Bong-Man Posted December 28, 2007 Share Posted December 28, 2007 http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article...0377/1039/ENT04 At 63, guitarist Johnny Winter remains fiercely devoted to the music that first inspired him December 27, 2007 BY DEBORAH RAMIREZ SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL Johnny Winter has spent nearly four decades singing about Highway 61, the legendary road that black musicians once traveled on their way to gigs up north, taking the blues beyond the Mississippi Delta and to the rest of the world. Winter, 63, has traveled his own long, hard road over the course of his iconic career, introducing the blues to generations of new fans along the way. He is perhaps best known for "Highway 61 Revisited," a Bob Dylan folk-rock song that Winter transforms into an electrifying ode to the blues on his slide guitar, which he still plays like a man whose hands are on fire. "It's not traditional blues," says Winter, who has kept "Highway 61" in his repertoire while dropping most of the other rock numbers. "But it's pretty bluesy." The artist performs a sold-out show Thursday at the Ark in Ann Arbor. Winter first gained national attention in 1968 when a Rolling Stone article described him as a 24-year-old, skinny, cross-eyed albino from Texas "playing some of the gutsiest blues guitar you have ever heard." The young guitarist soon found himself jamming with Jimi Hendrix and being compared to Janis Joplin. Despite early success in the rock world, Winter remained true to the blues. In 1977, he teamed with Muddy Waters, whose own legendary star was in eclipse. Winter played on and produced four albums for the aging bluesman; three won Grammys. "Oh, I loved Muddy," Winter says. "He was, you know, one of my idols. I loved to play (with Muddy). ... It was an easy thing to do. I couldn't wait to do it." Winter helped his idol make a comeback, but his own career suffered a number of setbacks. The rock-bluesman kicked a heroin habit in the early '70s, but later had difficulty with antidepressants and vodka. Bad management and health problems compounded his misfortunes. In early 2000, Winter fractured his hip, an injury that still forces him to perform seated. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome temporarily prevented him from playing the guitar. Always thin, by the 21st Century, Winter weighed less than 100 pounds. He appeared frail and older than his years. For a while, he seemed to embody the blues he sang about. But the blues are also about resilience in times of trouble and, with the help of second guitarist Paul Nelson, Winter fired his manager, gained weight and sobered up. The past year, in particular, has been good to the man called Johnny Guitar -- and the world has noticed. Profiles and cover stories have appeared in several national music magazines, and Rolling Stone lauded his performance this summer at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in Chicago. Press coverage has continued with a DVD that includes Winter's performance at Crossroads, released in November, and a "Live Bootleg Series, Vol. 1," with material from the early '70s. Winter's next project is to record some of his favorite traditional blues numbers with guest musicians. The release date has yet to be determined. "We are working on labels right now," says Nelson, who also serves as Winter's manager. "With all the coverage that's coming in, we want to make the best of it." Not bad for a 63-year-old man singing the blues. "It's such an emotional music, such a feeling music; it's about life," Winter says of his devotion to the genre. "Just as soon as I first heard it, I loved it." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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