Johnny Winter

February 23, 1944 - July 17, 2014
Rest in Peace

"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.

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