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Tribute Album 'True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story' Out 2/23

Tribute Album 'True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story' Out 2/23

The extraordinary four decade-plus recording career of seminal Texas blues-rocking guitar legend Johnny Winter, who celebrates his 70 th birthday on February 23, 2014, will be commemorated with the release of True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story. This deluxe 4-CD box set, includes 56 tracks that span his major label career from 1968 until his most recent album of 2011, will be available everywhere February 25, 2014, through Columbia/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT. The album pre-order is live at http://smarturl.it/jwinter_true_amzn.

The two-time Grammy Award-nominated, perennially touring Johnny Winter will play a special birthday night performance at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill at Times Square in New York City on Sunday, February 23, 2014. Tickets are available for $30 in advance and $35 day of show. For tickets go to http://www.bbkingblues.com/bio.php?id=3309.

"If it was not for Johnny Winter," said Joe Perry of Aerosmith, "I would have never picked up the guitar!" The testimonial is one of nearly 20 that accompany the box set, from such guitar luminaries as Eddie Van Halen, Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Carlos Santana, Steven Tyler, Billy Gibbons, Joe Satriani, Derek Trucks, Gregg Allman, Leslie West, Vince Gill, Glenn Tipton, Mark Knopfler, and many more. "A lot of people play the blues," said Charlie Daniels, "but there's only a handful who can reach deep into the music and make it real. Johnny Winter can take you on a ride. Juke joints and cotton fields, rotgut whiskey and back alley crap games, lowdown, lonesome, trifling women and hard times. That's the blues, y'all."

True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story lives up to its title with a chronological track sequence of studio and live material that underscores Johnny Winter's hard-won reputation as an American blues master. The contents are sourced from no less than 27 separate albums on the Imperial, Columbia, Blue Sky/Epic, Alligator, Point Blank (Virgin), Friday Music, Megaforce, and Columbia/Legacy labels. These range from his independently recorded and released The Progressive Blues Experiment of 1968 ("Bad Luck And Trouble," "Mean Town Blues") up through 2011's all-star duets project, Roots ("Maybelline" with Vince Gill, "Dust My Broom" with Derek Trucks).

Guests abound throughout True To The Blues, starting with the third track as fellow blues guitar giant Michael Bloomfield introduces Johnny Winter to the Fillmore East audience in December 1968, during a "Super Session" live concert date with Al Kooper. It was Winter's first trip to New York City, on the heels of a Texas music scene survey on the newsstands that week in Rolling Stone magazine (not yet one year old!). The issue, coupled with his incendiary playing on an 11-minute jam of John Lee Hooker's "It's My Own Fault," shot the unknown and unsigned-to-a-record-label Johnny Winter to stardom. His six-figure signing with Columbia was reportedly the biggest advance in the CBS Records era to that point in history. Winter would be signed with CBS through 1980.

Among other notable musicians on True To The Blues are Dr. John on "Illustrated Man," recorded in Chicago, 1991. A year later, Winter was invited to the Bob Dylan 30 th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden, to reprise his blistering version of "Highway 61 Revisited," one of two indelible covers of Dylan, along with Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," that defined the closing of the '60s. Joining Winter at MSG was that night's all-star 'house band' of G.E. Smith, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Anton Fig, and Jim Keltner.

True To The Blues not only showcases Winter and the band lineups he has led over the years, many of them (up through 1976) including his brother Edgar on vocals and an array of instruments (keyboards, reeds, drums). A blues lover's dream collection, the box set also pays homage to the great forebears who influenced Winter, and with whom he was able to record during his long career, among them:

  • Willie Dixon and Walter "Shakey" Horton (together on "Mean Mistreater" from Winter's self-titled Columbia debut LP, 1969); and
  • Muddy Waters and his band featuring James Cotton, "Pinetop" Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (in the studio on Muddy's "Walkin' Thru The Park," and live on Guitar Slim's "I Done Got Over It," both from 1977).

(It is noted that Johnny Winter produced and played guitar on the final four LPs recorded by his hero Muddy Waters after he left Chess Records. The first three of those titles won consecutive Grammy Awards as "Best Ethnic Or Traditional [i.e. Blues] Recording," namely Hard Again (1977), I'm Ready (1978), and Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live (1979).)

True To The Blues also draws tracks from Winter's two Grammy Award-nominated albums:

  • Guitar Slinger, nominated for Best Traditional Blues Recording at the 27th Grammy Awards (February, 1985); and
  • Serious Business, nominated for Best Traditional Blues Recording at the 28th Grammy Awards (February, 1986).

At the core of True To The Blues are the six albums that Winter recorded for Columbia Records: Johnny Winter (1969), Second Winter (1969), Johnny Winter And (1970), Johnny Winter And/Live (1971), Still Alive And Well (1973), and Saints & Sinners (1975). There were also six albums that he recorded for manager Steve Paul's Blue Sky Records (distributed by Columbia's sister imprint, Epic/Portrait/Associated Labels, or E/P/A): John Dawson Winter III (1974), Together (1976), Captured Live! (1976), Nothin' But The Blues (1977), White, Hot & Blue (1978), and Raisin' Cain (1980).

In addition, True To The Blues draws tracks from a number of historic Columbia/Legacy projects: Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (2003), The Woodstock Experience (2009), Second Winter: Legacy Edition (2004), and Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down (2007).

In addition to Winter's formidable catalog of original albums on Columbia and Blue Sky, True To The Blues revisits a lost classic of rock history, the Columbia three-LP package of 1970 known as The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies - Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop. Previously unavailable on CD, it starred (in Atlanta) Johnny Winter And, Poco, the Chambers Brothers, the Allman Brothers, and Mountain; and (at Isle Of Wight, UK) Sly and the Family Stone, Cactus, David Bromberg, Ten Years After, Procol Harum, Leonard Cohen, Jimi Hendrix, Kris Kristofferson, and Miles Davis.

In the pole position, side one, track one of that remarkable vinyl collectors item was "Mean Mistreater" by Johnny Winter And (his group with Rick Derringer and bassist Randy Hobbs, with Edgar sitting in on drums), as recorded live at the [Second] Atlanta International Pop Festival, their only appearance on the triple-record. True To The Blues now adds two more previously unreleased numbers, Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Eyesight To The Blind" (cf. the Who's Tommy) and Johnny's take on "Prodigal Son."

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