Johnny Winter

The Beaumont-born blues guitarist riffs on fighting, fake ID's, and life in Connecticut.
GO JOHNNY GO: "You had to be able to play everything."
Illustration by Randall Enos

Although he left the state more than thirty years ago, Johnny Winter will always be a "Texas guitar slinger." After a two-year hiatus from touring in the mid-nineties, the Beaumont native hit the road again in 1997. Earlier this year Sony released his first "best of" compilation, featuring vintage performances of fan favorites like "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" and "Still Alive and Well" with his brother, Edgar Winter, on various instruments, rock veteran Rick Derringer as second guitarist, and Austin's Tommy Shannon on bass. Now 58, Winter is currently recording a new studio album for Virgin's Pointblank label, scheduled for release next fall.

Where do you live these days?

I left Houston in 1969 and lived in New York City until two years ago. Now I have a house in the country near Easton, Connecticut. My wife likes to garden.

What kind of memories do you have of growing up in Beaumont?
I got in a lot of fights.

Do you mean typical school yard-type stuff?
Yeah.

Did the area influence you musically?
There was a lot of good music in Louisiana. We played there more than in Texas. You could buy beer there when you were 18 and you couldn't buy beer until you were 21 in Texas. I was 15 when we started playing in clubs. I had a fake ID.

What kind of music were you exposed to during that time?

A little bit of everything. You had to be able to play everything.

Didn't you frequently play in Austin during the late sixties, when it was becoming a big town for music?
Yes, I started the whole thing. We were one of the few bands to play in the hippie clubs there. We spent a lot of time in Austin, but I never lived there.

Where else did you play in Texas?
The Raven Club in Beaumont. They had acts like Junior Parker and Muddy Waters. I sat in with B. B. King there when I was fifteen. I couldn't believe it. B.B. tells the story all the time. He thought that we were from the IRS, coming to get him for his income taxes.

Did other white musicians play there?
I don't think so.

And you got a good response from the audience?
Yeah.

Why do you think that was?
I played realistically, you know?

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