Johnny Winter may live in New England these days, but his musical lineage is purely Texan, going all the way back to his school days in Beaumont and an influential local disc jockey named J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper of "Chantilly Lace" fame. Young Winter grabbed onto the blues early and has never let go. Described by historians as the link between Brit rock outfits like the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin and Southern blues rockers the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Winter was one of the first white blues acts to gain national attention when Columbia Records signed him in 1969 after hearing his stunning debut, The Progressive Blues Project. The label promoted him as a rock act, another psychedelic blues innovator like Jimmy Hendrix. When I saw Winter for the first time at the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin in the winter of 1970, the impression was that there was no one else like him. Skinny and stringy, Winter was wilder and more animated than Hendrix, with his shirt stripped off and playing like a man possessed. Blindingly fast, on some of his blistering solos Winter seemed to play every lick he'd ever learned. His nuclear interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" was over-the-top and totally apocalyptic. Although he was eventually eclipsed by the Stevie Ray phenomenon, Winter has continued to record and tour. He was nominated for a Grammy for his 2004 recording I'm A Bluesman, and it's only fitting that he brings his traveling show to the venerable Fitzgerald's, where he's played a number of memorable shows over the years. Jaws still drop every time the man plugs it in.
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