Johnny Winter’s Revenge

Several years ago, I saw what was arguably the most bizarre concert lineup this side of something that was shown back in the day by NBC on a Friday night, when it figured it would cash in more on people interested in music than Doc Severinsin and the Tonight Orchestra could provide. This arena event had Three Dog Night as its headline. (Unfortunately, the guy who had the car wanted to see them, so I couldn’t leave.) The opening acts were Johnny Winter and Rod Stewart. Realize that this was Rod when he still, well, rocked and wasn’t in a rocking chair. It was just after he’d left the Faces. The Rod Stewart Album was fresh. (An album that has what is arguably one of the best covers of all time: a version of “Street Fighting Man.”)


Anyway, Johnny Winter, the Mississippi-born player of solid Texas blues-rock, the albino axe-wielder who can get sounds out of his instrument that would make a black cat howl and turn tail, was certainly a revelation. “Good Morning Little School Girl,” indeed. Make it moan.

For whatever reason (perhaps poor lifestyle choices), Winter passed. Faded. (And I’ll forebear making any pigment issues.) Stevie Ray Vaughan possibly became his heir.

But for the most part, the type of music that Winter played is now back in the places where he’d undoubtedly played his dues [sic], bars, the kinds of places where the stale smell of beer and burned cigarette filters remain like a miasmic presence. If you’re lucky, they don’t have a pool table there. If you’re luckier, there aren’t a bunch of soot-streaked citronella candles on the tabletops. And you’ve really hit it big if the floor of the john doesn’t have ½” of overflow.

It is in a place that gave me two out of three (it has a pool table; you can guess the other two) that I happened to catch a band that is hustling it like a retired tool-and-die worker at the slots in the Greektown Casino, The Scratchez. Maybe it was the consequence of too many bad draft beers that left me feeling the next day that I’d been a practice dummy for a stuntman in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, but I’ll be damned if that quintet didn’t sound exactly like Johnny Winter. Sure, consisting of a lead, bass and drums there wasn’t the sort of hot give-and-take that Winter had with Rick Derringer, but those guys were hotter than the shitty jalapeno poppers that was the special of the night at the bar. (Which brings to mind that Winter and Derringer had done great cover version of a Stones tune, in their case, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Is there a pattern here, or what?)

Not being an ace reporter that evening, I didn’t get down the vitals of the group. Blame it on the Bud. But if you happen to see their name on a bill somewhere and don’t have the scratch to spend a night in Austin, check them out.

Of course, this could all be based on a wishful remembrance: I mean, I really had too much bad beer that night.

8 thoughts on “Johnny Winter’s Revenge”

  1. Actually, “The Rod Stewart Album,” titled “An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down” in England, was released in 1969. The Faces didn’t break up until 1975, so if the show was really on the heels of the Faces’ breakup, then “The Rod Stewart Album” was six years old and not “fresh”. Am I obsessing? Did I misspell “obsessing?”

  2. I’ll tell you the best new hot Texas blues style artist that I’ve heard in the last few years, who I think grew up in the same place Johnny Winter also grew up in, and where he developed his style of playing (Beaumont, Texas), is a north Louisiana guitarist named Scott Allen. I’ve seen him several times in different dives in Monroe, and Shreveport, Louisiana and I’ll tell you what that cat can burn the neck off a guitar with Winter and Vaughn type guitar solos.

    He is really unbelievable, some of his licks I haven’t ever seen anyone do before and don’t think many other guitarists could even figure out much less pull them off – so if you ever get a chance to see him don’t pass it up. You’ll miss out on some awesome blues rock. By the way I’d love to see Winter come out of retirement, the world hasn’t seen enough of him!

  3. Johnny never retired. He produced Muddy Waters albums in the later 70s/early 80s. Then signed with Alligator records and made three awesome blues records. Then one rock album. Then signed with Pointblank for several more even better albums.

    Last few years he is still touring but has some health problems. Still very good, but no longer blazes.

    I didn’t see Johnny live until 1983 – but he is the best I ever saw.

  4. Amazingly fast…just ask any “metal” guitarist to duplicate Johnny’s phasing let alone hold a progression….they probably can’t. But i’m confused about how steve ray vaughn can be mentioned in the same sentence…with a guy that was layin’ the trip down back before ’68. Credit where credit is due. As far as paying dues….maybe mick abrams(blodwyn pig) or terry kath. Alot of that other stuff is just rehashed cliché?s 20-30 yrs too late.

  5. I have been a friend of Johnny Winter since 1985 and a die hard fan of him and his music since I saw him for the first time at the Fillmore East way back in 1971 (the middle act on the bill that night was recording a live album. They were some guys out of Macon, Georgia called the Allman Brothers Band. Dem wuz sa daze!). Since then I have traveled with Johnny and seen him tear it up no less that 150 times and NO ONE can play like him. If you try you’ll just hurt yourself. He plays with the heart and soul of 10,000 Bluesmen and no one can burn up the fretboard like him. In an age when the current trend seems to be mindless manufactured souless crap like Brittany Spears and Eminem (It should be a crime to even mention those no talent skankholes in the same paragraph with a true King like Johnny)it’s a sad statement on society and the so called music industry that Johnny is not the houshold name that the two aforementioned a-holes are. Johnny is and will always be the best of the best. Muddy Waters once called Johnny Winter his son and that, my friends, says it all.

  6. STEVEN PEARL READ THIS, URGENT

    Remember me I am Karan from Illinois you sent me a b-day card on my 30th b-day and before i could get the address someone threw it away! I have been trying to find you for three years. If you remember me you can e-mail me at [email protected] And no i dont have 3.2 kids and a minivan i am still the same old me. Iam still in Golconda and i hardly ever go to Evansville, IN(Where we met). If i do go to Evansville, I go through it and that’s it.. YADA YADA if you want to get ahold of me, you can call my mom(still the same #) or e-mail me at the above address. Hope to hear from you soon.

    KARAN

    From Illinois

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