Tag Archives: Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter’s Summers

Johnny Winter was found dead in a Switzerland hotel room late last night.

The 70-year-old albino guitarist/singer — called one of the 100 all-time greatest guitarists by Rolling Stone — was legendary throughout the blues/rock  world.

He also spent some legendary summers here, in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter says that to escape stifling summers in New York City, he “always rented a big summer house with a pool in Westport, Connecticut for vacations and rehearsals.”

One day, the book says, the house caught fire. Winter says the firefighters told him, “Get the fuck out of here….Don’t get anything, just get out of here.”

He adds, “They stole some grass we had too, those motherfuckers.”

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

Winter’s band White Trash played a concert in the Staples auditorium on July 11, 1971. But there was much more informal music.

A Staples graduate from the mid-’70s recalls that Winter and his brother Edgar would “hold court at the Playhouse Tavern [most recently the Dressing Room restaurant] on summer nights. The beer, drinks and aroma flowed freely.

“They often were joined by group members like Rick Derringer. Other rock stars would surprise the audience, like Joe Cocker and his Mad Dogs and Englishmen, as they prepared for their famous road show that followed.”

He adds: “Rock on, Johnny. RIP. 70 years young.”

 

Westport’s Muddy Waters

The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest earlier this month was fantastic. Yet I am sure I am not the only Westporter to wonder, “WTF?”

Westport is many things. But “Blues City USA” is not one of them.

Then again…

Jeff Van Gelder — a native Westporter now living in Germany — reminds us of an intriguing moment in town history.

Muddy Waters Hard AgainOn Facebook, he writes: “The last great trio of Muddy Waters albums — ‘Hard Again,’ ‘I’m Ready’ and the somewhat-less-than-stellar ‘King Bee’ — were recorded in Westport.”

It turns out, Jeff says, that the late Dan Hartman — who wrote and recorded “Relight My Fire,” and worked with Edgar Winter — bought a house in Westport, and set up a studio there.

Jeff says:

After Muddy got out of his contract with Chess Records, his #1 fan, Johnny Winter, signed him to his Blue Sky Label. They recorded these wonderful LPs (in Westport) over a period of 2 years. Two years before, Johnny had recorded his “Nothing But The Blues” with members of Muddy, Pinetop Perkins and James Cotton at the Hartman house (called “the Schoolhouse”).

Blues and Music News  explains that Muddy and Johnny wanted to record “Hard Again” live, with Winter handling production and also playing.

If the band was composed of competent musicians, then they could make the Blues come across alive and fresh. And make no mistake; the band backing up Muddy Waters for this recording was far beyond competent. They lived their lives for this man and his music!

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Jill Turner Odice adds a bit more on this little-known piece of Westport music history:

I lived next door to Dan when he rented the Reynolds house (6 Edgehill Lane) for $2500 a month…. I got to meet Johnny and Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and .38 Special while they were recording there. Patti LaBelle, Foghat, James Brown, Peter Frampton as well as others made recordings there.

Just as fascinating as the fact that some great blues were recorded in Westport is the look of the house where it all happened.

"The Schoolhouse" -- 6 Edgehill Lane.

“The Schoolhouse” — 6 Edgehill Lane, off Wilton Road.

Chicago or Memphis, it sure ain’t.