Showing posts with label #rock ‘n’ blues fest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #rock ‘n’ blues fest. Show all posts

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Edgar Winter Interview: “Johnny Will Forever Remain My Greatest Musical Hero Of All Time.”

By Ray Shasho

-This interview with Edgar Winter was conducted on July 15th 2014, the day before his Brother Johnny Winter passed away in Zurich, Switzerland.  (RIP Johnny 1944-2014)

The Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest/Hippiefest tour perseveres as a ‘Tribute to Johnny Winter.’ The tour kicked off in Clarkston, Michigan on July 31st and arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on August 16th. This incredible show features classic rock music legends …  Edgar WinterVanilla FudgePeter Rivera (The voice of ‘Rare Earth’), and Kim Simmonds (‘Savoy Brown’).  -Purchase tickets now or call 727-791-7400 for further information.
The tour was originally scheduled to headline Johnny Winter
Edgar was extremely excited about performing with his Big Brother Johnny again.

Edgar had this to say about his Brother Johnny’s passing…

"My wife, Monique, and I are shocked at the suddenness of Johnny's passing,especially since I was so looking forward with such joy and anticipation to seeing him again and playing together. I know his body is departing this physical realm, but his presence, his music, and his spirit are undiminished, and alive as ever in my heart.Johnny has always been, is now, and will forever remain my greatest musical hero of all time. But more than all that, he's my brother - in family, in music, in life and beyond. I will do my best to carry on in honor of his memory and the Winter name."  Blessings, Peace & Love,  Edgar and Monique

EDGAR WINTER is the legendary multi-instrumentalist from Beaumont, Texas whose classic monster hit “Frankenstein” rocked the world in 1973, while landing in the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and selling over one million copies. Winter’s eclectic musical styles crossover into multiple genres including …blues, jazz, pop, and country, but he’s especially revered as a rock hero.
Edgar’s Brother Johnny Winter had already built a reputation as a proficient blues/rock guitarist & vocalist with the release of… ‘The Progressive Blues Experiment’ (1968),Johnny Winter (album) (1969), Second Winter (1969), and Johnny Winter And(1970). Johnny would periodically ask his little brother Edgar to join his trio onstage during the second half of his set … including amid Johnny Winter’s renowned Woodstock appearance in 1969.

In 1970, Edgar Winter released his first studio album entitled Entrance. The favored“Tobacco Road” track featured Brother Johnny on guitar, harmonica, and vocals. The song also successfully lifted Winter into the limelight.

In 1971, with the release of his second studio release Edgar Winter’s White Trash, and formed a band with the same name. Winter began what would become an enduring and amicable musical collaboration with ex McCoy’s guitarist and vocalist Rick Derringer(“Hang on Sloopy”). The Edgar Winter’s White Trash album featured Winter’s most beautifully composed and performed arrangement entitled … “Dying to Live.”

Winter followed-up with the critically-acclaimed live double album set entitled …Roadwork (1972). Roadwork featured a 17-minute version of “Tobacco Road.”Rick Derringer contributed vocals to “Still Alive and Well” and “Back in the U.S.A.” while Johnny Winter performed “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” The album became certified Gold.

In 1972, the classic lineup of The Edgar Winter Group was born … Edgar Winter(vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, saxophone, and drums), Dan Hartman (bass, vocals), Ronnie Montrose (guitar, vocals), and Chuck Ruff (drums, vocals). The Edgar Winter Group scored huge commercially with the release of … They Only Come Out at Night. The album landed at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 200 and remained on the charts for an amazing 80 weeks. By 1986 the album became double platinum. 'They Only Come Out at Night' spawned the classic rock mainstays … “Frankenstein,” (#1 Billboard hit -written by Edgar Winter) and “Free Ride” (#14 Billboard hit -written by Dan Hartman).
Rick Derringer replaced Ronnie Montrose on guitar who went on to form his own band‘Montrose’ with Sammy Hagar. Derringer played with the group on their next album entitled… Shock Treatment. The album spawned the singles … “River’s Risin’” and“Easy Street.” Derringer also produced both albums for the group in addition to … Edgar Winter’s White Trash, and Roadwork.

