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Guitar Legend Johnny Winter Talks the Blues Before Peconic Bay Show

With his first album in eight years about to be released, legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter will play Peconic Bay Winery this coming Sunday afternoon.

To legendary guitar slinger Johnny Winter, the blues-rock scene he was key in helping to cultivate in the late '60s and throughout the next four decades is waning in popularity.

“Only a few younger people show up these days,” said Winter during a phone interview this past Friday just before a performance in Northampton, Mass.

Despite being a bit depressed about the state of modern popular music, Winter, 67, is still touring and playing the same electrifying music he always has: gutsy Texas blues with an unmistakable thick tone and a studied technique only the best of the best could emulate.

Growing up in Beaumont, Texas — first to the sounds of early rock ‘n’ roll on the radio, then to live artists who channeled the spirit of raw bluesmen like Robert Johnson and Son House – Winter broke into the music business in 1969 with a deal on Columbia Records. He laid down fresh interpretations of classic blues that would inspire generations of blues-rock guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Winter, who says he's been clean for about 10 years now after a lifelong addiction to drugs and alcohol, just finished up recording “Roots” — his first new CD in eight years and an homage to the powerful classic blues that continues to shape his career. All-star guest musicians on the album include Gregg Allman, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Susan Tedeschi, and Johnny's brother, Edgar Winter.

North Fork Patch got to ask Winter a few questions before he takes the stage on Sunday at in Cutchogue.

Q: Those roots songs you grew up listening to – would you say that you always return to them when you’re creating something new?

A: Yes. They are the songs I’ve always loved growing up. They are always there.

Q: You’ve been described as being “genuinely possessed by the blues” all of your life – do you ever remember a time when you weren’t or thought about doing something else outside of music?

A: Never. It was always music. My father played the banjo and my mother played the piano. I didn’t discover the blues until I was about 12 years old, and when I heard it, I couldn’t believe it — what is this music?

Q: How do you feel when you look out at the state of rock and blues today?

A: Music is not nearly as good as it was 40 years ago. It’s a real drag. Derek Trucks is probably the best younger player around.

Q: You became clean and sober about 10 years ago — do you have a few words to describe living life as a sober musician?

A: It’s much better. You know what’s going on around you, and you appreciate things more.

Q: Even though you feel the music scene is more depressing than ever?

A: (Laughs) Yeah.

Laura Hoch June 15, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Completely awesome in my opinion.
Rusty Wright June 16, 2011 at 02:22 PM
I had the honor of working with Johnny at the Whiting in MI thia past April. He is by far one of the best guitarslingers alive. Thanks JW! www.rustywrightband.com
Erin Schultz (Editor) June 16, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Laura and Rusty -- I agree - one of the best who doesn't get a whole lot of recognition for it or his influence. Nice talking to him and can't wait for the show on Sunday!

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