Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bowling with Johnny Winter

I busked the gates of many a Johnny Winter show, and even opened a couple for him- but it was only in recent years that I got to meet him and hang out a bit. Back in the 1970's when I first went to visit Robert Pete Williams in Rosedale, LA, I noticed a little record player in the corner of the living room. It had one of those wire frame LP holders, with perhaps a dozen albums sitting in there- so I just had to go and snoop at what Robert Pete liked to listen to. Buck Owens, Buck Owens, Buck Owens... Johnny Winter, Johnny Winter! I asked him, "You listen to Johnny Winter?" He replied, "Yeah! I learn a lot of guitar from that guy! He's good!"

I had to wait over 30 years to pass that story on to Johnny, and I think it was worth the wait. All those years I just knew it would be meaningful and rewarding- and it was. "Robert Pete listened to my records?!" Later on Johnny's band came out to hear Big Dave McLean and I play the Times Changed club in Winnipeg, MB. Johnny had to call it an early night, but he sent word that he wanted one of those National Steel Blues Tour jackets.

For all his fame and success, Johnny lived a bluesman's life. Nobody lives hard on purpose, things just turn out that way. I hope I'm lucky enough to die after a show, on the blues highway, not surrounded by machines in a Grace Mission somewhere. He had a great band in recent years. I'm sure he was loved by many, and I hope he felt that comfort as he left this world.

Soon I'll crank it up and head on down Highway 61. Too loud, too tired, maybe a little bit too fast. When I see the broken neon in some of the broken little towns, maybe I'll be thinking about bowling with Johnny.

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