Subsequent Edgar Winter  releases … Jasmine Nightdreams (1975), The Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer (1975), Together (1976- featuring Johnny Winter), Recycled (1977), The Edgar Winter Album (1979), Standing on Rock(1981),  Mission Earth (1986), Not a Kid Anymore (1994), The Real Deal (1996),Live in Japan (1998), Winter Blues (1999), Edgar Winter -The Best Of (2002), Jazzin’ the Blues (2004), Rebel Road (2008).
Edgar Winter performed with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in 2006, 2008, and 2010-2011.
Winter’s music has been featured in TV, Radio, and Motion Pictures and he continues to be a solid worldwide concert attraction.

MOST RECENTLY: Edgar Winter headlines… Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest/ ‘Tribute to Johnny Winter.’ The tour kicked off in Clarkston, Michigan on July 31st and arrives atRuth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on August 16th.
Winter was also part of the recent release…  ‘Light My Fire-A Classic Rock Salute to The Doors.’ –Available to purchase at

Edgar Winter will also be performing at ‘Rock Legends Cruise 3’ which set sails on February 19th 2015. Sorry this cruise is Sold-Out, but you still may be placed on a waiting list. Visit for more information.

I had the rare privilege of chatting with Edgar Winter recently about… Brother Johnny…Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest…Inception of his mega-hit “Frankenstein”… Saving Rock and Roll… My infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ question… and much-much more!

Here is my interview with legendary multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and inventor of the ‘monster rock’ mega hit “Frankenstein” … EDGAR WINTER.

- Interviewed on July 15th 2014 … Edgar is also one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed!

Ray Shasho: Hi Edgar, first of all, congratulations on an amazing music career.
Edgar Winter: “Oh, well thank you; it’s been an interesting and adventurous trip, I’ll tell you.”
Ray Shasho:  Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest, also referred as ‘Hippiefest,’ will be arriving in Clearwater, Florida on Saturday August 16th.
Edgar Winter:  “Well first of all, I want to make sure that everybody is ready to Rock and Roll!!! (All laughing) That’s what we’re all geared up for. It’s a really cool lineup this year and it’s always a great thrill and pleasure to get to play with Johnny. He’s my all-time musical hero. We grew up playing together as kids and every time we take the stage together it brings back so many great memories of the old days. We have almost a telepathic communication when it comes to music. Vanilla Fudge is also on the bill, and my old friend Carmine Appice. He’s a great drummer and also played in one of my groups for a couple of years back in the 80’s. So it’ll be great to see Carmine again, and Peter Rivera of Rare Earth … “I Just Want to Celebrate!” and Kim Simmonds from Savoy Brown. Kim was also on the tour last year. The same people that started out as ‘Hippiefest,’ sort of branched out into ‘Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest,’ and I believe still do both of those. What I love about it is that it’s very reminiscent of the old festivals back in the late 60’s and early 70’s that I did so many of … Woodstock with my Brother Johnny, which is kind of what I mark as the beginning of my career. So this tour is mostly classic rock guys with an opportunity to jam, and we’ll be doing some of that on this show. So we’re just going to have fun, rock out, and have a good time!!!”
Ray Shasho: I’ve actually interviewed everyone on this tour at one time or another but you’re the only one that I never had the opportunity to chat with.
Edgar Winter: “Last but not least …that’s really cool!”
Ray Shasho:  Not only do music enthusiasts get the best bang for their buck with these magnificent mini festivals…  I think the shows help to keep rock alive. Rock and roll, the blues, and jazz are America’s contribution to the arts, and it seems to me that the mainstream does very little to preserve our own musical legacy and culture?  
Edgar Winter: “Well, you’ve pretty much encapsulated my feelings there. Certainly blues and jazz …I believe that you’re absolutely correct. If there’s any common threat that runs through all my music it’s blues. Blues is really the granddaddy of everything when it comes to music. It really developed into Dixieland, Swing, Ragtime, and then into Modern Jazz. People have a tendency to think of blues as something that’s old, already happened and over with while forgetting that it continues to be a profound underlined influence on all the music, and certainly all the pop music that there is today. And it’s interesting to me that in Europe and all over the world, blues and jazz musicians are really highly respected. Here in the U.S. you just can’t get arrested. I think it is kind of sad, but I believe that it will continue, and I don’t believe any of those forms will ever die. Certainly Rock and Roll has proved its longevity. It has gone through a lot of changes, but I think that things are cyclic and have a way of resurfacing, so I’m sort of waiting for that to occur.”
Ray Shasho: Edgar, I’m working on my latest book project entitled… ‘SAVING ROCK AND ROLL’ …addressing those legendary rock heroes that we were so accustomed to hearing every time we turned on our radios and how they mysteriously vanished from the mainstream. I’ll be featuring over 100 interviews with those legendary performers who are still as active as ever … including Edgar Winter.
Edgar Winter: “It’s my hope that in a small way I’m helping to keep that alive. I’ve certainly enjoyed it every bit as much as I did when I first started out. For me the key to the whole thing is the variety of music. I’ve never been able to understand why people who love classical can’t appreciate rock, or why people who love country can’t dig jazz. To me it’s all beautiful music and I think more than anything, the categories are really created for commercial purposes by the record companies that want to target a specific audience. They really want someone to be either a rock guy, a blues guy, or a country guy, so that they’ll have a pretty established target market. I’ve always flown in the face of that and I think one of the reasons I still enjoy doing what I do is the fact that I’ve never succumbed to that temptation to be categorized in that way. It’s sort of like being a typecast actor. I love rock but there’s such a huge diverse field when you think of all the types of rock music that there are and every generation has its voice.”
Ray Shasho: I’m waiting for the day when a song like “Frankenstein” can once again become a #1 hit on commercial radio.
Edgar Winter: “I’d love to see that happen as well Ray.”
Ray Shasho: “Frankenstein” is such an incredible song and it brings back so many wonderful memories. What was the origin behind that high-powered monster track?
Edgar Winter: “It still has such a cool vibe and I love it every time I play it. I wrote the song years before it was recorded, or at least I came up with the original riff. When I was playing with my Brother Johnny in the late 60’s and no one knew who I was or if Johnny even had a brother and I had not yet recorded an album. He’d do the first part of his set with a blues trio and then say … “And now I’m going to bring on my little Brother Edgar!” So I’d walk out and the crowd would go … Oh, look there’s two of them! So I had devised that riff as sort of a walk on, an instrumental vehicle to sort of showcase my instrumental talents … (Edgar singing the “Frankenstein” riff) it was kind of cool and bluesy and had a vibe to it, and I played Hammond B-3 and alto sax, then we had two sets of drums onstage and I did a dual drum solo with Johnny’s drummer “Red” Turner and we called it “The Double Drum Song” because of that. Then we played it all over the world. We played a version of that at Woodstock and Royal Albert Hall in England and then probably forgot all about it.”

