Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo for the maestro.
By Fred Mills
Blues legend Johnny Winter (and brother of rocker Edgar Winter) passed away yesterday (July 16) at the age of 70. The cause of death has not been announced yet; his P.R. agent indicated he died in a Zurich hotel room while on tour in Europe.
According to his Facebook page, “His wife, family and bandmates were all saddened by the loss of one of the world’s finest guitarists.”
It’s known that Winter had been in poor health on and off for a number of years. Fans were used to seeing him in concert playing his guitar while seated: I met him several years ago backstage at a show and he did indeed seem rather frail, although performance-wise he was as vital as ever. Winter had famously battled drug addiction early on, but with the help of manager and bandmate Paul Nelson he eventually had managed to clean up. However, as recently as 2010 he admitted in interviews that at some point he’d relapsed and had been taking prescription pills as well as drinking.
His death sparked debates about his health, with industry pundit Bob Lefsetz stating flatly that he believes it was an overdose. This prompted a number of heated responses to Lefsetz from people, many of them musicians themselves, who felt otherwise and wanted to take Lefsetz to task for dipping into an area he had no direct knowledge of.
A new Winter album is slated for Sept. 2 on Megaforce titled Step Back, and earlier this year Legacy had issued a career-spanning boxed set titled True to the Blues.
Speaking personally, I was fortunate enough to see him a number of times over the years, including on an early tour (I mean, the dude put out a 3-sided LP, which to my teenage mind was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen at the time!) and a few years later when he was touring with Johnny Winter And. Always a fan, I’d like to extend deepest BLURT condolences to Winter’s family and friends.