hello Jim and all you other J.W. fans out there. Well what can i say but old J.W.has still got it. The concert hall last night has a capacity of 450. I guess there must have been about 650 packed like sardines in there. The opening act didn’t have much of a chance with everyone yelling Johnny through out there set. At 10:30 he took the stage and the place went crazy. You could see he was very appreciative of his reception, he had a big ole smile on his face the whole show. Well his set list was.
Oh What A Party
Boogie Real Low
Sick And Tired
Then he pulled out a Gibson Firebird and a slide and just jammed like only he can for about 15 minutes, [sorry i didnt know this song-if it even had a name] but it was pure kick ass J.W. For his encore he did Johnny Guitar then he just jammed for about 10 more minutes. All in all it was wonderful stuff be sure to check THE MAN out if he comes your way. You wont be dissapointed. We went out side to his bus after the show and got to shake his hand and tell him how much we all love him. I told him about this page and he said he loves you all. The rest of his band are Mark Epstein on bass and Tom Compton on drums. They also are great players. Folks the man is moving real slow and his vision is shot and even he said he doesnt know how long he can keep up touring so go see him if you get the chance. Sorry i rambled on so long as you can tell i love ole J.W. He is the best.
Review by: Jerry Hochman
My wife and I say Johnny last night at the Variety Play house, Atlanta. I’ve seen him about 10 times over the last 25 years, and consider him the greatest living blues guitarist. I had the same reaction many of your reviewers had: surprized and disappointed at his seeming bad health, frailness, slowness, etc. As a guitarist, I appreciated his mastery, but missed his presence. He seemed like at robot, with no affect at all. It’s really sad for me to see this happen. He will always be “the man” to me.
Review by: Tim Moore
I just attended the Variety Playhouse show in Atlanta. I have attended Johnny Winter shows many times in his R&R era but hadn’t seen Johnny since the early seventies.
I was a little shocked when Johnny appeared to be sight impared and almost feeble. I understand that he’s just 58. Guess he’s had a hard life. Do you know if the albino and boss eyed situation has an effect on his general health or is this just due to his problems with mood altering substances?
The show was opened by ‘Gracie Moon’. Worth the price of admission in herself. Check her out if you can.
I really enjoyed the blues format. His guitar playing is much smoother than in the early days. He definately needs no ‘second/rhythm guitarist’ or keyboards in his show. He really filled it up.
His voice has really changed. The growl and bite seem to be gone, maybe due to his health condition but his overall tone replication and range are really better than ever.
He seemed so serious in his R&R heyday but Saturday night he actually looked out at the audience with a big smile on several occasions.
His bassist and drummer certainly showed their wares but were very respectfull of Johnny and at no time stepped on his licks. The bassist played very tastefull the whole show but really showed what he could do mirroring Johnny’s licks on one song late in the show.
With all due respect to Stevie Ray, Eric, etc…., I left the show re-affirmed that Johnny was the best guitarist of all time. He is truely a legendary bluesman.
I will be surprised if anyone sends pictures. ‘Evans Security’ was pretty adamant about cameras. I was told that the flashes physically irritated Johnny. The show was way too short but I think everyone understood after seeing Johnny take only small short steps the whole evening.
Tuesday, 23 September 1997 – Moon, Tallahassee
Review by: Max Dog
I’ve seen Johnny in concert three times, the first was definitely the best. That show was in Gainsville, Fl. in the middle eighties at the Florida Theater. The warm up band was Crosscut Saw featuring former Winter sideman Pat Ramsey on harp. Rumor has it that Johnny had said that he’d never share a stage with Pat again after critics (Rolling Stone) started calling Pat a costar. Whether that is true or not, there was a definite tension that pushed both performers to put on one hell of a concert. I started calling Johnny Winter “Bionic Johnny” after that show because of the never ending blizzard of notes coming from his guitar. The crowd went wild. They drank the bar out of beer. I saw from a window runners getting kegs from neighboring bars!