“Then year’s later synthesizers were invented and I happened to be the first guy to come up with the idea of putting a strap on the keyboard. It was such a simple and obvious idea, you’d think someone would have come up with it right off the bat, but I was the first guy to do it. I’ll never forget the first time I walked out onstage with the keyboard on the strap …it was one of those real rock and roll moments. I think the combination of “Frankenstein” being such a power-driven heavy rock song and the dramatic image of a keyboard with a strap just established in people’s minds that I’m a rock guy and primarily thought of as a rock guy … but I really love jazz, classical, and growing up in Texas I played a lot of country. But I was looking for a song to feature the synthesizer as a lead instrument, which up to that point and as far as I know it hadn’t been done before. People were using synthesizers mainly as a sweetener to emulate the sounds of already existing instruments. I loved all those old Sci-Fi movies that had primitive synthesizer and Theremin like ‘Forbidden Planet.’ I thought of the synthesizer as …like wow, here’s a new instrument that you can actually create futuristic and never before heard sounds. That was my whole approach to it. So I thought… I bet that old “Double Drum Song” would really sound cool with that heavy subsonic reinforced synth-bottom. So we worked up a live version of it and it was just killer! It was a showstopper; it got to be where we had to close the show with that song, but we never had any intention of recording it, and it never occurred to me to record it.”

“I had just formed The Edgar Winter Group and I thought the real strength in that group lay in the core writing between Dan Hartman and myself. We had “Free Ride” which we thought had great hit potential and we thought that was the most radio friendly cut.”
“We had just called that thing (“Frankenstein”) the instrumental and thought it really didn’t have anything to do with what The Edgar Winter Group was. When we went in to record our first album… ‘They Only Come Out at Night’ we recorded all our top songs that we thought were cool and it was at the end of the project… and back in those days groups would actually be going into the studio with three or four songs and create an album in the studio. The band would come up with different sections and you’d put them together, write the lyrics, and then come in and put it down the next day as a track. The cardinal rule was the tape is always rolling so you wouldn’t forget some of this stuff. So we had all these live style 15-20 minute versions of jammin’ out on the instrumental and Rick Derringer said maybe we could edit that into something useable for the album. I said, aw that’s a crazy idea … but I love crazy ideas!”

