Johnny Winter just keeps on keeping on

At age 67, venerable bluesman Johnny Winter just keeps on keeping on. Not only has the music industry survivor released a new album of classic blues songs that influenced his early years, Winter also just completed collaborations with Sly Stone and William Shatner.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

At age 67, venerable bluesman Johnny Winter just keeps on keeping on.

Not only has the music industry survivor released a new album of classic blues songs that influenced his early years, Winter also just completed collaborations with Sly Stone and William Shatner.

Winter called the latter project, which involved Shatner intoning the Deep Purple song Space Truckin’, kind of funny. “I thought it might be singing, but (Shatner) just talks through it. . . . He pulls it off, though.”

The Texan singer/guitarist, who performs with his band on Thursday at the Memorial Centre, didn’t meet the Canadian actor best known for playing bombastic Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.

Shatner sent him his taped vocals and Winter recorded his guitar track separately.

“I wish I had met him, though. I always liked Star Trek,” said Winter, who rose to fame during the same era as Shatner was wrapping up the original sci-fi TV series.

Winter played at Woodstock in 1968, signed a contract with Columbia Records a year later, then put out a series of high-energy blues rock albums in the 1970s.

He went on to produce three Grammy-winning albums for blues legend Muddy Waters, recorded some Grammy-nominated stuff himself, and was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988.

In 2003, Winter was also ranked No. 73 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time.

But perhaps his greatest accomplishment is staying around into his sixth decade.

Winters survived multiple addictions, including heroin and the anti-depressants that he mixed with methadone and vodka throughout the 1990s. This left him in no condition to oversee his career, much less business matters. Since sobering up, Winters discovered he’s missing millions of dollars, and is making a claim against the estate of his late manager.

These days, the guitarist maintains he doesn’t drink or do drugs, and is feeling pretty good, all things considered.

He enjoyed contributing the guitar track for a new version of Stone’s Thank You (although his quibble is that he’s hardly heard on it: “They didn’t turn it up loud enough”).

And recording his latest album, Roots, also hasn’t hurt his state of mind. Winter said performing the songs that most influenced his youth was a great nostalgia trip.

Every tune on the album “is a song I loved,” he said — including Robert Johnson’s I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom, T-Bone Walker’s T-Bone Shuffle, Elmore James’s Done Somebody Wrong and Larry Williams’s Short Fat Fannie.

Winter invited a who’s who lineup of singers and musicians to play with him on the album, including Vince Gill, Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Johnny Popper and Johnny’s brother Edgar Winter, who plays the saxophone on Honky Tonk.

Johnny said he tried to deliver the songs pretty straight up. “I tried to capture on the record the way these songs made me feel. . . . It was cool. I enjoyed doing it.”

While Winter dabbled in rock ’n’ roll in his youth, the Connecticut-based musician said it didn’t hold the same sway over him as the blues.

He calls the blues “the most emotional music I’ve ever heard. It’s got the most feeling,” which is why it stays fresh for new generations of listeners. “It goes in and out of style, but it’s always around.”

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Memorial Centre, with guest star David Gogo, are $39.50 to $49.50 from Ticket Central.

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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