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.