“At the very last day of the session, it was a good excuse to get even more blasted than usual and it turned into a big editing party, and back in those days the only way to edit something was to physically cut the master tape which was harrowing and like cutting a diamond, if you screwed it up its gone. Of course you had a safety of it but then you lost a generation and not as good as the original. So it was lying all over the control room, over the backs of chairs, overflowing the consoles, on the couch, and we were each trying to figure out how we were going to put it back together. Then Chuck Ruff, the drummer, mumbled the immortal words … “Wow man, it’s like Frankenstein!” Drawing the analogy of an arm here and a leg there and pasting the thing back together … and the monster was born!”

“I’m often asked what advice would you give to people starting out and I really believe that if you play the music that you really love, just whatever it is that you have fun with, the music that’s in your heart, rather than trying to second guess what the audience is going to like or what’s going to be commercial. I think “Frankenstein” is a great example of something that we just played purely for fun. It was the one song that I can point to that established my musical career. We had released “Free Ride” which we really believed in and it didn’t do anything. Later, “Frankenstein was like the ‘B’ side, the third or fourth single into the album and we had pretty much given up on the album and began thinking about the next one. Then all of a sudden “Frankenstein” started to get Underground FM and College Radio airplay and was just a phenomenon and took on a life of its own and grew into what it is …The Indestructible Monster! We just couldn’t believe it. Then we released “Free Ride” and it became a big hit.”
Ray Shasho:  Sadly, everyone else from the original Edgar Winter Group has left us.
Edgar Winter: “That’s right, I’m the last surviving member with the exception of Rick Derringer who was not the original guitar player and Ronnie Montrose of course is no longer with us.”
Ray Shasho: I was extremely fortunate to hangout with Ronnie and his wife Leighsa at a concert at the Largo Cultural Center at the beginning of his final tour. Before the show I interviewed Ronnie and asked him what it was like working with Edgar Winter, and he said … “Just incredible, I mean Edgar Winter is one of my heroes, one of my favorite musicians, and I consider him to be a big brother and a mentor because he’s always helped me throughout the years and it was always such a privilege to play with him. And really, I’m just a kid playing with this really talented musician and given tutelage.”
Edgar Winter: “That was so sweet for him to say that … and I love Ronnie and he’s one of my guitar heroes. I always think of Ronnie as “THE GUY.” Rick and I have a history going all the way back to ‘White Trash’ and also played with The Edgar Winter Group with Rick Derringer, but Ronnie, he was the original guy. I have tremendous respect. What I loved about Ronnie, he was just a live wire and really unpredictable. He had this rebellious rock vibe that I loved. It was a good balance. Dan Hartman just loved pop music and his music had almost a carefree innocence to it, then Ronnie’s stuff had this edge, and so it was a good chemistry. I think great bands are always about the chemistry, the contrast, and how it all fits together.  It was certainly an honor for me to play with all those guys and be onstage with them.”
Ray Shasho: Edgar, a song that showcases your incredible voice is…“Dying to Live.”Why don’t you record more songs like this one, you have such a magnificent set of pipes?
Edgar Winter: “Well …that’s a great question. It’s one of my favorite songs as well and one of my most personal songs. Actually some of my favorite songs are lesser known and ones that you would think are obscure. I’m singing all the time …but I guess I never found, like that song, which embodied a vocal vehicle. I never really thought of myself as a vocalist. I started out as an instrumentalist but I do love to sing now. I actually learned to sing teaching musicians singing parts. I would do Ray Charles and jazz arrangements, like singing horn parts for example …scatting. And that requires a lot of accuracy that goes into it.”
Ray Shasho: Edgar, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Edgar Winter: “I think Ray Charles. Ray meant so much to me and other than my Brother Johnny is my most profound musical influence. He just had the most soulful voice and indescribable to me. I think he influenced a generation of singers. Without Ray, I don’t think there would have been a Stevie Wonder. I really feel that black preacher singers were the inspiration for rock and roll. I think gospel is probably the most overlooked element in music. People like Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and Little Richard that started all of that. Ray to me because he played jazz, he played country… “What I’d Say” has that Afro Cuban Rhythm thing going on… he had The Raelettes that was three part gospel harmony and groups like The Supremes were patterned after. He was a real innovator, a great musician, and a great man …so I have to give hats off to Ray.”
Ray Shasho: Edgar, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring.
Edgar Winter: “You’re most welcome Ray. I want to thank all my fans out there and everybody who has followed my career as well as my Brother Johnny’s. It means the world to be able to continue to get out there and do what we most love and see you all rockin’ and having a great time. So … KEEP ON ROCKIN!!!”

The Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest/Hippiefest tour perseveres as a ‘Tribute to Johnny Winter.’ The tour kicked off in Clarkston, Michigan on July 31st and arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on August 16th. This incredible show features classic rock legends …  Edgar WinterVanilla FudgePeter Rivera (The voice of ‘Rare Earth’), and Kim Simmonds (‘Savoy Brown’).  -Purchase tickets now or call 727-791-7400 for further information.

Edgar Winter Official Website
Johnny Winter Official Website
Rock ‘N’ Blues Tour Dates
Very special thanks to Jeff Albright of ‘The Albright Entertainment Group’

Coming up NEXT… Don Wilson guitarist, pioneer, and co-founder of ‘The Ventures’… Keyboard extraordinaire Patrick Moraz (YES/The Moody Blues)… Al Kooper (The Blues Project, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bob Dylan, and responsible for the success of Lynyrd Skynyrd… Country Music’s shining new star -19 year old Mary Sarah … Folk/Rock singer & songwriter Jonathan Edwards (“Sunshine”)… and legendary keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer)

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at

Purchase Ray’s very special memoir called ‘Check the Gs’ -The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business … You’ll LIVE IT! Also available for download on NOOK or KINDLE edition for JUST .99 CENTS or  
- Please support Ray by purchasing his book so he can continue to bring you quality classic rock music reporting.
“Check the Gs is just a really cool story ... and it’s real. I’d like to see the kid on the front cover telling his story in a motion picture, TV sitcom or animated series. The characters in the story definitely jump out of the book and come to life. Very funny and scary moments throughout the story and I just love the way Ray timeline’s historical events during his lifetime. Ray’s love of rock music was evident throughout the book and it generates extra enthusiasm when I read his on-line classic rock music column.  It’s a wonderful read for everyone!”    …   

COMING SOON… Ray’s new book project entitled ‘SAVING ROCK AND ROLL’

© Copyright All Rights Reserved 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Johnny Winter Exclusive Interview: "Rock ‘N’ Roll Was A Disguise; I Really Wanted To Play The Blues"

Photo by Steve Hefter
By Ray Shasho

Johnny Winter proclaimed in a recent interview with Classic Rock Music Examiner Ray Shasho, that playing rock and roll was basically a front to appease audiences. His heart was saying no to rock and roll while his soul was saying yes to the blues. Winter abandoned rock ‘n’ roll to resurrect the blues.

Johnny Winter is acknowledged worldwide as a legendary blues artist, but he also holds the title of American rock ‘n’ roll hero. Winter wore both hats equivalently on stage. Only Johnny Winter could scream ROCK ‘N’ ROLL! …. a battle cry to a generation of rebellion youths in front of sold-out arenas and stadiums, with his kind of intensity and emotional reverberation. No other audience could reciprocate to those words more passionately than at a Johnny Winter concert. And who more revered than Johnny Winter (except for the man himself) could follow up his ROCK ‘N’ ROLL battle cry with perhaps one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs in history, “Johnny B. Goode.”

Johnny Winter was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. In 1969, Winter signed with Columbia Records in one of the largest solo deals of the time. Winter was enticed to join his first band after listening to local deejay J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper of “Chantilly Lace fame”) spinning 50s rock ‘n’ roll music over the airwaves. But it was the blues that would become his essence, and his admiration for legendary American blues artists like Robert Johnson, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters to name just a few.
Winters first album was entitled, The Progressive Blues Experiment originally issued by Austin’s Sonobeat Records in 1968, and rereleased by Columbia Records in 1969. Winter’s self-titled second album with Columbia was also released that year, the album included covers by Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and B.B. King. Winter’s successful debut album set the stage for an appearance at the famed Woodstock Festival in New York. Winter was not included in the Woodstock movie or initial soundtrack because of contractual issues between Steve Paul (Johnny’s former manager) and festival organizers.

