The extraordinary four decade-plus recording career of seminal Texas blues-rocking guitar legend Johnny Winter, who celebrates his 70th birthday on February 23, 2014, will be commemorated with the release of True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story. This deluxe 4-CD box set, includes 56 tracks that span his major label career from 1968 until his most recent album of 2011, will be available everywhere February 25, 2014, through Columbia/Legacy.
The two-time Grammy Award®-nominated, perennially touring Johnny Winter will play a special birthday night performance at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill at Times Square in New York City on Sunday, February 23, 2014. Tickets are available for $30 in advance and $35 day of show. For tickets go to http://www.bbkingblues.com/bio.php?id=3309.
"If it was not for Johnny Winter," said Joe Perry of Aerosmith, "I would have never picked up the guitar!" The testimonial is one of nearly 20 that accompany the box set, from such guitar luminaries as Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Carlos Santana, Steven Tyler, Billy Gibbons, Joe Satriani, Derek Trucks, Gregg Allman, Leslie West, Vince Gill, Glenn Tipton, Mark Knopfler, and many more. "A lot of people play the blues," said Charlie Daniels, "but there's only a handful who can reach deep into the music and make it real. Johnny Winter can take you on a ride. Juke joints and cotton fields, rotgut whiskey and back alley crap games, lowdown, lonesome, trifling women and hard times. That's the blues, y'all."
True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story lives up to its title with a chronological track sequence of studio and live material that underscores Johnny Winter's hard-won reputation as an American blues master. The contents are sourced from no less than 27 separate albums on the Imperial, Columbia, Blue Sky/Epic, Alligator, Point Blank (Virgin), Friday Music, Megaforce, and Columbia/Legacy labels. These range from his independently recorded and released The Progressive Blues Experiment of 1968 ("Bad Luck And Trouble," "Mean Town Blues") up through 2011's all-star duets project, Roots ("Maybelline" with Vince Gill, "Dust My Broom" with Derek Trucks).
Guests abound throughout True To The Blues, starting with the third track as fellow blues guitar giant Michael Bloomfield introduces Johnny Winter to the Fillmore East audience in December 1968, during a "Super Session" live concert date with Al Kooper. It was Winter's first trip to New York City, on the heels of a Texas music scene survey on the newsstands that week in Rolling Stone magazine (not yet one year old!). The issue, coupled with his incendiary playing on an 11-minute jam of John Lee Hooker's "It's My Own Fault," shot the unknown and unsigned-to-a-record-label Johnny Winter to stardom. His six-figure signing with Columbia was reportedly the biggest advance in the CBS Records era to that point in history. Winter would be signed with CBS through 1980.
Among other notable musicians on True To The Blues are Dr. John on "Illustrated Man," recorded in Chicago, 1991. A year later, Winter was invited to the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden, to reprise his blistering version of "Highway 61 Revisited," one of two indelible covers of Dylan, along with Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," that defined the closing of the '60s. Joining Winter at MSG was that night's all-star 'house band' of G.E. Smith, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Anton Fig, and Jim Keltner.
True To The Blues not only showcases Winter and the band lineups he has led over the years, many of them (up through 1976) including his brother Edgar on vocals and an array of instruments (keyboards, reeds, drums). A blues lover's dream collection, the box set also pays homage to the great forebears who influenced Winter, and with whom he was able to record during his long career, among them:
•Willie Dixon and Walter "Shakey" Horton (together on "Mean Mistreater" from Winter's self-titled Columbia debut LP, 1969); and
•Muddy Waters and his band featuring James Cotton, "Pinetop" Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (in the studio on Muddy's "Walkin' Thru The Park," and live on Guitar Slim's "I Done Got Over It," both from 1977).
(It is noted that Johnny Winter produced and played guitar on the final four LPs recorded by his hero Muddy Waters after he left Chess Records. The first three of those titles won consecutive Grammy Awards® as "Best Ethnic Or Traditional [i.e. Blues] Recording," namely Hard Again (1977), I'm Ready (1978), and Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live (1979).)
True To The Blues also draws tracks from Winter's two Grammy Award®-nominated albums:
•Guitar Slinger, nominated for Best Traditional Blues Recording at the 27th Grammy Awards (February, 1985); and
•Serious Business, nominated for Best Traditional Blues Recording at the 28th Grammy Awards (February, 1986).
