Winter, Johnny and Edgar

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Winter, Johnny and Edgar

Winter, Johnny and Edgar, blues guitarists/

keyboardists, saxophonists. Membership:Johnny Winter, gtr., voc. (b. Leland, Miss., Feb. 23,1944); Edgar Winter, kybd., sax., voc. (b. Beaumont, Tex., Dec. 28, 1946).

Offered a lucrative contract by Columbia Records in 1969, blues guitarist Johnny Winter was initially hailed as rock music’s next superstar, yet he failed to live up to his record company’s publicity. Nonetheless, he recorded several best-selling albums with producer-guitarist Rick Derringer, including 1973’s Still Alive and Well. Johnny’s keyboardist-saxophonist brother Edgar Winter fared better commercially, first with White Trash, then later with the Edgar Winter Group. That group included guitarists Ronnie Montrose and Rick Derringer for their best-selling They Only Come Out at Night album and top hit single “Frankenstein.” In the late 1970s Johnny Winter brought blues legend Muddy Waters a modicum of recognition by producing his albums for Blue Sky Records. However, neither Johnny nor Edgar Winter were able to reestablish their 1970s popularity in the 1980s or 1990s.

Johnny and Edgar Winter, born albinos, grew up in Beaumont, Tex., where Johnny took up clarinet at age 6, later graduating to ukelele then guitar by age 11. Edgar learned keyboards and saxophone, and the brothers formed Johnny and the Jammers around 1959. The brothers toured the Southern club circuit in a group called Black Plague in the early 1960s. Johnny briefly traveled to Chicago in 1962, subsequently manning Edgar’s band from 1964 to 1966. Johnny ended up in Houston and began backing local bluesmen and recording for regional labels. In April 1968 Johnny formed Winter with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer John “Red” Turner for various Tex. engagements, and the group was briefly praised in a Rolling Stone article about the Tex. music scene in its Dec. 2, 1968, issue, which led to a flurry of interest in the artist.

Johnny Winter was sought out by N.Y. entrepreneur Steve Paul, who booked Winter into his N.Y. club, The Scene. Graduating to the Fillmore East, Winter was signed to Columbia Records for hundreds of thousands of dollars in 1969, an unprecedented amount for an unproved artist. Accompanied by a massive publicity campaign, Winter’s debut Columbia album sold quite well without yielding a hit single. He recorded Second Winter in Nashville with brother Edgar, who signed with Epic Records and recorded his debut, Entrance, virtually by himself. In 1970 Johnny Winter formed Johnny Winter and with former McCoys Rick and Randy Zehringer, but their debut album sold poorly, despite the inclusion of the original version of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” written by Rick Zehringer, now using the last name Derringer. The live follow-up became the best-selling album of Johnny Winter’s career, but he soon went into semi-retirement, suffering from exhaustion, depression, and heroin addiction.

By 1971 Edgar Winter had formed White Trash with guitarist Floyd Radford and vocalist Jerry LaCroix, scoring a minor hit with “Keep Playinr That Rock ’n’ Roll/’ Rick Derringer supplanted Radford for the best-selling live set Roadwork, which featured Derringer’s “Still Alive and Well” and a new version of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” Winter subsequently formed the Edgar Winter Band with guitarist Ronnie Montrose and multi-instrumentalist Dan Hartman. With Derringer producing, They Only Come Out at Night became the best-selling album of Edgar’s career, yielding a top hit with the instrumental “Frankenstein” and a major hit with “Free Ride.” With Derringer replacing Montrose, Shock Treatment produced the moderate hit “River’s Risin’.”

Johnny Winter reemerged in 1973 with Still Alive and Well, his most critically successful album. It included Derringer’s title song as well as the Winter originals “Rock and Roll” and “Too Much Seconal,” and “Silver Train,” written for him by Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After Saints and Sinners, Johnny Winter switched to Steve Paul’s Blue Sky label, where he recorded four albums and produced four albums for blues legend Muddy Waters. In 1975 Edgar Winter recorded the solo jazz-style Jasmine Nightdreams for Blue Sky and a final album with The Edgar Winter Group. In 1976 Johnny and Edgar Winter recorded the modest-selling album Together.

Edgar recorded two final albums for Blue Sky through the early 1980s, reemerging in the late 1980s to tour with Leon Russell. Johnny Winter continued to record into the 1990s, first for the Chicago-based Alligator label, then one album for MCA/Voyager, and three albums for Pointblank and Relix in the 1990s.


JOHNNY WINTER Raw to the Bone (1967) (1993); Early Times (1970); The Progressive Blues Experiment (1969); /. W.(1969); Second Winter (1969); /. W. And (1970); /. W. And—Live (1971); Still Alive and Well (1973); Saints and Sinners (1974); Scorchin’ Blues (1992); A Rock ’n Roll Collection (1994); Ready for Winter (1981); John Dawson Winter III (1974); Captured Live (1976); Nothin but the Blues (1977); White, Hot and Blue (1978); Raisin’ Cain (1980); Guitar Slinger (1984); Serious Business (1985); 3rd Degree (1986); The Winter of ’88 (1988); Let Me In (1991); Hey, Where’s Your Brother (1992); The Winter Scene (1990). JOHNNY AND EDGAR WINTER: Together Live (1976). JOHNNY WINTER/SONNY TERRY/WILLIE DIXON: Whoopin’ (1984). EDGAR WINTER: Entrance (1970); Jasmine Nightdreams (1975); The E. W. Album (1979); Standing on Rock (1981); Mission Earth (1989); The E. W. Collection (1989). EDGAR WINTER’S WHITE TRASH: White Trash (1971); Road Work (1972); Recycled (1977). THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP: They Only Come Out at Night (1972); Shock Treatment (1974); The E. W. Group with Rick Derringer (1975).

—Brock Helander