There’s nothing like seeing The Blues live in performance and I was lucky enough to see the great Johnny Winter play a live set at B.B. King’s box of Blues on Broadway in New York City’s Times Square.
The first thing we must confess is that B.B. King’s on Broadway looks and feels more like a Roman bathhouse than a grungy Blues bar — everything is very pretty and touristy pristine and safe.
That said… there is nobody like Johnny Winter when it comes to wailing the Texas Blues — not even Stevie Ray Vaughan can begin to fill Johnny’s unique presence and playing style — and here’s the killer PR blurp from B.B. Kings that creates the myth around the man:
The Texas guitar tradition runs deep. It’s a gutsy school of blues playing, marked by thick tones, aggressive attack and tons of technique, all delivered in a flamboyant, swaggering style that is endemic to the Lone Star State. From T-Bone Walker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown on through Albert Collins and Freddie King, Billy Gibbons and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, the tradition of the Texas guitar slinger has lived on. One name that ranks atop that exclusive list is Johnny Winter, the international ambassador for rocking Texas blues for the last thirty years.
Here’s a rare 1985 performance by Johnny covering The Rolling Stones’ famous “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” with Jon Paris on bass guitar and Dr. John on piano. This is a three-minute song that Johnny turns into a masterpiece performance lasting 10 minutes! His use of riffs, turnarounds and tritones shows you just exactly how any song can become “Bluesy” with the right person behind the instrument:
Johnny Winter has overcome a lot of trouble and addiction in his life, and the fact that he can still sit and play The Blues on Broadway at age 66 is more testament to his honor as a musical craftsman than his resurrection as a human being.