February 23, 2014

WHEN WHITE WAS THE NEW BLACK:

Johnny Winter: A Life in the Blues : Still touring at 70, the guitarist opens up (MARC MYERS, Feb. 20, 2014, WSJ)

Mr. Winter was born in 1944 in Beaumont, Texas, an oil-refinery town. His father was a contractor who built homes while his mother raised him and his younger brother Edgar --himself a recognized blues musician. "My parents loved music from the 1920s and '30s--things like barbershop quartets," Mr. Winter said. "My dad sang in one and I'd play ukulele. I listened to KJET--the only black radio station in town--and bought every blues record I could find at The Harmony Shop. The owner stocked jukeboxes in black clubs, so he always had great records."

After hearing Chuck Berry in 1955, Mr. Winter embraced the guitar. "I didn't take lessons--I had a good enough ear to play what I heard on the radio and on records. I also listened to Muddy Waters. I loved his playing and singing--like he was having a conversation with his guitar."

Soon Mr. Winter was playing gigs at local black clubs, where he was welcomed. "Like my younger brother, I was born an albino and was put down for looking different--too white. The black people I knew could relate to what I went through and I understood their situation from my own experience. I had to find a way to deal with it."

A Woodstock appearance followed his record deal in August 1969. "I was sleeping on a bag of garbage in the trailer near the stage and woke up close to midnight," he said. "The guy sending acts out on the stage looked at me and my band and said, 'You guys are all here. You're on next.' Five minutes after I woke up, we were performing."

But Mr. Winter doesn't appear in the "Woodstock" documentary. "That was my manager's fault--he didn't think it was a good idea. He said the festival was losing money and he didn't see any benefit in being in there. Obviously, he was wrong."

Posted by at February 23, 2014 7:48 AM
  
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