"Texas's blues pedigree is unsurpassed, but of all of these
bright lights, perhaps the most electrifying, exotic and resilient
Texas export is a snowy white guitarist from Beaumont, whose
truth-is-stranger-than-fiction given name is Winter. For well
over five decades, John Dawson 'Johnny' Winter III has produced
and played on some of the most exciting blues and rock recordings
in the history of both genres. His absolute command of traditional
music has earned him the respect of serious musicologists, while
his tremendous agility, wicked speed and full-tilt aggression
on the electric guitar and acoustic bottleneck has won over
several generations of younger rock players looking to cop some
the fastest and hottest licks ever committed to tape."
- Robert Palmer
Although born in Texas, Johnny Winter
spent parts of his childhood in Leland, MS where his father
and grandfather operated a cotton business, J.D. Winter & Son.
Johnny and his younger brother Edgar were born into a prominent
Leland family that was famed not only for its social, civic,
and business leadership but also for its musical talent. Their
father, Leland native John Dawson Winter, Jr., played saxophone
and guitar and sang at churches, weddings, civic club gatherings,
and other events, including barbershop singing contests and
front porch concerts with the Winters' five-piece family band.
Winter, Jr., was elected mayor of Leland in 1936 and served
until leaving for military service in 1941.
John Dawson "Johnny"
Winter III was born on February 23, 1944, while his father was
away in the army. Although the family resided in Leland, his
mother Edwina chose to go to her home town of Beaumont, Texas,
for his birth, as well as of Edgar on December 28, 1946. The
family eventually moved to Beaumont.
With their parents support, the Winter brothers began performing
and were already recording while still in their teens, playing
rock 'n' roll, blues, and R&B. Despite his early childhood in
the Mississippi Delta, Johnny discovered the blues in Texas,
while listening to the radio in the kitchen with the maid. Muddy
Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B. B. King, and Robert Johnson became
his favorite blues artists, and he developed his fiery style
of rock and blues. His big break came while opening for Mike
Bloomfield in 1968. That performance caught the attention of
Columbia Records, who quickly signed him. He was given a $600,000
advance, the largest one ever received at that time.
In the years that followed, Winter would release nearly 20
albums. He drew accolades for his high-energy performances,
earning him seven Grammy nominations and a listing as the 63rd
best guitarist ever by Rolling Stone.
In addition to his solo work, he produced three Muddy Waters
albums - 1977's Hard Again, 1978's I'm Ready,
and 1981's King Bee - as well as 1979's Muddy "Mississippi"
Waters - Live. His efforts as a producer were recognized
with three Grammy Awards.
He was honored in Leland with a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker on June 4, 2010.