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The Legacy Of Blues Musician Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter performing in Winterbach, Germany in 2011.

70-year-old Texas blues and rock legend Johnny Winter died in Switzerland earlier this week. He was a few months away from releasing his new studio album, Step Back.  KERA’s executive producer Jeff Whittington talked about Winter’s career with writer Joe Nick Patoski.

Interview Highlights: Joe Nick Patoski…

…On Johnny Winter’s skill as a guitarist:

“He was a wild man on the guitar. And that night at the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin, Texas, everything changed when he got to open up a show for Muddy Waters’ band coming in from Chicago.

Muddy’s band started peeking out from behind the curtain and looking around. The story is, after that set, Muddy got on the phone and talking to someone from Chicago and he was saying, “He’s white!” because everyone thought he sounded black and that hadn’t happened to any white musicians, certainly in the late 1960’s.”

…On his song, “Highway 61 Revisited”:

“You know, that’s Bob Dylan’s song. Everyone thinks anything he writes, he owns. Johnny Winter made Highway 61 Revisited his own, and it’s a signature tune for that matter with his exuberance vocally, but certainly with that guitar. I mean, that’s just wild stuff.”

…On the lyrics of his song, “Dallas”:

“I thought it captured perfectly the hard side of Dallas.

A blues man doesn’t talk about flowers and sunshine, he talks about the darker things in life. You know, talking about having to carry a razor and his gun if he’s going to come to Dallas, that’s a great South Texas perspective on coming to Big D and what it represented.”

“Dallas” Lyrics (1969):

Goin' back to Dallas, take my razor and my gun Goin' back to Dallas, man, take my razor and my gun, oh yeah Lot of people lookin' for trouble, man, sure gonna give 'em in some I believe old Dallas, man, is the meanest town I know I believe that Dallas, man, is the meanest town I know Because you're not safe in Dallas, I don't care where you go

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Former KERA staffer Jeff Whittington was executive producer for special projects and Think, as well as host of Anything You Ever Wanted to Know. He also created and launched the KXT Live Sessions series for KXT 91.7.