Johnny Winter: Still Alive & Well
GW How did you first get started with slide guitar?
WINTER From listening to The Best of Muddy Waters. I also listened to a lot of Robert Johnson, Son House and Elmore James. I learned a lot from Elmore. I could hear that they were switching back and forth between playing with the slide and fretting with his fingers, but I had no idea how they were doing it. Back when I started, I didn’t know anyone else that played slide. I had to learn it all myself from listening to the records—the tunings and everything.
GW Your preference is to wear a metal slide on your pinkie. Did you always use a metal slide?
WINTER No, I tried test tubes, which were too light, and lipstick holders, but nothing worked good till I went to Denver and a friend of mine got me a piece of pipe to use. I like the metal slide because it sounds nastier. It’s sharper and clearer.
GW And now Dunlop makes a replica of your slide, called the Johnny Winter Texas Slider.
WINTER Yeah, it’s great. Looks just like it and plays just like it.
GW You just signed a new record deal with Megaforce. What do you plan to release next?
WINTER We’re thinking of calling the first record Roots, and on it I’m going to revisit a dozen classic blues songs that have always meant a lot to me, each song written by a different artist. The plan is also to have a variety of great guests. I’m really looking forward to making this record.
GW Your new authorized biography, Raisin’ Cain, is very candid about some very difficult times in your life, such as your past problems with drugs and alcohol, and all of your struggles personal and professional. How do you feel about the book?
WINTER I’m very happy with the book. [Author] Mary Lou [Sullivan] did a real good job. What I like is that it’s very realistic and doesn’t try to cover up the truth. Everything is in there, the good stuff and the bad stuff: how hard it was growing up in Texas being an albino, the early days of my career, signing the big record deal with Columbia, my problems with drugs. And it’s told in exactly the way that it happened. I’ve led a very interesting life! [laughs]
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