Local Wire

Johnny Winter

Old man Winter is white enough in hair and pallor to carry off the moniker, but his heart is full of deep, poignant blues rich enough for the paintings of Paul Gauguin. Playing in bands since his earliest teens, Winter started as the kind of prodigy who made Jonny Lang or Derek Trucks seem like children playing with toys. He branched out to hard rock in the '70s, forging "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" with Rick Derringer, but blues was his true love. Winter returned to it full-heartedly after helping resuscitate Muddy Waters' career in the late '70s, when the duo recorded three Grammy-winning albums together.

While others wed rock and blues, Winter's heart is pure; still, his six-string sings as savagely as any hard rock band, stiletto hooks slicing through his songs like the hands of Freddy Krueger. Though forced to sit after a hip injury a couple years ago, Winter's fingers and spirit have stayed nimble. He just recorded an album for Virgin (I'm a Bluesman, due June 15), his first new collection of songs in nearly eight years, and he remains one of the best living blues guitarists still playing.