Johnny Winter was born as John Dawson "Johnny" Winter III on 23 February 1944 in Beaumont, Texas, USA. The American blues guitarist, singer and producer is the first son of John and Edwina Winter who played a crucial role in Johnny as well as his younger brother Edgar Winter's initial musical consciousness. Unfortunately, both Johnny and Edgar suffer from albinism or the inherited lack of pigmentation in the skin and hair.
Both Johnny Winter and Edgar started performing from an early age and particularly Johnny’s recording career took off when he was just 15. Johnny released his debut record ‘School Day Blues’ with his band Johnny and the Jammers on a Houston record label in 1960. Johnny Winter was highly influenced by classic blue artists like Muddy Waters, B. B. King and Bobby Bland.
Later, while performing live, Johnny Winter used to time and again narrate the stories about how as a child he daydreamed of playing with Muddy Walters. Many years later, his dream became a reality when Johnny produced an album of the blues guitarist ‘Hard Again’ in 1977. The success of this record enthused Johnny to work with Muddy Walters again and again and he produced the blues guitarist’s next album ‘I’m Ready’ in 1978 and also the final record ‘King Bee’ in 1980.
Although Johnny Winter became a popular star in the late 60s and early 70s owing to his association with Muddy Walters, he was literally discovered on the national scene through an article published in Rolling Stone in 1968. Soon after this, Johnny entered into a contract with the New York club proprietor Steve Paul and a deal to release a record under the Columbia label. And by the end of 1968, Johnny released his first solo album ‘Johnny Winter’, which reached the charts in the following year.
Johnny Winter started of with a trio comprising Tommy Shannon (bass) and John Turner (drums) called ‘Winter’ in 1968. Soon, he formed another band with former McCoys members and named it ‘Johnny Winter And’. His record ‘Live/Johnny Winter And’ achieved record sales during 1971 and his next album ‘Still Alive And Well’ released in 1973 achieved top position in the charts for long. ‘Still And Alive’ was recorded during his partial retirement owing to habitual heroin addiction.
Although, Johnny did not have any new releases in the early 20s, the period witnessed several significant re-issues such as Alligator’s ‘Deluxe Edition 2001’, and Columbia/ Legacy’s ‘Best of Johnny Winter’ in 2002 and ‘Fuel 2000’ that were a compilation of Johnny’s recording between 1969 and 1971. In 2004, Winter re-emerged with his new solo album ‘I’m a Bluesman’ after eight years.
The Final Years
Unfortunately, in 2001, physicians diagnosed Johnny Winter with ‘radial nerve palsy’ which prevented him from using his right hand albeit temporarily. Winter had become much frail owing to illness, bereavement in the family and heroin addiction. Nevertheless, he tried to make a comeback in 2004 with ‘I’m a Bluesman’ and sustained for a while. Although Johnny Winter failed to fulfill the early promises shown by him, his contribution to the blues is never to be undermined.
Some of his albums include:
- 1969 - "The Progressive Blues Experiment", "Johnny Winter", "Second Winter" and "The Johny Winter Story"
- 1970 - "Johnny Winter And", "Early Times", "Before The Storm" and "About Blues"
- 1971 - "Live Johnny Winter And"
- 1973 - "Still Alive and Well"
- 1974 - "Saints & Sinners" and "John Dawson Winter III"
- 1976 - "Captured Live!" and "Together"
- 1977 - "Nothin But the Blues"
- 1978 - "White, Hot and Blue"
- 1980 - "Raisin' Cain"
- 1984 - "Guitar Slinger"
- 1985 - "Serious Business"
- 1986 - "Third Degree"
- 1988 - "The Winter of '88"
- 1991 - "Let Me In"
- 1992 - "Hey, Where's Your Brother?" and "Scorchin' Blues"
- 1994 - "A Rock n' Roll Collection"
- 1997 - "Winter Blues"
- 1998 - "Live In NYC '97"
- 2001 - "Deluxe Edition (Alligator)"
- 2002 - "The Best of Johnny Winter"
- 2004 - "I'm A Bluesman"