“Out of all the hopped-up Caucasians who turbocharged the blues in the late Sixties,” writes Rolling Stone, “Texas albino Johnny Winter was both the whitest and the fastest.” While brother Edgar hung a synthesizer around his neck and explored Southern rock’s outer weirdness, Johnny stuck closer to roots music, playing with blues greats like Mike Bloomfield, Junior Wells, and Muddy Waters (he produced three Grammy-winning Waters albums). Despite, or because of, his blues bona fides, Winter was always a stalwart in the rock scene. He played Woodstock, often covered Chuck Berry, Dylan, and The Rolling Stones, and released several albums with his own band.
Winter passed away Wednesday in his hotel room in Zurich at age 70. In tribute, we bring you the full performance above of Winter with his band on Danish TV in 1970. See Winter’s brilliant thumb-picking style on full display as he and the band rip through “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Be Careful With a Fool,” and “Mean Town Blues.” Want to learn some Johnny Winter magic? Check out this video guitar lesson with the man himself. And just below, see a trailer for a new Winter documentary, Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty, that premiered at SXSW this past March.
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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
From his first album; Dallas, Mean Mistreater and Be Careful with a Fool. Hard to beat. People rightly praise Johnny’s extraordinary guitar playing, but we shouldn’t forget what a great singer he was, too. Appeared at Woodstock but why did he not get in the movie or on the album? My theory is that he would have made some of the other “greats” look not so great. He never needed the gimmick of smashing or burning his guitar.