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Blues Legend Johnny Winter Dies at 70 in Zurich


GENEVA (AP) -- Texas blues legend Johnny Winter, known for his lightning-fast blues guitar riffs, his striking long white hair and his collaborations with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and childhood hero Muddy Waters, has died. He was 70.

Winter was a leading light among the white blues guitar players, including Eric Clapton and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, who followed in the footsteps of the earlier Chicago blues masters. Winter idolized Waters - and got a chance to produce some of the blues legend's more popular albums. Rolling Stone magazine named Winter one of the top 100 guitarists of all time.

His representative, Carla Parisi, confirmed Thursday that Winter died in a hotel room in Zurich a day earlier. The statement said his wife, family and bandmates were all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists.

There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

Winter had been on an extensive tour this year that recently brought him to Europe. His last performance came Saturday at the Lovely Days Festival in Wiesen, Austria.

The tour, a documentary that premiered at the SXSW Festival exploring his music, youth and substance abuse battles, and a newly released four-CD set of recordings were all part of Winter's celebration of turning 70 this year.

John Dawson Winter III was born on Feb. 23, 1944, in Mississippi, but was raised in Beaumont, Texas. He was the older brother of Edgar Winter, also an albino, who rose to musical fame with the Edgar Winter Group.

Winter was one of the most popular live acts of the early 1970s, when his signature fast blues guitar solos attracted a wide following. But his addiction problems with heroin during that decade and later battles with alcohol and prescription medication, including methadone, also drew attention.

His career received a big boost early on when Rolling Stone singled him out as one of the best blues guitarists on the Texas scene. This helped secure a substantial recording contract from Columbia Records in 1969 that led to an appearance at the Woodstock Festival and gave him a wide following among college students and young blues fans.

Crowds were dazzled by the speed - and volume - of his guitar playing, which had its roots in urban blues but incorporated elements of rock `in roll.

Winters paid homage to Waters on "Tribute to Muddy," a song from his 1969 release "The Progressive Blues Experiment." He continued to pick up accolades, producing three Grammy Award-winning albums for Waters and recording with John Lee Hooker, which helped revive their careers.

Winter performed often with blues and rock singer Janis Joplin and the two became close during the 1960s.

Among the blues classics that Winter played during that era were "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Bad Luck and Trouble" and "Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl." He also teamed up with his brother Edgar for their 1976 live album "Together."

He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988.

There was no immediate word on funeral services.


Gregory Katz contributed from London.

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houserentblues July 17 2014 at 8:38 AM

Thank you Johnny for all you have given us.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
jeffsebay777 July 17 2014 at 8:50 AM

A legend is the right word here. One of the all time greats. Heavens band just got a lot better.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
2 replies
James Zucco jeffsebay777 July 17 2014 at 11:08 AM


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Cathy Sapp jeffsebay777 July 17 2014 at 2:40 PM

And each and every musician that joins it makes it that much better, too bad we cannot hear them play now....what great music that would be.

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mrodr281 July 17 2014 at 10:01 AM

Hands down one of the best guitarist to ever pick up a guitar. Johnny always acknowledged his source of inspiration and added his special touch. RIP.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
diane mrodr281 July 17 2014 at 10:09 AM

I saw Johnny and his brother Edgar at the Commordore in Lowell Ma. in the 70's. They were both legends in music and Johnny is sadly missed.

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jackstonealone July 17 2014 at 8:59 AM

So sad. He was a super super guitarist!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
doral31730 July 17 2014 at 9:56 AM

I remember being at the Lone Star Cafe in NYC back in the 70's when he appeared with John Belushi and did a guess set and they brought the house down.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
Kate doral31730 July 17 2014 at 2:42 PM

Wow, I wish I had seen that. It's been a long time since I've heard anyone mention Lone Star, and I used to go there too. Funny how people forget Belushi was a musician too (although I'm certainly not comparing him to Johnny, who was in a class of his own.)

I bet I heard about it at the time and simply forgot over the years. Thanks for the reminder.

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meatiger July 17 2014 at 8:54 AM

Forever riding Highway 61 old Amigo. Watchin' the river flow. See you on the road.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
kryjef July 17 2014 at 10:06 AM

rest in peace my friend

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lafeef July 17 2014 at 9:15 AM

God bless Johnny! See you again someday.

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madkono July 17 2014 at 10:04 AM

was lucky enough to see him a few times, when i lived in nyc!!! one time he showed up at a muddy waters concert, and another edgar showed up at his!!! long live johnny!!!

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2 replies
rter45 madkono July 17 2014 at 8:18 PM

Was that at the Bottom Line when Edgar showed?? I saw them together there. Caught him a number of times in NYC also. Saw him opening for others a couple of times too. He will be missed. RIP

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Nancy madkono July 19 2014 at 8:23 AM

Ahem, Johnny can't "long live." The article informs you of his recent passing. It's hard to "long live" when you're already dead.

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keyboardplayer63 July 17 2014 at 11:43 AM

Another Great dies!!!!! He was an awesome guitarist!!!!!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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