The second show was in Tallahassee. While it was a great show, it paled in comparison to the first. Now (Tue., 9/23/97), after a long wait, I’ve had the honor of seeing him again. The warm up band was the Pat Ramsey Band, deja vu. Pat and his non-permanent rapidly assembled band showed no signs of a lack of practice. They definitely rocked the house. Rumor again has it that they may be opening for Johnny Winter in North Carolina at his request. If anyone is going to that show, don’t be late or you’ll miss a good band. Even after reading about Johnny’s health on this list I was somewhat shocked by how frail he seemed.
He moved very deliberately and rocked from side to side while playing like some blind performers do. He did spin around one time in the encore much to crowds delight. His playing was slower and not as fluid as before. He seemed to try to play some riffs only to give up when his hands wouldn’t do what his mind wanted them to and stopped playing altogether for a moment a one point. The bass player was doing a great job of holding the songs together without stepping on Johnny”s toes. His vocals were timid and his trademark growl was gone.
An irritating hum in the sound system did not help matters. The crowd cheered him to the stage but seemed a little taken aback when he started playing. Soon though they got into the groove of things and started cheering him on. I hope this is a “on the way to a recovery” tour and not a “last gasp” tour. And I really hope it’s not a “I’m broke” tour. He puts on a better show in bad health than many performers do in good health. I just hope he improves, it’s too early for the “guitar slinger” to hang up his ax. The last rumor I heard at the show from some folks who had been back stage was that Johnny had downed a fifth of Absolut vodka while eating an entire package of Fig Newtons. Seems hard to believe but could be the lubrication and fuel he needs to make it through a show. Breakfast of champions. Take it with a grain of salt.
There was some discussion on the local radio this morning echoing the discussion in the mailing list and quite a few complaints about the quality of the sound. The Moon’s sound equipment was near state of the art twelve years ago but needs serious upgrading.
Sunday, 28 September 1997 – Florida Theatre Jacksonville, Fla.
Tuesday, 25 November 1997 – Tuxedo Junction, Danbury CT, Connecticut
Review by: Frank Sessa
Last night 11/25/97, I saw Johnny perform live at a club in Danbury, Connecticut called Tuxedo Junction. I have had the great pleasure to now have seen Johnny over 40 times live, and last night was no disappointment.
Since there was no warm up band other then a couple of local guys playing acoustic guitars very early in the night, all of the attention was devoted to Johnny. No problem with that. As I had not seen him in about a year I was anxious to see how he was doing. I’ve read alot in the last several months of different opinions on his health and performances. I have followed his live performances from 1974 till present day. I have literally grown up watching as he has progressed through different phases of rock and dedicated blues. >From his John Dawson Winter III tours, through Captured Live, Together, Muddy, James Cotton and all of the bassists, drummers and guitarists along the way. I don’t attempt to compare those days to now, only appreciate each for what they were and are. Obviously, time doesn’t stand still. While vocals have diminished to some extent, last night reminded me why I have always believed him to be the greatest blues guitarist.
As usual, with all of his performances, anticipation of his coming to stage grew as restless fans chanted for his arrival. At 10:30pm the stage flooded with blue light and he stepped up to the mic without assistance and let us know he was ready with a resounding “Yeahhh!!!, several times. He was smiling and looked well. He began with Hideaway as he usually does, both warming up and showing us why we came to see him. The sound system was excellent here. The volume was where I like it. You couldn’t help cheering him on. Mojo Working was next followed by Sick & Tired. Next was Blackjack Blues which I’ve heard him play several times, but this version was exceptional.
The melodic and fat chord arrangements coupled with a down and dirty bass line made the packed house roar. By this time he was completely warmed up, obviously into pleasing us. The audience was surely showing their approval and he responded in kind. She Likes To Boogie Real Low and White Line Blues followed. At this point the Lazer took a rest and the Firebird and slide came to stage. A familiar song whose name escapes me but at this point I didn’t care about titles. He absolutely smoked!!! Some bad ass slide playing, a total master. These songs were all pretty long versions with exceptional improvised licks that could have gone all night for all I cared. He did not sit for any of the slow blues or slide work. He was interacting with the audience between every song, something I hadn’t seen him do in the last couple of years.
