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Looking back on legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter

He’s been described, according to Rolling Stone, as "a cross-eyed albino with long, fleecy hair, who plays some of the gutsiest, fluid blues you've ever heard." That man was Johnny Winter who passed away on Wednesday at age 70. Winter rose to prominence from a Rolling Stone article on Texas music in 1968. He was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas which is nearby where another fellow blues singer, Janis Joplin, hailed from.

Johnny Winter
chascar via Wikimedia Commons

While many of the British Invasion bands in the ‘60s brought with them a nearly obscure American genre called the blues, it became re-introduced to audiences and fellow musicians. One of those guitarists who were already playing the blues was none other than Johnny. He was gaining a lot of attention from musicians and record executives.

One of them was Columbia Records who signed him on to their label. His first album self-titled “Johnny Winter,” released in 1969, featured other fellow blues artists such as Willie Dixon and Walter Horton. Later that same year Winter appeared at Woodstock, though his performance was not featured in the documentary film.

He gained further success with a song he originally recorded in 1970 titled “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” It resulted after forming a group with members of the 1960s group, The McCoys, best known for their hit single “Hang On Sloopy” from 1965. Rick Derringer later recorded it as a solo in 1973, thus becoming a rock anthem during the ‘70s.

Winter’s love for the blues carried on when he produced three albums for the blues legend Muddy Waters in the late 1970s. They would earn him three Grammys. Overall he has recorded almost 20 albums in his long career.

On his 70th birthday in February his four-disc “True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story” was released by Sony Legacy Recordings. It features his recordings from 1968 to 2011. Winter once stated, "It's a living music. For me, blues is a necessity."

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