Talk about icons! Johnny Winter has been the quintessential American blues guitarist for over fifty years and he is “bringing it” to the historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead this summer. The Riverhead Blues & Music Festival, June 16th & 17th, draws thousands of music fans each year. Bob Barta, director of the festival and council president for the Vail-Leavitt, says “I truly believe this will be the best festival we’ve offered in the history of the event.” And with Winter as headliner, it’s a sure thing.
Ranked 74th in 2003 by Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988, Winter is enjoying an incredible resurgence. Already familiar to a certain ageing generation for his driving blues/rock albums of the 1960’s and 70’s, and his unique appearance – both he and brother Edgar with whom he occasionally performs are albino- his recent appearance on the David Letterman show to promote his new album, “Roots,” has garnered over 40,000 hits on the internet. When asked how he feels about that, Winter chuckles and says “I don’t care how it goes out, as long as it does.” Search YouTube, and his presence jumps off the screen and his talent captures a new generation of fans.
“Roots” is a special album for Winter. It was seven years since he last recorded and he and his producer, Paul Nelson, were talking about what was next for the legend. Nelson had the concept for an album of all-time favorite blues classics. “I came up with some songs that I liked and Paul chose the artists,” says Winter. Songs like the “T-Bone Shuffle,” “Maybellene,” and “Bright Lights, Big City” capture the essence of the blues and feature a “who’s who” guest list of blues talent including Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Vince Gill, and Susan Tedeschi, among others.
It also includes the Muddy Waters classic “Got My Mojo Working.” Winter produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for Waters. “I had loved him since I was 12 or 13.” Winter says. “Working with Muddy was the most fun I ever had.”
In addition to the new album, fans will be thrilled to know that Warner Brothers recently released the 40th anniversary DVD (Director’s Cut) of Woodstock: 3 Days of Love and Peace, featuring, for the first time, Winter playing his classic “Meantown Blues.”
After a lifetime of making great music, Winter has no intention of slowing down. Having kicked the heroine addiction that threatened to derail him at the height of his career, he is currently healthy and his stamina has never been better, appearing as the headliner at festivals all over the world. He has been at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, Europe’s Rockpalast, and the Swedish Rock Fest, in addition to other venues. He also has a three-album deal with Megaforce Records. When asked about this new popularity, Winter says “I got a good manager and that has made a huge difference.”
And now he’s coming to the East End. “Its really nice there,” he says. “I’ve been there lots of times and I really enjoyed it. I remember I played Stephen Talkhouse in East Hampton…” he pauses for a long time, searching his memory… “ages ago.” But there will be no lapses in his recall when Winter takes the stage at the Riverhead Blues Festival. He is slated to perform for an hour and a half and says he will do the classics, many of which are on “Roots.” “I really like singing them!” he says.
In addition to Johnny Winter, the Riverhead Blues and Music Festival will feature emerging guitarist Chris Duarte, and five-time Grammy nominated, two-time Downbeat Critics Poll winner Roomful of Blues. There will also be a distinguished group of regional and national performers including Little Toby Walker, Ari Eisinger, Ray Anderson, Lil’ Cliff & the Cliffhangers, Frank Latorre, Buddy Merriam & Backroads, Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks, Robert Ross, Who Are Those Guys
…and many other great performers.
The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, built in 1881 is a registered national & local historic landmark. Renovated in 2003, it is host to concerts, plays, educational programs and numerous charitable and civic events. Proceeds from the festival help local charities.
For additional information, go to
Official site: www.rhblues.com
On Facebook: RiverheadBluesAndMusicFestival