It was really nice to see him this way. After just over an hour he said good night but quickly returned, breaking into his signature Johnny Guitar. Hearing that one live is what I always look forward to. He rocked the house. He ended with an instumental that was a driving funked up blues progression with gutsy bass playing that brought Johnny to a 360 spin and brought the audience to an electrifing roar which promped him to do it it a second time. The show ended after an hour and twenty minutes with cheering fans and Johnny waving his Lazer in admiration.
Someone who deserves much credit is Tom Compton on drums. This guy plays his heart out and certainly stands equal to Bobby Caldwell and Richard Hughes. I miss Jeff Ganz on bass but Mark Epstein has filled the spot very well with great talent and enthusiasm. Anyone with the opportunity to go see Johnny shouldn’t hesitate. He truly wails. Luckily he plays the NY tri-state area quite a bit. If he’s in town, I’m there.
Review by: Dave Godin
I was relieved that all the negative things I’ve read concerning Johnny Winters health and playing were not apparent last night (11/25/97). The crowded club was responsive, and made up of mainly 30/40 year old male fans.
I did note the presence of a few younger guys who seemed genuinely into his playing. I took along a friend who is retired, he was intensely impressed when Winter’s strapped on his Firebird and played the slide. I friggin flipped-Perfection-a sudden transformation of a older guitar player into a screaming demon!
Winters did his standard stuff, he was a bit stiff, but on the other hand he looked that way when I saw him playing to a full concert hall in the early seventies and at various clubs since. To watch this master of the blues play was the highlight of my forty second year. I learned a lot watching him, I did notice that he played a lot with his thumb and he seemed to purposely stay away from his rock type licks-It was the blues, just the blues.
I was relieved that all the negative things I’ve read concerning Johnny Winters health and playing were not apparent last night (11/25/97). The crowded club was responsive, and made up of mainly 30/40 year old male fans.
I did note the presence of a few younger guys who seemed genuinely into his playing. I took along a friend who is retired, he was intensely impressed when Winter’s strapped on his Firebird and played the slide. I friggin flipped-Perfection-a sudden transformation of a older guitar player into a screaming demon!
Winters did his standard stuff, he was a bit stiff, but on the other hand he looked that way when I saw him playing to a full concert hall in the early seventies and at various clubs since. To watch this master of the blues play was the highlight of my forty second year. I learned a lot watching him, I did notice that he played a lot with his thumb and he seemed to purposely stay away from his rock type licks-It was the blues, just the blues.
My advice for you if you get the opportunity to see him; don’t go with any preconceived notions-this guy ain’t Steve Via he is simply one of the greatest blues players out there-Quality NOT quanity 🙂
Thank you Johnny for all the years of GREAT playing, your fans Love you.
Dec 1997 – Interview with Johnny Winter’s father
“Father recalls rockers’ roots”/John Winter talks about raising two musicians in the family
By Brent Snyder/The Beaumont Enterprise/December, 1997
John Winter reminisces about his sons playing music in the family garage, the smile on his face stretching from ear to ear as he recalls the loud rock ‘n’ roll blasting down the street for all the neighbors to hear.
“Their music is always good,” he said, sitting in his rocking chair. “Of course, a lot of their music is pretty rough.”
Winter, 88, the father of fair-haired and fair-skinned classic rock legends Johnny and Edgar Winter, is sitting in his corner room of the fifth floor of the Hotel Beaumont, with a view that overlooks George Jones Place and the historic Jefferson Theater.
Winter moved into the hotel in March. He lives on the assisted living floor, for residents who require extra help with day-to-day activities. He says he’s staying at the hotel until his wife, Edwina, recovers from hip-replacement surgery and bowel surgery.
