Frail Texan albino bluesman-turned-rock superstar-turned-mental hospital inmate Johnny Winter was born in Leland, Mississippi on 23 February 1944, but brought up in Beaumont, Texas. He and his younger brother, Edgar, were nurtured at an early age in musical pursuits by their parents (their father was a singer, guitarist and saxophonist).
Winter’s recording career began at the age of 15 when his band – Johnny and the Jammers – released School Day Blues on a local Houston label. In 1968, he released his first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, on Austin’s Sonobeat Records.
He was signed to Columbia and released the album, Johnny Winter, in 1969. The same year, Winter toured and performed at several rock festivals, including Woodstock.
Winter recorded his second album, Second Winter, in Nashville in 1969. The two-disc album only had three recorded sides (the fourth was blank).
In the 1970s, Winter spent nine months in River Oaks Hospital in New Orleans combating heroin and suicidal depression. By 1973, he returned to the music scene with the release of Still Alive and Well, a basic blend of blues and hard rock.
Winter continued to perform live through the 1990s and into the new millennium, including at festivals throughout North America and Europe. He was found dead in his hotel room two days after his performance at the Cahors Blues Festival in France in July 2014. He was 70.
The cause of Winter’s death was not officially released but his guitarist friend and record producer Paul Nelson believes Winter died of emphysema combined with pneumonia.