Johnny Winter’s next album, Second Winter, featured some of his predominant concert setlist material, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” and Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” In 1970 Winter formed a new band featuring several members of The McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy”) including legendary guitarist and songwriter Rick Derringer. Steve Paul was also The McCoys manager and responsible for bringing them together. The band released, Live Johnny Winter And spotlighting Derringer’s penned, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” It was during this time that Winter fell under the spell of Heroin addiction.

In 1973, Johnny Winter returned to the music scene with his fifth studio album, Still Alive and Well followed by Saints and Sinners (1974) and Captured Live (1976).

In 1977, Chess Records, long-time record label for legendary blues guitarist and vocalist Muddy Waters, dissolved. Johnny Winter revitalized Waters by inviting him into the studio to record what would be recognized as Muddy Waters comeback album. Winter produced and played on the Chicago-style electric blues album entitled, Hard Again. It was Muddy Waters first album released on Blue Sky Records, a label created by Steve Paul for Columbia. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording.

Johnny Winter continued to produce and play on several studio albums and a best-selling Live album with his good friend Muddy Waters … I’m Ready (1978), Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live (1979) and King Bee (1981) Waters final release. Two of those albums won Grammy Awards. The string of Johnny Winter albums initiated for Muddy Waters produced the most lucrative period in the career of the legendary bluesman. Muddy Waters died in 1983.

Since 1984, Johnny Winter focused solely on blues oriented-material in the recording studio.
Most recently, Winter headlined the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, Swedish Rock Fest and Europe’s Rockplast. Winter performed with The Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theater for their 40th Anniversary of the bands inception. He’s also performed at the 2007 and 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festivals.
In 2008, The Gibson Guitar Company released the Johnny Winter signature Firebird guitar in a ceremony presented by Slash (Guns N’ Roses guitarist) in Nashville.
Johnny Winter continues to earn the title of one the hardest working performers in the music business by consistently touring worldwide. His latest release is befittingly entitled “Roots.” It’s the heyday of Winter with back to basics blues. I give it (5) stars. The album features compositions by some of Johnny’s favorite blues artists and includes guest performances by … Vince Gill, Warren Haynes, John Popper, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, selected by Johnny’s producer/manager and guitarist Paul Nelson.

Producer Paul Nelson told me that this may be the first in a series of Johnny Winter traditional blues CD’s featuring incredible guest artists.
Johnny Winter’s latest tour kicked off in late July and ends in Paris April 2013. The tour is billed as the ‘Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest’ and ‘Hippiefest’ depending on the city. The concert headlines Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Leslie West (Mountain) and Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown). Hippiefest arrives at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Fl on Saturday, August 25th at 7p.m. Purchase tickets at

The Johnny Winter band is: Johnny Winter (guitar and vocals), Paul Nelson (guitar), Scott Spray (bass), and Vito Liuzzi (drums).

