Johnny Winter started playing guitar when he was 12 years old. Then he was on his way.
“I’d been playing three years when I made my first record,” the blues/rock guitarist/singer said in a phone interview with The Goshen News last week. “And by then I thought I was doing pretty well for only playing three years.”
The Texas native grew up in a musical family. His father played banjo and saxophone, and his mother played the piano. His brother Edgar has a musical bent, too. He’d later play with his brother live and on record. Some of multi-instrumentalist Edgar Winter’s work is familiar to classic rock radio listeners — think “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.”
Johnny? He’s the kind of guitar player other players want to be. He’s been lauded in the pages of Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 guitarists ever (#63, for the curious). Winter’s work has speed, grit, feel and fire. His slide playing can hit like it wants to carve a piece out of something.
Winter’s musical gifts will be on display in Michiana this weekend. He’s scheduled to play a Saturday show at the Club Fever venue in South Bend.
Winter came to fame in the late ‘60s, a prime period for blues-centric guitar rock. British players including Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton — taking a cue from American blues — were making loud, inspired noise, too.
“Oh, I liked those people a lot,” Winters said of the British contingent. “Course we were in competition with each other, but I really didn’t think of it that way. I just figured we were all doing the same thing. The English guys helped the American people to get into blues. Before that, nobody cared.”
“Nobody” didn’t include Winter. The blues made an impact on him early on.