At the core of True To The Blues are the six albums that Winter recorded for Columbia Records: Johnny Winter (1969), Second Winter (1969), Johnny Winter And (1970), Johnny Winter And/Live (1971), Still Alive And Well (1973), and Saints & Sinners (1975). There were also six albums that he recorded for manager Steve Paul's Blue Sky Records (distributed by Columbia's sister imprint, Epic/Portrait/Associated Labels, or E/P/A): John Dawson Winter III (1974), Together (1976), Captured Live! (1976), Nothin' But The Blues (1977), White, Hot & Blue (1978), and Raisin' Cain (1980).
In addition, True To The Blues draws tracks from a number of historic Columbia/Legacy projects: Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (2003), The Woodstock Experience (2009), Second Winter: Legacy Edition (2004), and Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down (2007).
In addition to Winter's formidable catalog of original albums on Columbia and Blue Sky, True To The Blues revisits a lost classic of rock history, the Columbia three-LP package of 1970 known as The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies - Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop. Previously unavailable on CD, it starred (in Atlanta) Johnny Winter And, Poco, the Chambers Brothers, the Allman Brothers, and Mountain; and (at Isle Of Wight, UK) Sly and the Family Stone, Cactus, David Bromberg, Ten Years After, Procol Harum, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix, Kris Kristofferson, and Miles Davis.
In the pole position, side one, track one of that remarkable vinyl collectors item was "Mean Mistreater" by Johnny Winter And (his group with Rick Derringer and bassist Randy Hobbs, with Edgar sitting in on drums), as recorded live at the [Second] Atlanta International Pop Festival, their only appearance on the triple-record. True To The Blues now adds two more previously unreleased numbers, Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Eyesight To The Blind" (cf. the Who's Tommy) and Johnny's take on "Prodigal Son."
True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story was produced by Jerry Rappaport, and executive produced by Paul Nelson, Johnny's guitarist and manager. The compilation was mastered by multiple Grammy Award®-winner Mark Wilder at Battery Studios in New York.
"For well over five decades," writes Guitar World magazine editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski in his liner notes for True To The Blues, "John Dawson 'Johnny' Winter III has produced and played on some of the most exciting blues and rock recordings in the history of both genres." The writer's newly researched 4,000-word essay includes fresh, revealing interview material from Johnny Winter. Tolinski has annotated previous releases from AC/DC, Charlie Christian, and Jeff Healey, and penned the notes for the double-CD, The Essential Johnny Winter (released April 2013 on Columbia/Legacy).
The notes touch on every facet of Winter's life and career: Growing up in Beaumont, Texas, influenced by his musical parents as well as the likes of Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Hubert Sumlin and Chuck Berry; his early trio with bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer "Uncle" John (Red) Turner (as heard on the first two Columbia LPs); a pivotal wee-hours association with Jimi Hendrix in New York centering around Steve Paul's The Scene ultra-hip nightclub on 46th Street; his popular triumph at Woodstock but his regrettable absence from the movie; the transition to working in the '70s with post-McCoys Rick Derringer ("Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo") and Muddy Waters; the origins of dozens of tracks, from "Johnny B. Goode" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" to "Harlem Shuffle" and "Bony Moronie"; his return to the blues, with "a renewed sense of confidence and a big shot of inspiration" in the '80s; and the "artistic renaissance" that has kept Johnny Winter at the absolute pinnacle of guitar heroes around the world to this day.
"His absolute command of traditional music," the notes sum up, "has earned him the respect of serious musicologists, while his tremendous agility, wicked speed and full-tilt aggression on the electric guitar and acoustic bottleneck has won over several generations of younger rock players looking to cop some the fastest and hottest licks ever committed to tape."
True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story:
Disc One – Selections: 1. Bad Luck And Trouble (A) - 2. Mean Town Blues (A) - 3. Mike Bloomfield's Introduction Of Johnny Winter (live, B) - 4. It's My Own Fault (live, B) - 5. I'm Yours And I'm Hers (C) - 6. Mean Mistreater (C, with Willie Dixon and Walter "Shakey" Horton) - 7. Dallas (C) - 8. Be Careful With A Fool (C) - 9. Leland Mississippi Blues (live, D) - 10. Memory Pain (E) - 11. Highway 61 Revisited (E) - 12. Miss Ann (E) - 13. Hustled Down In Texas (E) - 14. Black Cat Bone (live, F) - 15. Johnny B. Goode (live, F).
