John Dawson Winter III (February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014), known as Johnny Winter, is an American blues guitarist, singer, and producer. Best known for his high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and '70s, Winter also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues legend Muddy Waters. Since his time with Waters, Winter has recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums and continues to tour extensively.
Johnny Winter, along with his musician brother Edgar Winter (born 1946), were nurtured at an early age by their parents in musical pursuits. Both Johnny and his brother, who were born with albinism, began performing at an early age. When he was ten years old, Winter appeared on a local children's show, playing ukulele and singing Everly Brothers songs with his brother.
His recording career began at the age of fifteen when his band Johnny and the Jammers released "School Day Blues" on a Houston record label. In 1967, Winter recorded a single " backed with "Parchman Farm" (Universal Records). In 1968, he released his first album The Progressive Blues Experiment, on Austin's Sonobeat Records.
Winter caught his biggest break in December 1968, when Mike Bloomfield, whom he met and jammed with in Chicago, invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield and Al Kooper concert at the Fillmore East in New York. As it happened, representatives of Columbia Records were at the concert, and within a few days, was signed to reportedly what was then the largest advance in the history of the recording industry—$600,000.
Winter's first Columbia album, Johnny Winter, was recorded and released in 1969. The album's success coincided with Imperial Records picking up The Progressive Blues Experiment for wider release. The same year, the Winter trio toured and performed at several rock festivals, including Woodstock. With brother Edgar added as a full member of the group, Winter also recorded his second album, Second Winter, in Nashville in 1969.
In 1970, when his brother Edgar released a solo album Entrance, and formed Edgar Winter's White Trash, an R&B/jazz-rock group, the original trio disbanded and Johnny Winter then formed a new band called "Johnny Winter And", which was also the name of their first album.
Winter's momentum was throttled when he sank into heroin addiction during the Johnny Winter And days. After he sought treatment for and recovered from the addiction, Winter was courageously put in front of the music press by manager Steve Paul to discuss the addiction candidly. By 1973, he returned to the music scene with the release of Still Alive and Well, a basic blend between blues and hard rock.
In live performances, Winter often told the story about how, as a child, he dreamed of playing with the blues guitarist Muddy Waters. In 1977, after Waters' long-time label Chess Records went out of business, he got his chance. Winter brought Waters into the studio to record Hard Again for Blue Sky Records, a label set up by Winter's manager and distributed by Columbia. In addition to producing the album, Winter played guitar with Waters veteran James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Waters, I'm Ready (with Big Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee, and a best-selling live album Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live. The partnership produced three Grammy Awards for Waters and an additional Grammy for Winter's own Nothin' But the Blues, with backing by members of Waters' band. The albums gave Waters the highest profile and greatest financial successes of his life.
After his time with Blue Sky Records, Winter began recording for several labels, including Alligator, Point Blank, and Virgin, where he focused on blues-oriented material. The Gibson Guitar Company released the signature Johnny Winter 'Firebird' guitar in a ceremony in Nashville with Slash presenting.
In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
In 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
In 2004, he received a Grammy Award nomination for his "I’m a Bluesman" album.
(Johnny Winter at Riverfront Blues Fest 2010 & Penn’s Landing 1995)