The Legendary Johnny Winter and his equally epic younger brother, Edgar Winter, began performing together when they were just kids. Their first TV appearance was on a local children’s television show in Houston / Beaumont area when they were somewhere around 10 years old, strumming the ukelele and singing. Both being Albino, and Johnny cross-eyed, they were quite a sight. The Winter brothers really glow in those old pics. it’s amazing.
Johnny Winter’s star rose quickly. He was the front man, and they began recording at the age of 15, when Johnny and the Jammers released “School Day Blues” on a local Houston record label. Coming up in the music scene back then he’d soak-in performances by his heroes– epic blues artists Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Bobby Bland. Johnny went on to become one of the best blues guitarists of all time. Edgar Winter took a more progressive route– with his smash hit “Frankenstein” launching The Edgar Winter Group (with badass munchkin guitarist Rick Derringer) headfirst into major Rock and Roll stardom. I still love that monster riff, man.
Johnny Winter found himself caught in the grips of a nasty heroin addiction in the 70s, and it crippled his career for a spell. After kicking the habit, his manager Steve Paul courageously decided to put Winter in front of the music press to discuss the addiction candidly. In 1973, Johnny was full force again and released “Still Alive and Well”, whose title track was written by none other than Rick Derringer as a salute to Winter’s overcoming his drug addiction.
During early live performances, Johnny Winter would often recount about how, as a child, it was dream of his to one day play with the great blues guitarist Muddy Waters. In 1977 Winter’s his manager creating Blue Sky Records to be distributed through Columbia, Winter now had the opportunity to bring Waters into the studio for Hard Again. The album became a best-seller, with Winter producing and playing back-up guitar on the set that included Waters, and the legendary James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Muddy Waters – I’m Ready (this time featuring Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee. The partnership produced Grammy Awards, a best-selling live album (Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live), and Winter’s own Nothin’ But the Blues, on which he was backed by members of Waters’s band.
Johnny Winter Playing Guitar ~ Image by © Jay Dickman/CORBIS
Mississippi-born and Houston-raised, blues rocker Johnny Winter has enjoyed a long and distinguished career ever since releasing his first solo album `Johnny Winter’ in 1969. Johnny also notably jammed with guitar great Jimi Hendrix a bit back in the day. Image by © Caesar Glebbeek
Jimi Hendrix on bass, Johnny Winter on guitar, and Buddy Miles on drums Feb. of ‘69 at The Scene. — © Bill Nitopi. Johnny Winter was at the Band of Gypsys concert at Madison Square Garden on January 28th, 1970 when Jimi Hendrix walked off the stage. Johnny Winter ~ “I heard all kinds of things like he took some bad acid… Who knows? I was there that night and it was real obvious that something was wrong. I really don’t know if it was drugs or he just had a bad night, but it was really scary. I don’t have the faintest idea what it was but it was one of the scariest things I ever saw.”
May 30th, 1971 ~ Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer
Edgar and Johnny Winter
I have never had the pleasure of seeing Johnny live, but his recordings are incredible. I did get to see the Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer. I have been to over 200 concerts in my life and the show they did at the State Theatre in Kalamazoo, Michigan back in the late 80’s was the most incredible performance ever. They had the entire crowd on their feet going full tilt berserk!
I waited after the show and got Rick Derringer’s autograph. I told him; “Mr. Derringer, you left that guitar a smodering pile of twisted wire and burnt wood!” and he said “Yep, play every note, that’s my motto!”
They Only Come Out At Night is still one of the best albmums of all time. Edgar Winter Group still ROCKS!
The screams in the background provided by Johnnie on “Mannish Boy” are legendary. One of the greatest blues riffs ever.
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Awesome post-Rock n Roll Hoochie Coo, lawdy mama light my fuse…
Bless him for epic three-sided vinyl and for Highway 61.
I remember holding that strange bit of engineering in my hands when it came out in, what?, ’69?
His work on Muddy Waters’ Hard Again was awesome!! A real legend
I’ve just discovered the Winter brothers just a few years ago. My wife (then girlfriend’) indirectly introduced me to Edgar when she showed me a collection of TV programs called (the infamous) Midnight Special. Wow! I was floored by Edgar’s musicianship and the fact that he had a strong stage presence. He must’ve played five different instruments during that performance. I was an immediate fan.
