Last Thursday I had the honor of interviewing legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter before his show at city winery on the band’s R.V.
Alex Kluft: When did you pick up the guitar?
Johnny Winter: I was about 12, I played the Ukulele before that.
AK: How did you get into the blues?
JW: I heard it on the radio. As soon as I heard I loved it. I said I gotta learn how to do this.
AK: What do you miss about the blues legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf?
JW: They were all great, there’s no one like them anymore.
AK: How did you develop your slide technique?
JW: I listened to Robert Johnson, Muddy, Elmore James. They were main influences.
AK: What do you think of the blues today?
JW: It’s not anything like it was in the 50’s and 60’s.
AK: After 50+ years what keeps you going?
JW: I like to play. I just enjoy playing.
AK: After playing Chicago so many times do you have a favorite venue?
JW: There’s a lot of venues I like. My favorites used to be the Fillmores.
AK: What are some of your favorite covers to play?
JW: There’s a bunch of them I like to do. We do “Blackjack” by Ray Charles, that’s a nice little blues.
AK: Who are some of your favorite guitarists today?
JW: I don’t have any [laughs]. No, the people who played on records are good; Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth. They’re good people.
AK: What do you remember about playing Crossroads?
JW: The first one was good, we played with Derek Trucks. Something happened with the seconds one. We did “Red House”, but we didn’t do it very well.
AK: Who would you pick for an All Star Blues band either past or current?
JW: Little Walter would be on harp. T-Bone Walker on guitar, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass, I don’t know who I’d get on drums.
AK: What about Sam Lay?
JW: Lay would be good
AK: What was your first band with Edgar?
JW: It was called Johnny and The Jammers. We were 14.
AK: How many bands have you been in together since?
JW; Ah, I don’t know. I couldn’t count how many people I’ve played with?
AK: Of all your touring bands which did you like the most?
JW: I don’t know, I really like the band I have now.
AK: How many guitars do you have nowadays?
JW: Probably 25, I’ve never counted them.
AK: Is the Firebird still one of your favorites?
JW: It’s my favorite for slide. I like the Lazer guitar for regular guitar. It plays and sounds good.
AK: What kind of slide do you use.
JW: The one I use is made out of drum hardware. S.I.R. in New York made it from piece of either a drum stool or cymbal stand.
AK: How many dates a year do you do on average?
JW: About a hundred.
AK: What’s next after this tour.
JW: Were going to keep touring [laughs] we play till the 10th then we go home for 2-3 weeks.
AK: What did you like about Rock N’ Blues Fest?
JW: I liked playing with everybody, that was a lot of fun.
AK: How do you figure out what songs to play on tour?
JW: Sometimes we change around a little bit. Paul [Nelson, guitar] might throw some ideas in there.