With his stunning presence and often brandishing a Gibson Firebird, Johnny Winter played and sang the blues like no other. The Texan sought fame and fortune all his life but after he achieved an advance (a record at the time) of $600,000 – after he jammed with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper at the Fillmore East – he began to hate the superficiality of success, and eventually became lost in a fog of heroin abuse.
However, through it all he had his brother Edgar by his side. Edgar was there for Johnny's first two albums, they played together at Woodstock, and he sought to revive Johnny’s career when his band White Trash produced their live album Roadwork in 1972. “As kids, we were inseparable, much closer than average brothers. Not only did we learn to play music together, but because we were both albino, we shared a unique personal perspective on life …” explains Edgar. That is why Edgar is really the only person who could lead this 17-track guitar-driven tribute to his sibling: Brother Johnny (15 April, 2022; Quarto Valley Records).
In fact, this record has been in the offing for some time; as Edgar’s friends had been encouraging him to do something ever since Johnny’s death on 16 July, 2014. “But I was totally devastated, and the timing just didn’t feel right to me,” explained Edgar. “It wasn’t until after I completed the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest, a tour we were meant to do together with our respective bands, that the idea of a tribute record started to take form.”
Edgar has been able to draw on a glittering range of today’s top guitarists, but they have been helped to shine by drummer Gregg Bissonette (the only exception is for Ringo Starr on Stranger), two bassists - Sean Hurley and Bob Glaub – and producer Ross Hogarth.
So, who are the big guns? Not all can be included here but Joe Bonamassa kicks off proceedings by making great use of slide on one of Johnny’s favourite tracks, Mean Town Blues, while Kenny Wayne Shepherd adds his sparkle to Still Alive and Well. The tempo drops for some lovely old-time Lone Star Blues with Keb' Mo', but picks up again when the legends Billy F Gibbons and Derek Trucks step in to turn I'm Yours and I'm Hers into something really substantial. Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode, also beloved by Johnny, is given lustre by Joe Walsh on lead vocals. Highway 61 Revisited sees Doobie Brother John McFee sharing guitar duties, while Toto’s Steve Lukather rocks out on Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo. Bon Jovi's Phil X features on Jumpin’ Jack Flash, as does recently deceased Taylor Hawkins on Guess I’ll Go Away. Gov't Mule's Warren Haynes gets funky on Memory Pain, while the stellar collection closes with a David Campbell contribution on the string-driven tear-jerker End of the Line.
Johnny Winter’s star shone most brightly in the late 1960s and early 70s; so effervescent that beyond his large fan base he also deeply touched and influenced a whole raft of guitarists who are regularly featured on this website and who wished to pay tribute on this special record. Edgar has lovingly made his work blossom once more, and we can’t help agree with him when he says: “if you love blues or guitar music, you’ll love this.”