I had the rare opportunity to chat with Johnny Winter and his producer/manager Paul Nelson on Wednesday. We talked about “Roots,” the upcoming tour, Johnny’s lifesaving rehabilitation from prescription drugs, a healthier Johnny, and the future of the blues.
Here’s my interview with legendary blues & rock ‘n’ roll guitarist/ singer/ songwriter/ JOHNNY WINTER and Johnny’s manager/producer/guitarist/songwriter/Paul Nelson.
Ray Shasho: Greetings from Florida … thank you both for being on the call today.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “Our pleasure Ray … we’re going to be down in Florida pretty soon with the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest.”
Ray Shasho: We’re actually calling the show Hippiefest in Clearwater.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “I guess Hippiefest is an occurrence that happens every year, but I don’t think anybody really wanted to be called a Hippie, so somebody decided to change the name to Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest.”
Ray Shasho: Paul, the latest release, “Roots” is just that … back to the heyday of Johnny Winter. It’s a great album … the Blues needed this album.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “Thank you, that’s what I was trying to achieve for him as a producer and it was an honor for me to get that job. But there is resurgence, maybe not a huge resurgence, but certainly an appreciation for it. To bring these songs back and be part of Johnny’s comeback with all those guest artists contributing, and Johnny contributing what made him tick … it was a great thing.”
“Now we’re going to do Roots 2 … this could be an ongoing series, it’s is a serious deal.”
Ray Shasho: Have you thought about the guest lineup of artists for Roots 2 yet?
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “Eric Johnson couldn’t make it for the last one so he’s definitely on the list, Billy Gibbons said yes; working on Eric Clapton, Dr. John couldn’t make it because he was in the studio, Gregg Allman was in the hospital at the time, we’ve got Mark Kopfler working on “Okey Dokey Stomp.” Nobody is saying no …so that’s great.”
Ray Shasho: I know an incredible guitarist up in Montreal who would probably love to play on it, by the name of Frank Marino.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “We just talked about that the other day, we’d love to have him on it, and we’re actually working on that. You’re the second or third person who has mentioned Frank, and it just makes sense because he’s a huge Johnny fan. I was a big fan of Frank’s as a guitar player myself. Frank Marino, Tommy Bolin, Jeff Beck … I was more of a blues-fusion guy. If Johnny knew the kind of music that I use to play, it would probably scare him.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve followed Johnny Winter’s career since his first album with Columbia Records and have always thought of Johnny as 50 percent rock ‘n’ roll and 50 percent the blues. Do you think he’d consider a pure rock ‘n’ roll album with guest artists as well?
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “He’s told me this many times before … at the height of his rock period, when he was playing to sold out arenas etc …he really felt like he was selling himself short. He really and sincerely did not want to be part of that. It was his manager’s idea and the sign of the times. He realizes now how important it was for him, but he felt like he sold out to the blues. But because who he was in a rock band and listened to so many blues artists, he actually helped the blues during that period more than any other blues artist, because he cited Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and all those guys. But sure … I’d love to see him do that and an acoustic album as well.”
“Johnny is doing so great now; the Letterman show was great, the DVD, the Roots album, and he’s really having one hell of a comeback. So, it’s opened so many possibilities for him now that he’s back on his game and it’s really nice to see. Playing guitar with him is an honor, helping his career is an honor, and it’s just great to see him enjoying himself and back to where he should have been ten years ago.”
Ray Shasho: I covered Johnny’s last appearance in Clearwater at the Capitol Theatre and the thing I noticed immediately was how much weight he had gained ... but in a healthier way!
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “It’s natural weight, not fake weight from drugs and alcohol. And also now you’ll see … he’s standing, which is like a miracle. He’s the only guy I know as he’s getting older he’s getting younger because he’s getting back to where he should be.”
Ray Shasho: He’s gone from rushing back and forth … almost a blur on the stage, while screaming ROCK ‘N’ ROLL at the audience, compared to last year’s performance where he’s sitting down in a chair on stage for the entire show.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “With blues players it can be part of the ambience to sit down on stage, but to be in that shape before his time …it just shouldn’t be. Old management let that happen. In blues years he’s still a young guy. I’m just trying to give him back how any musician would have wanted to be treated if they got into that condition and didn’t know what to do.”
Ray Shasho: When did you and Johnny first meet?
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “About eight years ago we were at the Carriage House, I was recording for the World Wrestling people and he was in the next room recording I’m a Bluesman. He sent his management in and had me meet him. He said, “Hey you sound pretty good, I like the way you play, I’m looking for a couple of songs for my new record, do you want to write some?” I said, okay. The next day, I wrote and recorded three tunes for his album and he loved it. Then he asked me if I wanted to play on his album. I said, okay. Then he asked why don’t you come tour with me … I said, okay. So a friendship developed and we understood each other musically.”
Ray Shasho: Paul, you were obviously meant to come into Johnny’s life and save your hero.
