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Johnny Winter finds his roots

July 20, 2012

Veteran bluesman Johnny Winter says he never wanted to be a rocker.

In spite of his 1970 best-selling rock album “Johnny Winter … And,” featuring his brother, Edgar, Winter said he always was and always will be true to his first love: the blues.

“I wasn’t really happy crossing over to rock ‘n’ roll,” he said in a telephone interview from Charlotte, N.C., where he was to perform that night.

“That was my manager’s idea. I’d rather not be doing it. At the time, the blues was kind of fading out, and he thought I should do more rock.

“He might have been right. It was my biggest-selling record but it was a record I liked the least.

“It was the only best-selling record I ever had and I still don’t like listening to it today.“

Winter is going through a renaissance of sorts. He is touring in support of his new recording, “Roots,” which features, among others, Edgar Winter (who also will be at Bluesapalooza), Susan Tedeschi, Sonny Landreth, Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band, John Medeski, John Popper and Vince Gill, among others.

He recently was a guest on the David Letterman television show, and on Friday, Aug. 3, he will be under the pines at the high-altitude beer and blues festival in Mammoth.

He’s never been here—not even close—but he said he doesn’t care.

“We’ll come, because we don’t really care where we go. If there are people who want to hear us, we’ll go there.”

What the Mammoth audience is likely to hear is a heavy dose of blues from Winter, who said his biggest musical influences came from straight-ahead southern blues.

“I always liked blues more than rock ‘n’ roll, but I liked Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis. Little Richard and Fats Domino when I was growing up as a teenager. There was never anything like rock and roll before it.

“But mostly I listened to Muddy. I love Muddy Waters’ records. He’s my favorite blues artist. He had so much feeling, and he is a really great singer.

“I like Robert Johnson a lot, Lightning Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Elmore James, Son House, those guys. I went out and got every blues record I could find.”

Johnny Winter and his band, coming to Bluesapalooza on Aug. 3. Photo/Supplied by Johnny Winter
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