Born: Feb. 23, 1944 in Leland, Miss.
Died: July 16, 2014
Johnny Winter and his brother, Edgar, grew up in Beaumont, Texas. Johnny learned to play the clarinet at 5 years old, followed by the ukulele at about 8 and guitar at age 11. By the late 1950s, Johnny was touring with Gene Terry and the Downbeats, working gigs through Texas and Louisiana. He was also playing with his own bands, which included Johnny and The Jammers, the Crystaliers, and The Black Plague.
Throughout the early 1960s, Johnny continued to play the club scene and record numerous singles, but he couldn’t land a major contract. Winter traveled to England in 1968 in search of a more receptive musical climate. When he returned home, he discovered that Rolling Stone had printed an article raving about an unknown albino blues guitarist from Texas. Nearly every major label was on the phone trying to sign him.
Winter signed with Columbia Records and began to play major venues. He released a self-titled album in 1969. Like his brother Edgar’s band White Trash, Johnny Winter’s band included noted local musicians, including drummer “Uncle John” Turner, a Port Arthur native who also appeared at Woodstock. Singer and bass player Tommy Shannon also played with the Johnny Winter Band, recording Progressive Blues Experiment, Johnny Winter, Second Winter, and Third Degree with the group. Shannon went on to play with Stevie Ray Vaughn.
A blues guitarist of the first order, Johnny was influenced by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. His albums on Epic Records were best sellers, several going gold. Winter has also produced four albums for Muddy Waters, three of which went gold. He has been nominated for Grammy awards several times. He passed away while on tour in Switzerland in 2014.