Johnny Winter (1944-2014)
Baby bands take note: You don’t want a feature about your act in the Chronicle. Used to be bands simply broke up after landing on our cover (looking at you Ed Hall, playing this Saturday at the North Door). Now, the curse is worse. Two weeks to the day after our Johnny Winter story comes the news that the Beaumont blues great died in Zurich yesterday.
Given the career overview Sony Legacy put out just prior to South by Southwest this year, February’s 4-CD True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story, and then new documentary Down & Dirty screening at the festival with the guitarist in attendance, it seemed like a no-brainer to get with the Texas pioneer while he was in Austin. We saved the piece for our summer, semi-annual box set roundup, which ran July 4, and like all Chronicles came out a day prior.
Editors know better than most that oftentimes the best laid plans of man never come to fruition. We tell writers that projections of clubs, albums, collaborations are just as likely to flounder the moment their announcement hits the press. It’s times like this when a line from Jim Caligiuri’s fine overview of Winter’s long, celebrated career comes back to haunt those involved in its publishing:
“New from Winter: September’s Step Back, an all-star collection featuring....” The album will likely still happen, only now it becomes the dreaded "posthumously.”
The most extreme example of Chronicle coverage coinciding with a Texas great’s demise came in 2005, when during the production of a cover story on Big Boys great Randy “Biscuit” Turner the singer died. Heavy hearts finished that issue, just as shocked ones woke this morning to the news of Johnny Winter. Like all seminal musicians, we rejoice in all that he left us and the sounds that makes when it emanates from our speakers.