Johnny Winter

Texas-bred Johnny Winter first came to national acclaim in 1968, when a writer for Rolling Stone magazine described him as “the hottest item outside of Janis Joplin . . . If you can imagine a 130-pound cross-eyed albino bluesman with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest fluid blues you have ever heard, then enter Johnny Winter.” At the time, “Highway 61 Revisited” was the highlight of Winter’s stage set.
Johnny Winter

His first recorded version appeared on 1969’s Second Winter album. While Winter retained Bloomfield’s original template for framing the chord changes, he spattered white-hot solos all over the song, sometimes using a slide, sometimes playing bare-fingered, sometimes interweaving both techniques. His version was pure blues-rock. “To me, the blues is what it’s all about, man,” Johnny once told me. “It isn’t the only kind of music I play, but it’s without a doubt my favorite.” In the liner notes to Winter’s White Hot Blues anthology, Dave Marsh declared, “Like so many of the great players of the 1960s – Dylan, Hendrix, Bloomfield, Clapton – Johnny Winter did not make much distinction between the blues and rock and roll. That’s why what you get here is as much classic rock – including Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Good’ and perhaps the best version of Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ ever recorded – as classic blues.

“Back in the 1960s,” Winter recalled, “I used my Gibson Firebird for the electric slide stuff. The action on the Firebird is real high, and I took off the tremolo and changed the tailpiece. I always had my amps set the same way: treble all the way on, no bass, no middle, and usually the volume was on seven-and-a-half or eight, but if I really want a super distorted sound, I’d go ahead and turn it all the way up. The guitar was usually pretty much all the way up with all the treble on. I also always played with a Gibson thumbpick.” At the time of his “Highway 61 Revisited” session, he was using a Fender Bassman with four 10s in the studio, and three Fender Twins onstage.



Like mike Bloomfield, Winter’s choice of slide was unconventional. “When I first started, I’d use lipstick holders, Coricidin bottles, every kind of bottle. Some things were too light, and nothing seemed to fit my finger right. All the slides I ever tried in music stores were too big. Man, it was really hard at first, and I was using it on my ring finger. Then I started using it on my little finger, even though it didn’t feel right, because I could fret and play chords too. Finally in 1967 I went down to a plumbing supply place, stuck my finger into all these different conduit pipes, and found one that fit. And that was cut down to be my slide.”

Another important element of Winter’s slide style as heard on “Highway 61 Revisited” is how he keeps unwanted strings from ringing. “It’s really important to damp those strings,” he says. “Sometimes I do it with both hands, but it’s an unconscious thing. I think I mostly do it with the left-hand fingers behind the slide. Sometimes you want all the strings to ring, but when you don’t, you just cover them up with one of your other three fingers that are behind the slide. You have to be able to do that.” To hear Johnny Winter playing “Highway 61 Revisited” live, check out the last track of his 1994 double-CD A Rock n’ Collection. Clocking in at nearly 11 minutes, this performance is, as John Lee Hooker used to say, “pure get up and boogie!”

Courtesy: Jas Obrecht
Second Winter

Second Winter

1969

Highway 61 Revisited

Still Alive and Well

Still Alive and Well

1973 CD reissue bonus track from album sessions

From A Buick Six

Captured Live!

Captured Live!

1976 - Live

Highway 61 Revisited (10:39)

Raisin' Cain

Raisin' Cain

1980

Like A Rolling Stone

Rock & Roll People

Rock & Roll People

198? compilation

Like A Rolling Stone

Bob Dylan: 30th Anniversary Concert

Bob Dylan: 30th Anniversary Concert

1992 - Live. Recorded at Madison Square Garden, N.Y.C.  October 16, 1992 (BobFest)

Highway 61 Revisited

Johnny Winter with The Derek Trucks Band Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007

Johnny Winter with The Derek Trucks Band Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007

2007 DVD - Live / Chicago 7/28/07

Highway 61 Revisited

Johnny Winter: A Rock 'N Roll Collection

Johnny Winter: A Rock 'N Roll Collection

1993 Live

Highway 61 Revisited (10:47)

White Hot Blues

White Hot Blues

1997 Live

Highway 61 Revisited (5:04)

Live Bootleg Series Volume Three

Live Bootleg Series Volume Three

1997 Live

Highway 61 Revisited (8:45) [bonus track]

The Essential

The Essential

2013 Compilation

Highway 61 Revisited (5:07)

True To The Blues

True To The Blues

2014 Compilation

Highway 61 Revisited (5:07)
Highway 61 Revisited (5:13) live

 

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