Texas blues-rock legend Johnny Winter headed to North Vancouver this fall
He's never been widely acknowledged as being in the same league as the Big Three–Clapton, Beck, Page–but anyone who's followed the career of Johnny Winter knows that he totally deserves to be included among the world's greatest living rock guitarists.
I remember first getting turned on to Winter via the Live Johnny Winter And album of '71, which saw him joined by guitarist Rick Derringer on blues standards such as "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and rockers like "Johnny B. Goode" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash". The first big concert I didn't go to occured around 1975, when Winter was playing the Pacific Coliseum at the height of his rock popularity. A few buddies from Chilliwack Senior High made the trek, but for some reason I jammed out. Hard to believe considering Black Oak Arkansas were also on the bill. "Go Jim Dandy, go Jim Dandy!"
I finally got to see Winter when he started regularly playing the Commodore Ballroom in the mid-'80s, touring behind Alligator Records releases like Serious Business and Third Degree, and at the time I believe he was playing a headless Lazer guitar, having moved on from the Gibson Firebird he was known for. Either way, man, he was smokin'!
But not all the time. Johnny lost something after 1992's Hey, Where's Your Brother?—a reference to his younger brother Edgar of "Frankenstein" fame—and the last time I saw him at the Commodore, ten years or so ago, he was in terrible shape, flubbing notes and singing off key. But more recently he's made a comeback healthwise, and when he played the Yale a couple of years back he was in much better form, especially when he pulled out a slide for his rollicking rendition of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited". Afterwards impressed fans queued up alongside his RV to score autographs, and though he wasn't meeting anyone in person, I was still thrilled to get his John Henry on my prized vinyl copy of Still Alive and Well.
It's hard to say for sure how the 66-year-old Winter will perform when he plays North Vancouver's Centennial Theatre on September 16—tix $48.50 at 604-984-4484—but even if he's not up to snuff there's a good chance his opening act, Nanaimo's David Gogo, will be.
For a taste of Winter in his prime, here's a cool video from '71 in which he casually shows his former bassist, Randy Jo Hobbs, how to play the Big Bill Broonzy classic, "Key to the Highway".
May 11, 2010 at 7:06pm
Live Johnny Winter And was a great album, as was Second Winter ~ the famous three sided double he cut with Edgar. Interesting note on that album was the base player was Tommy Shannon of Double Trouble. (Saddens me to think about Stevie Ray Vaughn. How good was he!)
Johnny cut some good records. He could rock and roll with the best, but I think he preferred playing the blues and being known for that. IMO anyways (and from what I've read)
I was at the show you jammed out of in '75. There was a third band there as well but I can't recall that name. Caught a couple of his gigs at the Commodore. Great shows at a great venue until they turned it into a fern bar (minus the ferns). That place used to have that great dark gritty feeling to it and you knew you were in for a good show as you climbed the stairs and rounded the corner by the coat check to the din of a noisy crowd. It's lost some of that feeling now and all the good tables are always reserved...bit of a drag for those that like to sit. I stand myself.
Anyways, good thing I googled this page and found out about Johnny as I missed him last time at the Yale. David Gogo ain't no slouch either. Should be a good show.
May 11, 2010 at 7:33pm
You saw him in '75 at the Coliseum? How was Black Oak Arkansas? Was Jim Dandy wearing a shirt?
Roger not Waters
May 12, 2010 at 10:28am
Johnnny Winter in a small room!? Bring yer earplugs!
May 12, 2010 at 10:38am
I doubt you'll need them. Centennial Theatre is bigger than the Yale, and he wasn't too loud there.
May 12, 2010 at 3:08pm
Can't remember if Jim Dandy was wearing a shirt or not. But one thing I do remember ( it's a miracle I remember anything from as far back as yesterday. lol) is the drummer doing his solo with no sticks ~ just his hands.
Oh yeah, and a couple yahoos throwing a couple bottles on stage when Johnny was on. Johnny was great but I guess to some twisted sorts this is like throwing roses or bras on stage I suppose. LOL
May 12, 2010 at 3:17pm
yeah, I'm pretty sure that drummer would have been Tommy Aldridge, who later did solos with no hands for Pat Travers and Ozzy Osbourne. As far as yahoos throwing bottles on stage, I'm not terribly surprised, because Winter's music back then was so wild and raw it could make you do crazy, reckless things. That reminds me, I haven't listened to <em>Still Alive and Well</em> today yet. Time for a shot of "Can You Feel It".
May 12, 2010 at 6:46pm
Hey Steve, cool blog. The best thing Johnny Winter's done, IMO, is producing Muddy Water's Hard Again album. And he's as good a slide player as anyone.
May 12, 2010 at 9:32pm
Chris Kinnon, ace lead player for kickass local guitar-rock act <a href="http://www.straight.com/article-282223/vancouver/lions-rekindle-classicr... in the Street</a>, thanks for dropping by EON. Yes, Hard Again is a killer disc, and indeed, Winter knows his way around the old bottleneck. Unlike some of the other better-known guitar legends--in particular Jeff Beck--he hasn't been able to keep the fire in his playing as the years went passing by. But his work in the 60s, 70s, and 80s is beyond compare. Hopefully one day he'll get the credit he's due.
May 13, 2010 at 7:11am
The best thing Johhny ever did was 'All Tore Down' of of the above shown Still Alive and Well. That fuckin' thing Rocks the goddamn boogie right outta my very soul! And the song Cheap Tequila! Hell that is a stone cold classic! Too bad Johnny can't still throw down like that. Last time I saw him wuz cool but he ignores now that time when he moved into the Rock.
May 13, 2010 at 9:50am
Is this <em>the</em> Carl Spackler? Former gonzo journalist for much-missed local music mag <em>The Nerve</em>? I shoulda known you'd be up on Johnny Winter. Yes, "All Tore Down" is a gem. Winter's got so many incredible tunes that most folks don't even know about. "Cheap Tequila" is just one of them. Winter's old buddy Rick Derringer produced<em>Still Alive and Well</em> and wrote the wicked title track. Man, what a team they were.