Winter doesn’t know how long he’ll have to live at the hotel, but he says staying there is OK for now.
“The hotel is real nice,” Winter said. The facilities are good … run down, worn out, and in a hell of a fix, but good.”
Winter stresses that he’s not complaining.
“They want to keep me busy and occupied, which is good,” he said. “They wash my clothes for me, and do all that sort of stuff. And the food that they have in some instances isn’t too bad.”
But Winter would rather talk about his two famous rock star sons.
“Johnny always loved to play the guitar, man,” Winter said. “That’s his thing. Edgar, on the other hand, likes more to compose and produce music. But you probably already know that.”
Johnny and Edgar — best known for Edgar’s classic ’60s rock hits such as “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride” and Johnny’s album “First Winter” — regularly send their father CDs of their music.
“I love to hear it when I can,” he said. “I can’t listen to it in the hotel — only because I don’t have a stereo — but at home I listen to them all the time. I like them all just as much. I remember when they sent me their first records. I get just as excited and proud when I hear their new CDs today.”
The elder Winter says Johnny and Edgar got their love for music honestly because he and his wife — who plays the piano — have their own musical backgrounds.
Born and raised in Leland, Miss., Winter and his family performed as a five-piece band on the front porch of his parents’ home.
“My mother played the piano. I played the sax. One sister played drums and another sister played guitar, and my father played the flute,” Winter said. “We’d play and sing and all the neighbors would come to hear us.”
Winter left Mississippi to serve in the Army during World War II, seeing action in North Africa, Italy and the South Pacific. While overseas, Winter learned of his first son’s birth.
“When Johnny was born in 1944, I was still in the Army. And they wrote me and said I had a son, but they didn’t send any pictures,” Winter said.
“They told me Johnny was an albino,” he said.
Winter had no idea why Johnny was born an albino, someone whose skin, hair and eyes lack normal coloration. There was no record of albinos in either his or his wife’s families — but Winter said it didn’t matter to him.
“He was my son,” he said.
Winter didn’t get to see his son until he came home from the war in 1946, when Johnny was 3. That same year, Winter moved the family to Beaumont, where he built houses and sold men’s furnishings.
“We told the doctors we would like to have another child, and we asked what the chances was of another baby being an albino,” Winter said.
The doctors said that the chances were one in 100,000 that they would have another albino child, Winter said.
“And we had Edgar in 1946 and he was exactly like Johnny!” Winter said, laughing. “We found out after Edgar was born that the chances for another albino child were actually one out of four.”
Both Johnny and Edgar have decided not to have any children of their own because of the possibility that they may be born albino, Winter said, adding that he and his wife don’t regret not having any grandchildren. “We respect their decision.”
Raising two albino sons in the late 1940s in Southeast Texas wasn’t easy, Winter said, but it wasn’t an impossible task, either.
“Wherever they go, they have to have somebody come with them to help take care of them,” he said. “They’re legally blind. They can’t drive a car.”
Both brothers attended Beaumont High School and took special education classes. “Because they couldn’t see anything sitting there, you could understand why it wouldn’t be like a normal classroom situation,” Winter said. “but they got over that and they handled themselves awfully well in school.”
Winter says that his sons were well treated by both teachers and students in school. “Everyone tried their best to help them as much as they could,” he said.
At ages 14 and 11, Johnny and Edgar formed a band called Johnny and the Jammers. The group won a talent contest and as their prize, they recorded “Schoolday Blues” and “You Know I Love You.”
“They have a natural God-given talent for music,” their father said. “When we realized that they were musical, we bought them instruments and did everything we could to encourage their music.”
Johnny finished Beaumont High School and decided to go to Lamar University to learn more about music.
“Well, he got out to Lamar and he said they just weren’t doing anything for him and he said, “I’m gonna quit and get up a band,” ” Winter said.
