News broke this morning that Johnny Winter, a giant of electric blues, passed away in his Zurich hotel room on 16 July 2014. Winter – born John Dawson Winter III on 23 February 1944 in Beaumont, Texas - was 70, and died just four days after what would prove to be his final live performance at the Lovely Days Festival in Austria.
Revered for his energetic live and studio performances from the late 1960s onwards, Winter also produced a trio of Grammy-winning albums for Muddy Waters, was nominated for Grammys in his own right and inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame in 2003.
Along with brother Edgar – also born with albinism – Johnny Winter was a performing musician from an early age. His big break came in late 1968 when a performance with Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper at Manhattan's iconic Fillmore East concert venue caught the eye of Columbia Records executives, who soon signed him for $600,000 – then the biggest advance in record industry history.
Although he struggled with addiction in the 1970s, the highs of Winter's glittering career were many, from jamming with Jimi Hendrix and performing at Woodstock to influencing generations of blues musicians across the decades and providing a spiritual link between the British electric blues boom of the mid-1960s, the Southern Rock of The Allman Brothers Band and the Delta blues originators.
Winter's final studio album, Step Back, is due on 1 September via Megaforce, featuring a cast of celebrity cameos from the likes of Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, Joe Perry, Joe Bonamassa, Leslie West, Dr John and more.
Few guitarists can boast more love and admiration from their contemporaries than Johnny Winter – a guitar player, vocalist, songwriter and producer whose influence will undoubtedly live on for many decades to come.