In Early November of last year, I was fortunate enough to be a media guest for the sold out Johnny Winter concert at Seattle's 1st class music venue, The Triple Door. Getting there extra early for a scheduled interview with Johnny, I was a bit disappointed when I learned that it wouldn't happen.
Knowing Johnny was weary from his current road tour, I certainly understood. It was my last disappointment of the night. A surprise bonus was when I was given exclusive photo rights for the night's very special performance.
The night's show opened with an instrumental from the three veteran members of the JW road/studio band. When Johnny came out, took his chair at center stage and busted into an audacious version of Hideaway, I knew it was going to be a good night. For the next 90 minutes. Johnny Winter and crew took the enthusiastic crowd on a wide ranging ride of genuine electric blues. Mixing Winter classics with tunes from his current album and a few standards, the band was in great form and the whole room was rockin'. Although Johnny's vocals weren't quite as sharp as in his younger days, his guitar was superb and his presentation was truly inspiring.
Traveling across country, to one night stands, in an RV, is a hard life even for Sir Knight's young squires, let alone a man who already has health issues.
After meeting the band, I was confident that while on the road, Johnny was in very good hands. For the night's concert, Winter was backed by his outstanding rhythm section, with Scott Spray on bass and Wayne June on drums and vocals. The third member, guitarist Paul Nelson, who doubles as road manager, was busy with the band's merchandise booth.
It was obvious that this ensemble was tight both on and off the stage, as a true family of the blues. The talent combination performing at the night's concert was the same band that put together the 2004 Grammy nominated, "I'm A Bluesman" album, a rare exception, these days, for tour bands.
Johnny Winter was first recognized in the late 60s as a top gun in the neo resurgence of the blues. While much of this revitalized blues came from England, Johnny was certainly considered a star of the era, with a style equaled by none. Besides the continual release of brilliant albums over the decades, Johnny will always be in the gratitude of all blues fans for producing and playing on the last four albums of the great Muddy Waters.
Winters' final four collaboration with Muddy and his old band are considered by many to be equal to those classic Muddy albums produced at Chess. Muddy and Johnny were very close, until his death in 1979, Muddy always called Johnny, Son.
Finally, after the show, we were able to chat with the legendary Texas bluesman, inside the band's RV. Although it wasn't the detailed interview I had hoped for, I was satisfied to thank Johnny for all he's done for the blues and to share some of my own JW art with him and his permission to create a Johnny Winter calendar.
With a living blues legend on stage, in a first class music venue, fueled by an admiring and responsive crowd, this night's experience was truly a memorable one for myself and every fan present, on this very special evening of the blues.
----- Phil Chesnut