Which he did. “He talked Edgar into going with him,” Winter said. “Edgar hadn’t finished high school yet, but we made sure that he did finish later on. Edgar wanted to do it, and that’s what he did best, play music. And he loved his brother, and he wanted to help his brother if he could, so we didn’t stop them. We told them, ‘You go ahead.’ ”
The rest, they say, is history.
Winter has nothing but praise for his sons. “They’re not lazy at all,” he said. “They want to work. They want to keep busy. They’ve always liked to get up and go and do something.
“We’re both very proud of both of them and we’ll do anything we can for them,” he said.
Winter hasn’t seen his two sons in several years. Johnny is currently on tour and Edgar is in the studio working on a new album. “They don’t visit nearly enough,” their father said.
Meanwhile, Winter is pursuing his own musical aspirations. Tuesday afternoon, he was one of the featured singers at Josephine Houston’s 92nd birthday party in the lobby of the hotel. He sang a selection of Christmas carols with several other residents and he was clearly enjoying himself.
“As you can tell, I really love music,” he said with a smile.
Johnny tours with: Tom Compton on drums, and Mark Epstein on bass.
Guitar Shop, April 1996
Blues Rigs (various blues artists setup are described).
March 1996: Lawsuit over Jonah Hex-Riders of the Worm and Such
On May 1, 1996, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the First Amendment rights of Joe Lansdale, Timothy Truman and “Sam Glanzman, by assisting in their defense against a civil complaint brought by musicians Johnny Winter and Edgar Winter in connection with DC Comics’ comic book series Jonah Hex – Riders of the Worm and Such.
According to court papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on March 6, 1996, the Winter suit alleges defamation, invasion of privacy and related claims on two characters, the Autumn brothers, created for the comic book series by Lansdale and Truman. Attorneys Gail Migdal Title and Jeffery Abrams of the Los Angeles office of Katten Muchin Zavis & Weitzman have taken on the defense of Lansdale, Truman and Glanzman. Title said, “This suit seeks to invade the right of artists and writes to free creative expression, a right that is protected by the First Amendment, parody and other laws. I am happy to assist the CBLDF in its fine work in the support of comic book professionals throughout the country.”
Lansdale and Truman were hired by DC Comics in 1993 to write and create the artwork for the comic book series. According to artist and defendant Tim Truman, :From the creative standpoint, Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such, was intended from the beginning as a work of fiction and parody.”
Joe Lansdale proclaims, “It was our intent to use the vehicle of Jonah Hex comic book series as a vehicle for satire and parody of musical genres, Texas music in particular, as well as old radio shows, movie serials and the like. We feel within our rights to parody music, stage personas, album personas, lyrics, and public figures.”
The following is the complete list of the plaintiffs’ claims:
Defamation of Public Figure
Negligent Invasion of Privacy (False Light)
Invasion of Privacy (False Light)
Invasion of Privacy (Appropriation of Name or Likeness under Civil Code 3344)
Invasion of Privacy (Appropriations of Name of Likeness under Common Law)
Violation of New York Civil Law 51
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
This Lawsuit continues in March 2003…
21 Sep 1996: Clifton Park NY
Concert review of Johnny Winter in Park West, Clifton Park NV (21 Sep 1996)
Hearing Johnny Winter in concert allowed me to better appreciate how an anthropologist feels when he or she uncovers the remnants of some heretofore un-cataloged hominid, as I finally feel like I’ve heard that beautiful, elusive missing musical link between Australopithecus Bluesei and Homo Erocktus.
Seeing Johnny Winter in concert last Saturday allowed me to better appreciate why it’s so critically important that life-time musicians have some corporate-style pension or relief fund that allows them to get off the road when they’re not healthy enough to travel. I may be presumptuous in making such a statement, but Winter (who has always given Keith Richards a run for his money in the ridden-hard-and-put-away-wet department) did not seem at all well Saturday night while moving slowly about the Park West’s stage like a man severely enfeebled or heavily sedated.
