Blues rock guitar legend and Texan Johnny Winter passed away yesterday (Wednesday, July 16th) in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland, at the age of 70. A statement by his representative, Carla Parisi, confirming the news also said, “His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of their loved one and one of the world’s finest guitarists.”
The cause of death is still unclear, and an autopsy was ordered to confirm that medical/ health issues noted earlier were the cause, as opposed to some third party involvement. American Blues Scene and Jenda Derringer, wide of Rick Derringer, Winter’s former bandmate, were the first to report Winter’s death. Jenda posted on Facebook, “[Johnny] was not in good health and was very frail and weak.” Ed Mitchell, editor of Blues Magazine also said, “It’s no secret that Johnny has battled with ill health for many years — but he seemed to transcend that struggle when he played live. No one’s slide tone was as sweet, searing, stinging or fiery. Johnny Winter blazing away on a Gibson Firebird is an iconic blues image. He was the greatest slide blues guitarist that ever lived. We’ll always have him to thank for pulling Muddy Waters out of his funk in the Seventies and helping him record some of his greatest work: ‘Hard Again’, ‘I’m Ready’ and ‘King Bee’. All essential.”
Winter gained renown in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s for his amazingly fast live blues guitar solos. Aided by Rolling Stone’s praise calling him “one of the best blues guitarists on the Texas scene,” he soon found himself collaborating with other greats like Muddy Waters and Johnny Lee Hooker. Later labeled one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone and securing a record contract with Columbia Records, Winter became an ambassador of blues music, was respected as a singer and rock guitar player, and became known as the link between British blues-rock and American Southern rock.
John Dawson ‘Johnny’ Winter III was very active up until the end and was set to release a new studio album, “Step Back”, on September 2nd via Megaforce Records. An extensive tour brought him to Europe this year, where he had his last performance Saturday at the Lovely Days Festival in Wiesen, Austria. When he spoke to JournalStar.com last month, he said, “When I was about 12, I knew I wanted to be a musician. The blues had so much emotion and so much feeling; if you don’t have that, you’re not going to be good at it. I’ve never won a Grammy on my own — I’d like to do that. The ones I’ve got have been with Muddy. I’ve been nominated a lot of times but never won. I just hope I’m remembered as a good blues musician.”