As I was checking out Facebook yesterday, my friend and fellow Blues fan, Mike McDuffie, let me know that Johnny Winter had died.
Blues fan? I almost wrote the word ‘aficionado’, but I am quite certain that equating myself to Mike with regard to Blues knowledge would be dumb on my part.
After browsing the web for further details, I did not realize that Johnny was only 70 years old. I quickly did the math in my head and concluded that it had been close to 30 years since we had seen Johnny Winter live. Holy crap! Where does the time go? More on that later.
It was 1984 and my freshman year in college – I have no recollection how I learned about the new album by Johnny Winter “Guitar Slinger”. Perhaps it was an article in Rolling Stone magazine, it could have been a recommendation from Mike McD or my buddy, Dale Boisvert. I do remember purchasing my new record at Vinyl Fever at the corner of Fletcher and 15th for $6.99 OR was it at Sensuous Sounds on Busch Boulevard for $5.99? Most likely, Vinyl Fever along with some other tasty used records to build my collection. After all, I was working at Lupton’s Fatman’s BBQ at the time making about $3.65 an hour. I had money burning a hole in my pocket.
Johnny Winter – It’s My Life (Guitar Slinger, 1984)
I am not sure how many blues records I bought during this time frame, but some really important blues artists were putting out incredible work. After all, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble released ‘Texas Flood’ in 1983 and followed it up with ‘Couldn’t Stand the Weather’ in 1984. Robert Cray had mainstream success with ‘Strong Persuader’ in 1986. B.B. King records “When Love Comes to Town” with U2 in 1988. Not to mention, The Blue Brothers movie (my first rated “R” ) came out in 1980.
In between, I would buy just about every album by independent blues label, Alligator Records, Koko Taylor, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan and more. It was like Christmas when the package arrived from Chicago.
So when Johnny Winter announced he was playing live in Tampa at the London Victory Club in July 1985, Dale, Mike and I were definitely going. It cost $12 to get in. That’s right… twelve bucks!! Concert started at 9:30 and I think Johnny walked right through the crowd to get to the stage. What I do remember is Johnny on stage. I loved his record, but Johnny was UNREAL live! He was about 40 years old at the time. I don’t think there is any question he was at the peak of his ability. He may have been better known in the 70s for whooping it up in the background when Muddy Waters recorded ‘Mannish Boy’, but he came out and just ripped through his set. Awesome!
- Last Night
- Rock Me Baby
- Don’t Take Advantage Of Me
- Mad Dog
- Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
- Jumpin’ Jack Flash
- Boot Hill
- Johnny B. Goode
- Highway 61 Revisited
Afterward, I complained that the set was too short. He played for about 80 minutes and I had paid $12 to see a show!!
Regardless, I missed seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan after I had plenty of chances:
September 28, 1983 Mr. T’s Club 19 – Clearwater, FL
August 3, 1984 USF Sun Dome – Tampa, FL
November 5, 1985 Curtis Hixon Hall – Tampa, FL
December 27, 1986 Curtis Hixon Hall – Tampa, FL
January 27, 1987 USF Sun Dome – Tampa, FL
At this point, I am just embarrassing myself. What was I thinking?
RollingStone has Stevie Ray Vaughan at #12 on the list of 100 Greatest Guitarists.
Johnny died too young (like so many). Once again, I missed an opportunity to see one of my guitar heroes again as he was slated to play at the Rock n Blues Hippiefest at Ruth Eckerd Hall on August 16, 2014. I had not bought tickets, but a chance to see that part of my musical past again would have been too much to pass up.
I guess what I am trying to get across is … Johnny B. Goode