Johnny I discovered through Muddy Waters, who is one of my most favorite music giants of all time. I plan on catching him in concert some day, even if it means traveling. The living legends of pure, down home blues are getting slim as time continues to pass. I have Buddy Guy and BB King concerts under my belt…Johnny Winter is next.
Please keep these great blogs coming!
Outstanding post…love the brothers Winter. Hope to catch Edgar with Ringo this summer.
I was about 13 and had just discovered the local “underground” radio station in Mpls. hosted by a cat (who was also a musician) named Tony Glover. His tastes in music were incredibly diverse, but leaned toward the blues. Anyway, It’s about 3am (the station was only on the air from midnight to 5) I’m lying in bed with my transitor radio, and he spins a tune called “Fast life rider” from some guy named Johnny Winter. IT WAS THE MOST SMOULDERING THING I’D EVER HEARD. Don’t take my word for it, but the guitar work on that cut alone blew all of the other so-called guitar gods at the time (and now) out of the water.
This blog is so informative and great. I’m in a postion of not knowing anything about this artist as I was born in ’77 and I’m not into blues. It’s pretty sad that I’ve never heard of him, especailly since I’m from Texas(shame on me). I will deff look into him. It’s so surreal suffering from albinism and having the last name Winter; Very interesting and I’m sure there so much more then that. I’ve litterly just scratched the surface.
I had the privilege to see and listen Johnny Winter alive in NYC some years ago and it was one of the greatest days of my life of blues addicted.
i saw him at rich staduim , buffalo ny at summerfest 1975 with yes & j giels.he was at his peak for sure ..playing all the tunes from the live album..and i have a front row 16 mm movie i shot with no sound! times have changed .we used to watch it playing the live album to it.anyone know how hes doing these days?? he played sitting down last i saw on that Crossroads concert…..
Johnny has always been great at playing the guitar. I have seen him 4 times that I remember and all were outrageous. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s he played his classic Rock N Roll. Now a days he will play his blues. He is unbelievable, but the last time I saw him at the Roxy in Atlanta, he had to be carried out to the stage. That was hard to take and left a different perception in my mind of my idol. He is coming to North GA in August with James Cotton which I think I want to go see. Johnny is a legend and you should see him at least once.
Johnny Winter And (with Rick Derringer) was my first concert in September 1970 (and still one of the loudest). 40 years and a week later, I’ll see Johnny and Edgar Winter in Phoenix in 3 weeks. I have read that Johnny’s a bit healthier these days, hopefully that’s true. I’ll be very curious if Johnny is willing to join Edgar to play some rock and roll, or if he’ll strictly stick to blues.
Will be in the company of both Johnny and Edgar on the Blues Cruise (headlining the party) …leaving San Diego port on a 7 day cruise of BLUES into Mexico!
Oct17 -24 2010
Look into the BluesCruise schedule on the web.
Post Blues Cruise report… October 2010
Johnny and Edgar performed three shows, one outdoors on the pool deck and t in the lounge. Each show had them solo and together with Johnny’s band.
The shows went like this…Nelson, Spray and Luizzi opened with 2 songs, then Johnny came out for about 3 songs, he left, Edgar came out for a few songs and then Johnny reappeared, and they played together for the first time on over 30 years MORE than just one song together and performed about 7 to 9 songs (it depended on the show – Johnny was really kicking on the second and last show – I think the outside stage, first night, was too cold for a Texas boy’s comfort.
Then Johnny left, Edgar took requests (I saw all three of their shows) he did of course Free Ride and the final night he did Frankenstein.
All in all…they were great for all three shows…they were wonderful guests, autographed much material, allowed photos and were just GREAT great normal fun loving guys who chatted with the CRUISERS.
I asked them if they ever plan on getting back together with Rick… Edgar laughed…Johnny said it would be something he may look into.
Johnny & Edgar are Beaumont, Texas boys! The attended French High School, and they had their start there as a local band promoting themselves as “Johnny and the Jammers w/Brother Edgar on Sax.