Yes, Winter’s rock-meets-the-blues guitar playing remained absolutely magnificent; if he was enfeebled or sedated then I shudder to think what he could do on a full tank of gas. His guitar-style is rife with wild string bending (I know he uses an unwound G-string, but his fret-board frolics made me wonder whether he’d found some rare string-set featuring an unwound D-and a lightly wound A-string to boot) and copious soloing outside of the Widdly Zone (that rote-soloist’s default finger location–above the fifth fret on the top three strings–where everything sounds like its going “widdly widdly widdly”); you had to constantly watch Winter’s guitar and his bassist’s five-string job to tell who was holding down the bottom on any given number. And yes, Winter’s singing also remains (ummmm. . . ) distinctive, shall we say? His thin, tenor throat instrument sounds something like Neil Young’s, but without all of Neil’s unpleasant straining, and it’s perfectly suited to the hard-luck music Winter favors.
So that all should have made for a swell musical evening, right? Well . . . I wish I could say so, but Winter’s physical shape nagged at me throughout his ninety-minute performance. I kept feeling, somehow, like I was participating in the exploitation of someone too weak to defend himself. And I hope I’m wrong about that: I hope that Johnny was feeling fine, and that he was just taking his time ’cause he was in no rush to get anywhere, and that he’s touring these days solely because he wants to, not because he has to. I’ll feel better about having patronized this show if I keep telling myself that was the case.
Chuck D’Aloia’s CD Blues opened the evening with a robust set of standards, all featuring D’Aloia’s unique guitar dressings. Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind”, as an example, wore a festive set of jazz-progressive chords around its waist, while Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” was all wrapped up in a skritchyscratchy skiffled guitar coverlet. Damn fine stuff, all of it–and CD Blues should have provided a great head of steam for their headliner to ride, but Park West allowed its stage to cool for an hour and twenty minutes before Winter mounted it. Chalk that up as an opening weekend error that (hopefully) club management will rectify in the future.
Copyright 1995-1999: J. Eric Smith.
24 Oct 1996: Wilkes Barre, PA.
Concert review of Johnny Winter live in Wilkes Barre, PA (24 Oct 1996)
Last Thursday (24 October), I went to the River Jazz Cafe in Wilkes Barre, Penna. to hear Johnny Winter.
I had read several notes about his return to performing here. This is a personal reaction to his show: he appeared tired (too much travel, illness?) and his voice sounded strained at times. His guitar playing is still of high quality but his almost exclusive use of electronic “enhancements” and “sound alterations” became somewhat bothersome. I do not regret the cover charge I paid but will hesitate if he happens to perform near a place where I am.
I have a half-dozen vinyls by Winter, from the recent Alligator to older Columbia and Blue Sky albums (I am fond of his “Nothing But The Blues” lp) and his performance was below the standards that these albums had led me to associate with the name Johnny Winter.
I have been taken to task by members of this list for my criticism (how can a Frenchman say anything about blues artists??) of a certain British blues musician who, in my eyes, did not fulfill the contract his fellow performers did in May 1996 during the Mediterranean Blues cruise. I also read a recent string of notes along similar lines about the same artist. I am not too happy to post this item about Winter.
If you have had better experiences with recent Winter performances, I’d like to hear about them. Private e-mail would be better, of course.
Andre JM PREVOS
Now in his old age and rather frail condition he uses a room air conditioner on stage at outdoor shows in the summer, they tape a dryer duck from the unit to the mike stand.
Various articles on Johnny WInter in International press during 1996, exact dates unknown.
How to Play Guitar, Vol.2 iss4, 1996
Cover: Johnny Winter
French Guitar Magazine
Another issue of the French Guitar Magazine included the tablature of Rock Me Baby (solo part). I know it’s issue number 2.
Guitar World magazine
The now renowned Guitar World magazine was first introduced (issue 1, early 80’s) with Johnny on cover, lots of info, great pictures.