Disc Two – Selections: 1. Eyesight To The Blind (previously unreleased, live at Atlanta Pop Festival, 1970) - 2.Johnny Winter's Intro (live at Atlanta Pop Festival, 1970) - 3. Prodigal Son (previously unreleased, live at Atlanta Pop Festival, 1970) - 4. Mean Mistreater (live, G) - 5. Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo (H) - 6. Guess I'll Go Away (H) - 7. On The Limb (H) - 8. It's My Own Fault (live, I) - 9. Jumpin' Jack Flash (live, I) - 10. Good Morning Little School Girl (live, J) - 11. Mean Town Blues (live, J).
Disc Three – Selections: 1. Still Alive And Well (K) - 2. Rock Me Baby (K) - 3. Rock & Roll (K) - 4. Rollin' 'Cross The Country (L) - 5. Hurtin' So Bad (L) - 6. Bad Luck Situation (L) - 7. Self Destructive Blues (M) - 8. Sweet Papa John (M) - 9. Rock & Roll People (M) - 10. Harlem Shuffle (live, with Edgar Winter, N) - 11. Bony Moronie (live, O) - 12. Roll With Me (live, O) - 13. Tired Of Tryin' (P) - 14. TV Mama (P) - 15. Walkin' Thru The Park (with Muddy Waters & James Cotton, P) - 16. I Done Got Over It (live, with Muddy Waters & James Cotton, Q).
Disc Four – Selections: 1. One Step At A Time (R) - 2. Honest I Do (R) - 3. Nickel Blues (R) - 4. Talk Is Cheap (S) - 5. Wolf In Sheep's Clothing (S) - 6. Bon Ton Roulet (S) - 7. Don't Take Advantage Of Me (T) - 8. Master Mechanic (U) - 9. Mojo Boogie (V) - 10. Stranger Blues (live, W) - 11. Illustrated Man (with Dr. John, X) - 12. Hard Way (Y) - 13. Highway 61 Revisited (live, Z) - 14. Maybelline (featuring Vince Gill, AA) - 15. Dust My Broom (featuring Derek Trucks, AA).
A – from The Progressive Blues Experiment (Liberty LP-12431, recorded 1968, released 1969)
B – from Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (Columbia/Legacy 85278, recorded 1968, released 2003)
C – from Johnny Winter (Columbia 9826, recorded and released 1969)
D – from The Woodstock Experience (Columbia/Legacy 88697 48244 2, rec. 1969, rel. 2009)
E – from Second Winter (Columbia 9947, recorded and released 1969)
F – from Second Winter: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy 85735, recorded 1970 at The Royal Albert Hall, London, released 2004)
G – from The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies – Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop (Columbia 30805, recorded July 5, 1970, at Middle Georgia Raceway, Byron, GA, released 1971, previously unavailable on CD)
H – from Johnny Winter And (Columbia 30221, recorded and released 1970)
I – from Johnny Winter And/Live (Columbia 30475, recorded 1970 at Pirate's World, Dania, FL, released 1971)
J – from Live At The Fillmore East 10/3/70 (Collectors Choice 60002, rec. 1970, rel. 2010)
K – from Still Alive And Well (Columbia 32188, recorded and released 1973)
L – from Saints & Sinners (Columbia 32715, recorded 1974, released 1975)
M – from John Dawson Winter III (Blue Sky 33292, recorded and released 1974)
N – from Together (Blue Sky 34033, recorded 1975 at Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA, released 1976)
O – from Captured Live! (Blue Sky 33944, recorded 1976 at San Diego Sports Arena and Oakland Coliseum, released 1976)
P – from Nothin' But The Blues (Blue Sky 34813, recorded and released 1977)
Q – from Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down (Columbia/Legacy 88697 07283 2, recorded 1977 at Masonic Temple Theatre, Detroit, released 2007)
R – from White, Hot & Blue (Blue Sky 35475, recorded and released 1978)
S – from Raisin' Cain (Blue Sky 36343, recorded 1979, released 1980)
T – from Guitar Slinger (Alligator 4735, recorded and released 1984, Grammy®-nominated)
U – from Serious Business (Alligator 4742, recorded and released 1985, Grammy®-nominated)
V – from 3rd Degree (Alligator 4748, recorded and released 1986)
W – from Live Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Friday Music 1085, recorded late 1980s, released 2008)
X – from Let Me In (Pointblank 91744-2, recorded and released 1991)
Y – from Hey, Where's Your Brother? (Pointblank 0777 7 86512 2 2, rec. and rel. 1992)
Z – from Bob Dylan – The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Columbia 53230, recorded 1992 at Madison Square Garden, released 1993)
AA – from Roots (Megaforce 1603, recorded and released 2011)