Legendary Texas blues man Johnny Winter has died at the age of 70. Known for his lighting-fast guitar riffs which put him in a class with Eric Clapton and (the late) Stevie Ray Vaughn, Winters was one of the most popular live acts during the 1970’s until his addiction to heroin, methadone, prescription drugs and alcohol took its toll. Still, he never stopped touring, performing anywhere from 100-160 concerts a year. In fact, Johnny was found dead in a hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland just 2 days after performing at the Cahors Blues Festival in France on July 14th. He had also just completed a 13-date tour of the Midwest in June, and was slated to perform 15 dates in the East and West beginning August 1st at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY. In addition, Winter’s latest album. album, Step Back (featuring Eric Clapton, ZZ Top rocker Billy Gibbons and Joe Perry of Aerosmith), is set to drop September 2, 2014. No cause of death has yet been announced.
John Dawson Winter III was born February 23, 1944 in the Mississippi Delta, but was raised in Beaumont, TX, where he and brother Edgar (born 1946) were nurtured by loving parents who encouraged both boys in their musical pursuits after being ostracized because of their albinism (a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes). By the time they were 10 and 8 (respectively) the Winter brothers appeared on a local kids’ show playing ukulele and singing Everly Brothers songs. He later began his recording career at the age of fifteen, when his band Johnny and the Jammers released "School Day Blues" on a Houston record label. During this same period of his life, he was able to see performances by classic blues artists such as Muddy Waters (whom he idolized), B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. He would also occasionally sit in with Roy Head and the Traits when they performed in the area near his home town. Although he often played with Janis Joplin during the 1960’s, his national debut came at Woodstock in 1969. Edgar rose to fame with his own band the Edgar Winter Group.