Guitarist no 69 Special Jimi Hendrix - May 1995
Guitar for the Practicing Musician – June 1995
Feature Articles: A Capsule History of the Blues, Slip Slide Away, Tips from Sonny Landreth, Johnny Winter, Great Riffs and more.
The Who - Summertime Blues
Oasis - Live Forever
Jeff Healey - My Little Girl
Corrosion of Conformity - Clean My Wounds
Guitar June 1995
A six page article by Wolf Marshall in June on Johnny Winter's biography and guitar playing style, include guitar tabs
Complete transcript of the Guitar Magazine June 1995
The cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange in southeast Texas form an area called the Golden Triangle. It is a region of oil and sulfur production, shipbuilding, rice farming and shrimping. Lying near the Gulf Coast and very close to Louisiana, the Triangle plays host to a variety of cultural and ethnic influences: French and European, Native American, African, Caribbean and Mexican. Here rock'n'roll, blues, western swing, gospel and r&b ingredients mix with Cajun and Creole flavors to yield a rich, complex and hearty musical gumbo. The sounds emanating from the regional radio stations in the 1950s and early 1960s were no less diverse. This was the land of T -Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin' Hopkins; of Buddy Holly and Bob Wills; of Clifton Chenier and Gatemouth Brown. These musicians made an indelible impression on a young and receptive Johnny Winter. Inundated and inspired by the multifarious sonic currents, he embarked on an irrevocable artistic course while still in his preteen years, assembling his musical lexicon from radio and records, and building the foundation of his striking instrumental and vocal style with a no-compromise philosophy of approaching the blues.
Born in Leland, Mississippi, and raised in Beaumont, Johnny took up the clarinet at age four. The young musician was unable to continue on the instrument due to his overbite, and switched to ukulele and, finally, to guitar when he was around 11. Encouraged by their father, who played sax and banjo, sang in the church choir and was an ardent fan of big-band jazz, Johnny and younger brother Edgar participated in family songfests that included involved barbershop quartet harmonies, accompanied by their mother on piano. These early experiences sharpened the Winter ears and vocal cords and provided a natural and supportive environment of invaluable musical training.
Concurrent with his switch to the guitar was Johnny's discovery of the blues. Already enamored of rock'n'roll, he was drawn to Clarence Garlow's radio show and the intriguing sounds of artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters. Garlow, a recording artist in his own right, became something of a mentor to Johnny, sharing obscure blues records with him and teaching him the basics of playing and important details like using an unwound third string to facilitate bending notes. Additionally, Winter sought out local guitarists Luther Naley (who played with cow-boy star Roy Rogers) and Seymore Drugan to show him some country and jazz licks and chords. Most of his practical musical education, however, came from "learning to play a record note by note"
At around age 14, Johnny began playing professionally. By then he had accumulated an enormous record collection and had in fact learned to play much of it note-for-note; his tastes ranged from rock'n'roll (Elvis, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino) to r&b (Little Richard, Chuck Berry) and post-war Chicago blues (Muddy Waters, Otis Rush). After a series of abortive groups with Edgar (It and Them, Johnny and the Jammers, the Black Plague), Johnny traveled and worked as a backup guitarist for regional touring bluesmen. During this period he recorded some demo tracks which have since appeared on numerous unauthorized collections including "First Winter", "About Blues" and "Early Times"
Eventually, Johnny cut a proper demo album for the Sonobeat label. While he was busy shopping this record (which ultimately was released by Imperial Records as The Progressive Blues Experiment) to the bigger companies, Rolling Stone magazine printed a glowing article on the ambitious Texas blues scene and the sensational unsigned local gui¬tarist. In their 1968 feature, writer Larry Sepulvado described Wmter vividly as "a 130-pound, cross-eyed albino with long, fleecy hair, playing some of the gutsiest, fluid blues guitar you've ever heard." This review set in motion a chain reaction that catapulted Johnny to the forefront of the eras blues and rock movement.
Steve Paul was a self-styled entrepreneur in New York City. He owned and ran The Scene, a celebrated East Coast nightclub, managed Tiny Tim and (among other ventures) had an ear for finding talent. Paul tracked down Johnny in Houston, signed him to a management contract and quickly packed him off to New York to appear at The Scene. By the end of the year, Johnny Winter was the talk of the town, playing to capacity audiences and frequently jamming with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck Of the former, Johnny recalls, "The trouble when we played together was that we both respected each other's playing so much that we'd lay back and wait for the other to play lead. We both learned from the same people, had the same influences but the music evolved differently. He really loved the way I played, especially my slide playing. He said I should stick with the blues and not feel weird because I was white. He told me, 'You got it. You don't have to change anything; just keep doing what you're doing.'"
