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Johnny Winter, Blues-Rock Icon, Famed Guitarist, Dead at 70

Johnny Winter during is heyday in the 1960s and 70s. He died yesterday at 70.

Johnny Winter during is heyday in the 1960s and 70s. He died yesterday at 70.

Johnny Winter, known as much for has albino looks as his furious guitar playing, a pioneer of blues-infused rock in the 1960s and a Woodstock veteran, has died, according to his representative. He was 70.

The cause of death is unknown at the moment. Winter was found dead in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland, where he was scheduled to play some shows.

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

Winter wasn’t known to be in bad health and had shows scheduled for later in July in the United States.

The musician was once known for his addictions to drinking and drugs, including heroin through much of the 1970s. But in a 2012 interview, he claimed he was clean and sober.

“Heroin was the hardest thing that I ever had to go through,” he told Classic Rock Revisited.

“It was worth it to go through it and get clean. I am not taking any drugs and I am not drinking. I am not smoking cigarettes anymore and I am not doing anything bad.

I never thought this would be possible. I never thought I would see the day that I didn’t have any vices at all.” he said.

Johnny and brother Edgar were musical prodigies who were encouraged to play by their parents at a young age. They picked up on the Texas blues scene in their home state.

By the time he was 15, Johnny was playing in clubs. He also worked as a producer and crafted three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues legend Muddy Waters.

Johnny’s biggest hit, “Frankenstein,” which he recorded with The Edgar Winter Group in 1973, is considered one of the best blues-rock instrumentals of all time.

It soared to No. 1 when it was released and the album They Only Come Out at Night, sold more than one million copies. The song is also notable because Winter pioneered the use of a synthesizer as a lead instrument.

He was also the first artist to play a keyboard like a guitar, the precursor to the ubiquitous “Keytar,” on the song. Winter also played saxophone and timbales on the track.

Winter was signed by Columbia Records in 1968 and released his first self-titled album a year later. With brother Edgar he released his second album, Second Winter, in Nashville in 1969.

Winter cemented himself in the pantheon of rock guitar gods with his performance at Woodstock in 1969. He also briefly dated Janis Joplin and performed with her in New York City.

Winters continued to play and tour. He died two days after his last performance, at the Cahors Blues Festival in France on July 14.

He’s a member of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and ranks 63rd on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists.”

Check out live performances of “Frankenstein” and blues classic “Be Careful With A Fool” below and be sure to follow TheImproper on Twitter for the latest music news.


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