Johnny Winter: Blues musician who inspired John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards dies aged 70

The legendary guitarist and producer played with Muddy Waters and Jimi Hendrix

Ella Alexander
Friday 18 July 2014 10:00 BST

Blues musician Johnny Winter died yesterday (16 July) in his Zurich hotel room at the age of 70.

His representative Carla Parisi confirmed the news this afternoon. A short statement was also published on his Facebook page.

"His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of their loved one and one of the world's finest guitarists," it read.

"An official statement with more details shall be issued at the appropriate time."

He had been on an extensive tour that included Europe. He did his final performance on Saturday (12 July) at the Lovely Days Festival in Wiesen, Austria.

Born 23 February 1944, Winter went onto inspire musicians such as John Lennon, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger – all of whom wrote songs in celebration of him. He also helped revive the careers of the legendary Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker through his collaborations.

Winter began his recording career at the age of just 15 with his band Johnny And The Jammers, when he released “School Day Blues”. His big break came in December 1968 when Mike Bloomfield invited him to sing and play a song at a Bloomfield and Al Kooper concert in New York.

Johnny Winter on stage in 1990
Johnny Winter on stage in 1990

Representatives from Columbia Records attended the gig and signed him in what was then the biggest advances in the history of the recording industry - $600,000.

In addition to his own performing career, he is known for his work with Muddy Waters – his childhood hero. Winter created three lucrative albums for the musician; Hard Again (1977), I’m Ready (1978) and King Bee (1981). The partnership culminated in him wining three Grammy Awards. He was named 63rd best guitarist ever by Rolling Stone magazine.

Winter was born an albino and was instantly recognisable for his long white hair and cowboy hat. During the Seventies, he suffered from alcohol and drug-related addictions during various stages of his life, but said in 2010, “I feel great now.”

His most famous songs include “Rollin' and Tumblin”,''Bad Luck and Trouble“ and ”Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl.“ He was scheduled to release a new album, Step Back, on 2 September.

“I play pretty much all kinds of blues,” Winter told in June. “I play Delta stuff, I play Chicago, I play Texas. The rock, that’s just Johnny Winter… You don’t want to sound like anybody else. I hope I’ve done that. I don’t think anybody else plays like me.”

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