If, like us, you weren’t able to make it to Chicago for the Johnny Winter remembrance show that took place at Buddy Guy’s Legends a few weekends back (or to a computer for the accompanying live webstream of the program), you might be happy to learn that you can still view a free recording of the entire event on the Legends gigity.tv channel.
It would be difficult to imagine a band any more qualified to perform the songs of the late Texas guitarist than the one assembled here, with Winter’s own band – led by Winter’s longtime guitarist and producer Paul Nelson – serving as the house players for the night, joined by Johnny’s brother and frequent collaborator Edgar Winter, one of Johnny’s favorite vocalists in Jay Stollman, and a few other special guests on guitar. Together, they present many of the same originals and covers that Winter himself liked to perform through the years, including “Bony Moronie”, “I Got My Mojo Workin'”, “Killing Floor”, “Tobacco Road”, “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo”, the slow blues of Ray Charles’ “Black Cat”, and “Dust My Broom”, among others.
Guitarist and singer Ronnie Baker Brooks joins for several songs, including “Don’t Want No Woman” and a downright terrific “Don’t Take Advantage of Me” – a tune written by Ronnie’s father Lonnie Brooks that Winter recorded in 1984 – that incorporates riffs and verses from “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “I Just Wanna’ Make Love to You”, and “Catfish Blues” along the way, with Brooks also recounting the story of how a grown Johnny once returned a guitar pick Lonnie had given him as an 11-year-old boy.
Other highlights include Mike Zito joining the band a bit later for Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” with Edgar on keyboards, and the night’s closing number – which couldn’t have been any more fitting – with Brooks, Zito and a third guest guitarist Earl Slick all joining the band, Edgar, and Jay on “Johnny B. Goode”.
Stollman’s vocals are gritty and Winter-like, while Edgar rotates between vocals, horn, and keyboards, helping to make for one heck of a tribute to the slide guitar master and leaving no doubts that Johnny’s spirit was very much still alive and well on this evening. With a band and setlist like this, there’s of course lots more we could tell you about the performance, but it really is something you should watch for yourself, at a price that’s certainly right: all this one’s going to cost you is a little of your time, which we guarantee will be well spent.
If you haven’t yet had the chance, also be sure to check out Johnny’s final album Step Back (Megaforce Records), released this fall just a few months after his death and featuring guest appearances from the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Ben Harper, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Joe Perry, Leslie West, and others. One listen to tracks like the slow, sizzling “Sweet Sixteen” with Bonamassa and uptempo numbers like “Can’t Hold Out (Talk to Me Baby)” featuring Harper and “Don’t Want No Woman” with Clapton, and you’ll understand pretty quickly why Step Back has already been nominated for both a Grammy (Best Blues Album) and Blues Music Award (Rock Blues Album), with a solid chance of winning either contest.
With reminders like both this recent Chicago tribute and Step Back, it’s pretty certain that Johnny Winter won’t be forgotten any time soon. And that, my friends, is exactly as it should be.