Johnny kept doing what he was doing on his first official release in 1969, Johnny Winter. Signed to Columbia Records with a reputedly massive advance, he produced a work of great lasting value in the genre, a bona fide classic blues-rock album flaunting his talents as guitarist, singer and composer. Tracks like "Be Careful with a Fool," "I'mYours and I'm Hers," "I'll Drown in MyTears" and "When You Got a Good Friend" immediately upped the ante for future artists in the form. Showcasing his legendary abilities on both standard and slide guitar, Johnny established his double-pronged attack in short order during the first measures of the opening track, "I'mYours and I'm Hers," which became a Winter signature song. In the intro (see Example 1) he presents a capsule view of his two different strengths with two contrasting approaches in the same riff. Gtr. I is a standard electric guitar and Gtr. II is an electric slide guitar in open A tuning (allegedly played on a low-budget Fender Mustang and a converted Fender 12-string, his only guitars for the session). The riff, rhythmically active yet harmonically vague in the best blues sense, combines minor and dominant 7th sounds (A pentatonic minor and A Mixalydian) in bars 2 and 4 and a variety of textures: chords, single-note lines, dyads and vocalesque slide licks. For slide guitar, Johnny employs op tunings as had countless bluesmen beft him. He gravitates to four specific tunings: E, G and D; for the most part, favoring op A and E. in utilizing open tunings, the ides to ratine the guitar so that it sounds like open chord. Each has its own distinct sound. purpose and tradition. Open A (low to high: E A E A C# E) is derived from the parent chord A/E and involves raising the fourth, third and second strings up one full step (whole step). This tuning is ubiquitous, heard in the worl< of 1930s Delta blues legend Robert Johnson ("Cross Road Blues," "Traveling Riverside Blues") and contemporary blues/pop per-former Bannie Raitt, among others. Open E (E B E G* B E) originates tram a stock E chord and is created by raising thé fifth and fourth strings a full step and the third string one hall step. This one is a favorite of many Chicago musicians, including Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Taylor and Earl Hooker. Open G (D G D G B D) is said to have a country-blues quality and, appropriately, is found in the repertoires of older guitarists like Charley Patton, Son House and Fred McDowell, though modem players such as Keith Richards have not resisted its lure. It is formed by lowering notes on the sixth, fifth and first strings one full step each to emulate a G/D chord. The fourth, open D (D A D F# A D), is closely associated with Elmore James ("Dust My Broom," "Blues Before Sunrise") and was recently used by Eric Clapton on his From the Cradle album. Additionally, it is helpful to consider the dis¬tinction between raised and dropped tunings. Open A and E can be thought of as raised since they are the result of raising the pitch of strings, while open G and D are the reverse or dropped tunings. Each has its own unique feel, atmosphere and aesthetic effect.
"Be Careful with a Fool," a fiery reinterpretation of the B.B. King slow-blues standard, is a fine example of Johnny's fluid, high-energy solo style. His playing is spellbinding and virtuosic, creating nurnerous climaxes, idling time and space with cascades of well-placed, multi-note improvisations, and milking the moment with the flair of a master storyteller. Example 2 is the opening guitar statement. Trademark elements include the free-form mixture of C pentatonic minor (C E6 F G B6) and C blues (C Eb F G6 G B6) scales, aggressive string bends and vicious note cramming at 0:08.
Johnny drives home a shared-shape idea behind the second verse (0:57-1:03) of "Be Careful with a Fool" (Ex. 3 and 3a). Here, he uses a single diminished triad shape to pro-duce the C7 to F71,9 chord progression. The shape, common to both chords, is moved a very short distance a half step lower to do the job. This is one of the idiom's all-time indispensable chord mannerisms and a fixture in bath vintage blues and modem blues rock, having been memorably appropriated by Edward Van Halen in his "Ice Cream Man" guitar solo.
By mid-year 1969, a scant few months after the release of Johnny Winter, many of the most illustrious names in rock, pop and blues counted themselves among Winter's greatest admirers. Superstars like John Lennon offered him material while The Rolling Stones paid him an enormous compliment by kicking off the famed Hyde Park comeback concert in July, 1969, with their rendition of "I'm Yours and I'm Hers."
With a successful eponymous debut recording, Johnny entered his prime early and maintained an initial thrust throu the first four albums on Columbia from 1969-1972. (These comprise what most listeners perceive and regard as the definitive works of his classic period, though fine subsequent Winter releases in the late 1970s, 1980s are no less excellent musically
Second Winter, recorded in Nashville in 1969. features brother Edgar on keyboards and saxophone, and was a superb follow-up. This is a wide-ranging collection combining hard-hitting blues-rock numbers such as "Memory Pain," standards like "Johnny B. Goode" and "Slippin' and Slidin," the Bob Dylan turne "Highway 61 Revisited," and several original compositions. On this recording, Johnny's tone changed as he opted for a Gibson Les Paul Special guitar and experimented with amp-miking techniques.
