Skip to main content

Blues guitarist Johnny Winter dies at 70

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 12:28 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2014'> people who passed away</a> in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.
HIDE CAPTION
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new Johnny Winter album with Eric Clapton, Joe Perry is due in September
  • Rolling Stone ranks Johnny Winter at 63 on its list of 100 greatest guitarists
  • Winter was 15 in 1959 when he began playing guitar in Texas clubs
  • Another big year for Winter was 1969 when he played at Woodstock

(CNN) -- American blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter died Wednesday in a hotel room in Switzerland, his representative said Thursday. He was 70.

"His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of their loved one and one of the world's finest guitarists," his spokeswoman, Lori Haynes, said.

Winter was in Zurich, Switzerland, as part of a tour of Europe, although he was scheduled to return to the United States for shows later in July, according to his official Facebook page.

Winter first gained national attention when Rolling Stone magazine featured the the Texas music scene in a December 1968 cover story. It captioned his photo: "Johnny Winter, Albino Bluesman." The article said guitarist Mike Bloomfield considered the young Winter the "best white blues guitarist he had ever heard."

Rolling Stone now ranks Winter 63rd on its list of 100 greatest guitarists.

Winter's family moved from Mississippi to Beaumont, Texas, when he was an infant. Johnny and brother Edgar, who was nearly three years younger, both were born with albinism, a melanin production deficiency that left them with little color in their hair, skin and eyes.

Winter was just 15 in 1959 when he began playing guitar in Texas clubs. It was also the year he started drinking and smoking.

"It seemed a big year for me," Winter told an interviewer for the documentary "Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty." The film was released this year.

Another big year for Winter was 1969, when he played at the Woodstock festival.

"One week we're playing clubs for about 20 people and in a matter of a few months we're playing Woodstock," bassist Tommy Shannon said in the documentary.

Columbia Records won a bidding war for Winter that resulted in a self-titled debut album, followed by a second titled "Second Winter" in late 1969.

Though none of his several dozen albums earned a Grammy, he shared three for producing blues legend Muddy Waters in the late 1970s.

Winter announced this year that he had another album ready for release in September. "Step Back" will include contributions from guests including Eric Clapton, Joe Perry and Dr. John, according to his official website.

His summer tour schedule was filled with shows, including 15 concerts planned across the United States in August.

Winter was asked in the documentary if he every dreamed that playing a guitar would take him around the world.

"I was almost always sure it would," Winter said. "I was sure I was going to be successful.

"It's the only thing that I've really been good at."

Winter opened up about his heroin, prescription pill and alcohol addictions that derailed his career in the 1980s and 1990s in an authorized biography "Raisin' Cain - The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter," published in 2010.

His resurgence began after he fired a longtime manager in 2005 and hired fellow musician Paul Nelson to guide his career.

"I think that Johnny now is really coming back to being himself," brother Edgar Winter said in the just-released documentary.

People we've lost in 2014

CNN's Joan Yeam contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 8:07 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Jack Bruce, bassist for the legendary 1960s rock band Cream, has died at 71.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Ben Bradlee, the charismatic Washington Post editor who guided the paper through the era of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, has died. He was 93.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who spent half a century putting high society in haute couture, has died. He was 82.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam (right) in Sydney with former Labor Party leader Kim Beazley. Whitlam, one of the nation's most admired figures who led the country through a period of massive change, died on October 21, 2014, aged 98, his family said.
Edward Gough Whitlam, the former Australian Prime Minister who strengthened ties abroad, has died.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Singer and model Joanne Borgella, an "American Idol" contestant in 2008, died at age 32 after a battle with cancer.
updated 1:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
"August: Osage County" actress Misty Upham was declared dead by a Washington coroner after her body was found along a river in suburban Seattle.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Actress Elizabeth Peña has died of natural causes after a brief illness. She was 55.
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Isaiah "Ikey" Owens, the keyboardist in Jack White's backing band, has died at age 38. The musician also played with bands such as Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Mark Bell, who founded the highly influential techno music duo LFO and later collaborated with Bjork on several iconic albums, has died.
updated 10:09 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Actress and comedian Jan Hooks died in New York. She was 57
updated 7:29 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Geoffrey Holder, a versatile artist known for his ability as a dancer, actor and -- most famously to most of America -- a pitchman for 7Up, has died at age 84.
updated 10:58 PM EDT, Sun October 5, 2014
Paul Revere, leader of the 1960s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died at age 76.
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Sat October 4, 2014
Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier died of a heart attack in Port-au-Prince at the age of 63, a family member told CNN.
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Ohio died after suffering injuries in an earlier accident on his farm.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Eric "The Actor" Lynch, who became a celebrity among celebrities by calling in to Howard Stern's radio show, died at age 39.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
Emmy-winning actress Polly Bergen, whose TV and movie career spanned more than six decades, has died at age 84.
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Singer George Hamilton IV died at a Nashville hospital following a heart attack. He was 77.
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Northern Ireland's former first minister and former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley has died. He was 88.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Richard Kiel, the actor best known for playing the James Bond villain "Jaws," died at age 74 in a California hospital.
updated 4:56 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Actress Molly Glynn, who played an emergency room doctor on several "Chicago Fire" episodes, died from injuries after a tree fell on her during a storm.
ADVERTISEMENT