Sad news that the legendary Johnny Winter has passed away this week in Switzerland. 3SongsBonn remembers the man whose frailty of body in later years never stopped the music from hitting hard or the man himself from getting up and doing what he did best – playing the Blues.
Looking for (or maybe fearing) proof of Johnny’s death I checked his website. The blurb was still up for a new album:
“Johnny Winter releases perhaps his greatest album on September 2, 2014! ‘Step Back’ features an amazing list of musical guests and takes Johnny back to a more aggressive style of blues… one that helped shape the musical icon”.
It’s common enough to tout a new release as ‘the best ever’ of course and Johnny Winter’s 2011 release ‘Roots’ actually already delivered on a similar promise. What is certainly true though is that, rather as Johnny helped his big hero Muddy Waters to claim further glories with his 70’s releases, Paul Nelson Johnny’s guitarist, and his band, had brought Winter himself back from the brink of obscurity and death in recent years.
At one of his Bonn Harmonie shows in 2012 I asked Johnny’s long time bass guitarist Scott Spray why they were putting the Man through a gruelling, seemingly endless, tour of small venues across the World that he’d long grown out of. Spray’s answer was pragmatic and to the point – It took Johnny away from sitting on his own and self-destructing. I remember struggling to get a decent photo at that show and crouching down to peer under the man’s famous hat. I remember even considering using the cameras flash for ‘just one shot’. When my eyes caught those tired ones of the man peering bleakly out from under the hat though it was clear that this was not someone to hammer with white light – not even once, not even for a moment.
Whatever the validity of the heavy touring of recent years may be though, I’m playing Johnny’s 2012’s ‘Roots’ CD and glad that the musical career of Johnny Winter didn’t peter out into oblivion. I’m sure too that the impending new release disc is going to sell like hot cakes, not just because Johnny is dead now, but because it will be a great disc.
You’re never too old to make great music. Johnny Winter knew it when he took that aging Muddy Waters into the studio to make the Grammy Award winning ‘Hard Again’.
“I think the Blues will always be around. People need it” said Johnny once.
A lot of us thought the same about Johnny himself.