Memory Pain," a stand-out track, is a case in point. Here, he achieves a heavy, echoing, midrange-boosted sound that borders on hard-rock intensity (reputedly the result of recording die amp in a stairwell). In addition to its powerful tone, "Memory Pain" features a multifaceted and active rhythm guitar approach that effectively splits the difference between blues, rock and funk styles and seamlessly melds rhythm and lead textures. Example 4 depicts the opening measures which set the mood of the piece. Notice the pronounced syncopations throughout (particularly the emphasis on the and of beat 3), the parallel 4th dyads in bar 1 (staples of hard rock and metal) and the percussive muted-string strums in bars 2 and 3 (well-known funk music clichés) mixed with his familiar blues-based lead fills in bar 3. It ail adds up to a very colorful rhythm figure that is especially effective and propulsive in this power-trio context, and reminiscent of some of Jimi Hendrix's and Robin Trower's finest moments.
By 1971's Johnny Winter And, Johnny retired his old rhythm section of Uncle John "Red" Turner (drums) and Tommy Shannon (bass, later an integral member of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble) and enlisted the services of The McCoys as a backup group. The McCoys, featuring teen guitar hero Rick Derringer, had previously scored big in the 1960s with their #1 rock hit "Hang on Sloopy." The Winter Derringer chemistry proved to be eminently rewarding as the new ensemble produced a landmark album distinguished by such milestone tracks as "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" and "Prodigal Son." By this tinte Johnny had adopted the Gibson Firebird as his instrument of choice, fonnally establishing the signature Winter guitar tone and image. The Winter And band toured extensively worldwide and was captured in concert later in 1971 on Johnny Winter And Live. One of the greatest live recordings of guitar tone, the album included spirited onstage renditions of tunes like "Good Morning Little School Girl," "Meatttown Blues" and "Johnny B. Goode."
"Johnny B. Goode" was a dynamic reappraisal of Winter's early rock'n'roll roots, and a tribute to an early influence, Chuck Berry, viewed from a new blues-rock perspective (see Ex. 5). Hardly a hollow parody, Johnny paraphrases, some of Chuck's most identifiable aspects including the unmistakahie opening guitar break acid the striding, boogie-woogie-based comping figure (at 0:10) without sacrificing one note of his own guitar persona. He adds some new wrinkles in the faim of slurred doublestops in bars 3 and 4, some slinky string bends in the riff at 0:13 and the singing wide vibrato at 0:16.
In 1972, Johnny's mounting drug and alcohol problems and excessive lifestyle forced him into a lengthy semi-retirement. He reemerged in 1973 with an outstanding album, fittingly titled Still Alive and WeIL This contains "Silver Train," a song penned for him back on the blues-rock map, setting aside any by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and doubts about Johnny Winter's status and sterling version of "Rock Me, Baby." Johnny continued as one of the most important blues recording activity into the decade rock performers of the modem age. John Dawson Winter III (1974), Captured Live (1976), Nothin' but the Blues (1977), and the particularly smoking White, Hot and Blue (1978), featuring the noteworthy blues cuts "Walkin' By Myself" (Jimmy Rogers) and "Divin' Duck" (Sleepy John Estes). He collaborated with his lifelong idol, Muddy Waters, in this period, producing and performing on a number of records from 1977-1980, which served to rekindle interest in Waters' career and earn a Grammy for the partnership. After 1980's Raisin' Cain, Winter took a four-year hiatus from recording only to return with Guitar Slinger. This release precipitated a powerful series of albums on Alligator Records in the mid 1980s and quickly put him bac on the blues-rock map, setting aside any doubts about Johnny Winter's status and significance as one of the most important blues-rock performers of the modern age.
MM Player"(1995-7, Vol.27,No.353 (July 1995) Japan
Photo of Johnny and Susan Winter live on stage probable around 1973
Johnny Winter with his main Sunburst Gibson Firebird of which the head has been restored
Four photos of Johnny Winter in his glory days, top left: Johnny with metalic green turkish Gibsob Firebird, with Bird decals on top, used for open-E tuning. Top Right: Johnny Winter with a black lazer
Bottom Left: Johnny Winter playing a Red Gibson Firebird with Les Paul head used for open-A tuning. Bottom Right: Johnny playing a White Erlewine Lazer guitar
The last gig to be filmed of the grandmaster, from the Chicago Blues Festival, 8/4/81. A historical document, which gives you a glimpse how the Mississippi man born as McKinley Morganfield once electrified the blues. Without any unnecassary spots, five cameras show the straight Chicago blues of the musician, who once has stamped that style. The help of blues albino Johnny Winter and Buddy Miles really wouldn't have been necessary. The great set starts with Mannish Boy, and ends with Got My Mojo Working, and includes all classics, from Baby Please Don't Go to I'm A King Bee and They Call Me Muddy Waters .