Blues guitarist Johnny Winter would have turned 77 years old today. A product of Beaumont, TX, Winter garnered attention early on in 1968 when he was signed to Columbia Records for what was reported to be the largest advance in the history of the recording industry at the time. That same year, he released The Progressive Blues Experiment which featured his own dynamic takes on B.B. King’s “It’s My Own Fault”, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me”, and Slim Harpo’s “I Got Love If You Want It”.
The following year, 1969, Winter released his self-titled, debut record on Columbia Records to critical acclaim, while also performing at Woodstock alongside some of the most influential musicians of the era like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. Winter would have success with albums Still Alive and Well and Saints and Sinners during the mid-70s, but nothing could compare to his collaboration with his boyhood idol Muddy Waters.
With Waters’ long-time label, Chess Records, going out of business at the time, Winter stepped up to the plate and brought in Waters to record his 1977 album, Hard Again on Blue Sky Records, producing the album himself. Winters would work with his hero on two subsequent studio albums, I’m Ready and King Bee, as well as Waters’ best-selling live album, 1979’s Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live.
Winter’s love affair with the music never wavered, as he performed and recorded up until the time of his death in 2014 at the age of 70.
Today, on Winter’s birthday, take a few minutes to look back at his great talent and spirit with a classic performance from Toronto’s Massey Hall in 1983 below, which includes lively covers of The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan and more.
Johnny Winter – Massey Hall – 4/6/83
[Video: The Rev. Bob Channel]