Johnny’s manager, producer, guitarist Paul Nelson: “It was very hard to watch. The stuff that’s described in interviews and in books is just the tip of a very big iceberg. I saw stuff that I didn’t think could happen to people. Just very bad …it’s a movie.”
JOHNNY WINTER got on the phone next.
Ray Shasho: I remember when they use to say that James Brown was the hardest working man in show business … I’ve got to say without a doubt these days its Johnny Winter. I chat with a lot of legendary musicians who tell me that they want to slow down when it comes to touring at this point in their lives, and those long tours are over for them. How do you consistently tour every year the way you do?
Johnny Winter: “It’s fun … I like to play. Touring gets a little hard but playing never does.”
Ray Shasho: Paul says you’d never do another rock n’ roll album again, I was thinking maybe a traditional rock album with special guest artists like you did on Roots.
Johnny Winter: “The only rock ‘n’ roll I ever liked was, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis … I‘d never want to do a whole rock and roll record. I like the blues too much.”
Ray Shasho: Paul and I also imagined Johnny Winter experimenting with a little fusion.
Johnny Winter: “(Laughing) Never happen … I don’t like fusion.”
Ray Shasho: You helped out one of your idols, Muddy Waters, by inviting him into the studio after his record label Chess Records went out of business. You produced and played on a series of blues albums with Muddy and not only rejuvenated Waters career, but also rejuvenated the blues.
Johnny Winter: “Yea, that was great, I just loved doing that. Muddy was just one of the coolest people that I ever met. I loved him as a person, loved his music, and I really miss him. They’ll never be another one like him.”
Ray Shasho: Blues artists were usually perceived as hanging out and jamming all night while drinking Jack Daniels.
Johnny Winter: “Muddy Waters drank Champagne, he couldn’t drink Whiskey anymore. His doctor told him he had to stop drinking Whiskey. He drank so much Whiskey that his eyes were bleeding, so he stopped.”
Ray Shasho: Johnny … got a good story about Muddy Waters?
Johnny Winter: “He said the real reason we made the album Hard Again was because the music was so good it made his pee- pee hard again (All laughing).”
Ray Shasho: You developed a thumb picking style for playing the guitar by watching Chet Atkins; did you ever get a chance to play with him?
Johnny Winter: I love Chet and his music … never got a chance to meet him. My first guitar teacher also played with a thumb pick and got me into doing that.
Ray Shasho: Are you particular about what slides you use when you’re performing on stage?
Johnny Winter: “I’ve always used the same metal slide for years and years.” (Dunlop recently manufactured the Johnny Winter Signature Texas Slide)
Ray Shasho: I watched an interview that you did talking about the early days of experimenting with various types of slides.
Johnny Winter: “Yea, stuff that just didn’t work very good. I tried my wristwatch and screwed up the crystal, and then I tried lipstick holders and test tubes.
Ray Shasho: You and Brother Edgar are both gifted musicians, were you guys ever musically competitive?
Johnny Winter: “No, we always worked good together. He always liked jazz more and I never really understood jazz. He wasn’t particularly a blues fan but probably wanted to. But we’ve played together for years.”
Ray Shasho: Johnny, you’ve performed and collaborated with so many important artists over the years. Here’s your “Field of Dreams” moment, if you had a wish, what artist past or present would you like to jam or collaborate with?
Johnny Winter: “Robert Johnson.”
Ray Shasho: Is Robert Johnson the father of the blues?
Johnny Winter: “Son House and Charlie Patton were around before Robert … but Robert was better.”
Ray Shasho: Ever since I can remember … there has always been a mystique encompassing Robert Johnson’s life, especially the “Crossroads” urban legend. What are your thoughts about the “Crossroads” claim?
Johnny Winter: “I just don’t believe it … I don’t think you can sell your soul to the devil. Tommy Johnson, the blues artist that Canned Heat (“Canned Heat Blues”) got their name from, said he really did sell his soul to the devil.”
Ray Shasho: Has he ever tried to make a deal with you Johnny?
Johnny Winter: “No, I’d never do that … I believe in God, I’m a Christian.”
Ray Shasho: What do you remember most about Woodstock?
Johnny Winter: “All I remember is that it was a mess … rainy and muddy and nobody knew what was going on, I remember it just being really confusing. We left as soon as we got through playing.”
Ray Shasho: Gregg Rolie told me he stuck around to watch Sly and The Family Stone play. And speaking of Sly Stone, you performed on his latest album… I’m Back! Family and Friends. How’s Sly doing?
Johnny Winter: “I never saw him. But I don’t think he’s doing that well he’s still smoking crack. It’s a real shame.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve got the new “Live in Tokyo” DVD in HD out now, and your book Raisin’ Cain is an incredible story. Johnny, thank you so much for being on the call today, but especially for all the incredible music you gave to us over the years.
Johnny Winter: “I loved every minute of it. See you Ray.”

HIPPIEFEST headlines a fantastic lineup of rock and blues legendary artists featuring- Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer, Leslie West and Kim Simmonds. Purchase tickets for the August 25th show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Fl online at

Johnny Winter official website
Paul Nelson official website
Order Johnny Winter’s latest release “ROOTS” at or
Buy the Authorized and Definitive Biography of Johnny Winter at
Very special thanks to John Lappen of Bullseye Management and Jeff Albright of The Albright Entertainment Group.

Coming up… interviews with Annie Haslam of Renaissance and Gong guitarist Steve Hillage

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