Texas blues icon Johnny Winter, who rose to fame in the late 1960s and ‘70s for his energetic performances and musical collaborations including with childhood hero Muddy Waters, has died. He was 70.
Winter, older brother of Edgar Winter – also a music legend – rose to fame in the late 1960s and '70s with his performances and recordings that included producing his childhood hero Muddy Waters.
Winter, who was born in Beaumont, Texas, showed his gift for music at an early age. At 4, he played the clarinet. At 11, the ukulele. He and Edgar often appeared as a duo on children's TV shows and talent contests. Johnny formed his first band when he was 15 and was making records at 18. But he battled health and substance abuse issues through the years.
In that Guitar World interview in 2010, he said, "I was not in the best shape for a while there. I was going through some really difficult personal issues, and I started taking prescription drugs to help with the problems on the advice of a doctor. But I ended up taking too many prescription drugs for too long. Combined with drinking, the adverse effects just got worse and worse."
Winter was a seminal figure in American blues. He rose to fame in the late 1960s, after that decade’s initial blues boom, and was among the figures who kept the music relevant to the Woodstock generation. Early albums such as “Johnny Winter” (1969), “Second Winter” (1969) and “Johnny Winter And” (1970) are essential.
Winter continued to tour and record as that wave receded, even while battling his own demons. He collaborated with Muddy Waters on the several of the legend’s late career releases, including “Hard Again” (1977), “I’m Ready” (1978) and “King Bee” (1980). That left him well positioned to flourish as blues caught renewed fervor in the 1980s. The middle of that decade brought three powerful albums for Alligator – “Guitar Slinger” (1984), “Serious Business” (1985) and “Third Degree” (1986) – that I consider among his best work.
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