Johnny Winter is as kind and humble as they come. We talked on the phone as he was on his way to New Jersey as the headliner on the Rock n Blues Fest. I was excited to hear a rejuvenated tone in his voice. It was like talking to an old friend, very cool indeed.
George burrows: How is the tour going?
Johnny Winter: Good… It is going great.
GB: Do you have a copy of your School Day Blues record?
JW: Yes I have a copy. It was from 1960 and only 300 copies were made.
GB: You have stated that “Progressive Blues Experiment” w/ Tommy Shannon on bass, Uncle John Turner on drums was one of your favorite recordings. Was that the band you had at The Denver Pop Festival and Woodstock?
JW: Yeah it was (favorite recording). That was the band back then.
GB: On June 28, 1969 you played the Denver Pop Festival , Tommy Shannon said he remembered the Denver Pop because he wore his new red cowboy boots. Do you have any memories?
JW: “laughs” No not really I do not have memories of it…we played so many festivals in 1969 it is impossible to remember all of them.
GB: Ryan McGarvey is a young blues, he played at Crossroads in 2010. Have you heard of him?
JW: No I haven’t…Where is he from?
GB: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ryan said he would like to jam with you sometime.
JW: That would be cool. Does he have any records out?
GB: He has two, one coming out soon. I will send Paul a link to his site. What has been your biggest hurdle in your music career so far?
JW: I didn’t really have too many…didn’t have many problems. We always had gigs. Things went pretty smoothly really.
GB: Have you ever been pressured by labels or people in the industry to alter your sound and style in anyway?
JW: Yes during the Johnny Winter And Days…they wanted me to do more rock n roll. That is one of my best selling albums, and the one I like the least.
GB: Do you play the National Steel much anymore?
JW: Only on records, it is too hard to mic it.
GB: You said it (National) sounds like a garbage can with strings?
JW: “Laughs”…yes it does.
GB: Is there a show or moment that comes to mind, of a time where you felt you really had made it?
JW: I guess when I was signed to CBS…Columbia. I had pretty much made it then, which was in 1968.
GB: Any current younger artists that inspire you, or that you admire at all?
JW: Derek Trucks, he’s not that young anymore and he isn’t that old either. I love Derek Trucks.
GB: If you could give someone advice on surviving the music biz, what would it be?
JW: Don’t take drugs and don’t drink too much…it’s not good for you.
GB: Do you have a favorite venue that was a clear favorite, over anywhere else you had ever played?
JW: The Fillmore’s are my favorite…both East and West were just great.
GB: The Bluesky recordings that you produced and played on with Muddy Waters are some of Muddy’s best recordings, and some of the best damn blues around. What memories do you have of those sessions?
JW: They were a lot of fun to make. We did a great job doing them and had a whole lot of fun. They were very easy to make, I don’t think we did anything more than 2 or three times.
GB: What was it like to get all of those iconic musicians to play on your “Nothing But The Blues” LP?
JW: Same thing…it was really good.
GB: I recently heard a recording of you and Michael Bloomfield as part of a Kooper/Bloomfield Fillmore show. Do you have any memories of playing with Michael or what he was like to hang with that you can share?
JW: It was a lot of fun back then, Mike was a really good friend. Too bad he died so young.
G: Your cover of Hi Way 61 Revisited is one of my favorites. Your have been covering it on this tour.
JW: We always do it…it is one of favorites. We always do Hi Way 61.
GB: You mainly play your stock lazer. What songs on this tour do you use your 64 Firebird ?
JW: I use that as my regular guitar and the Firebird as my slide. The Lazer sounds good and plays real easy.
G: Do you ever get the 64 Firebird out?
JW: That is the one I use all the time.
GB: You use a thumb pick…
JW: I always use it… I like Chet Atkin, Merle Travis and my first guitar teacher used one. I play with my thumb and first finger. I play with my first finger as well as I do my thumb.
GB: I saw that you have been standing up and playing. You are looking very well.
JW: Thank you.
GB: What has Paul’s (Nelson) influence been on you?
JW: He is a great guitar player and manager.
GB: Is there anything you have not accomplished that you would like to accomplish?
JW: Never won a Grammy, I would like to do that. I have won some for Muddy’s records but never won one myself.
GB:Thank you very much for allowing me the interview, it has been a pleasure
JW: Thank you.
Thanks to Paul Nelson for his continued support and John Lappen for setting up the interview along with the Johnny Winter Contest.