He was literally the whitest blues guitarist in history. But Johnny Winter's playing was as deep and soulful as anybody who ever picked up the instrument. He and rocker brother Edgar Winter noodled around with Everly Brothers tunes right out of kindergarten. By 15, Winter had already recorded an album with a Houston label. In 1968, he found himself at the center of a record label bidding war after Rolling Stone lauded the albino bluesman's six-string prowess. He went on to release nearly 40 albums, as well as produce three Grammy winners for Muddy Waters. A performer at Woodstock, Winter was ranked in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. The 70-year-old Winter died July 16, 2014, while on tour in Switzerland. (This interview was conducted two weeks before his death.)
"We were playing the Spectrum in Philadelphia in '71 or '72. It had a revolving stage. The whole band took acid before we played. This was not a good idea. We all got way, way higher than we thought we were going to.
"We were onstage playing, and Tommy (Shannon, bassist) came up to me and said, 'Are we playing?'
"I said, 'I hope so. There's a whole bunch of people out there. We better be.'
"Then I'd walk away from the mic and get lost. I couldn't find my way back to the mic.
"The stage wasn't really going that fast, but it felt like it was just racing. It would move and the sound would completely change because the people were in different places. When the show was over, we thought we were back where we started, but we got off in the middle of the fucking audience. That was definitely the worst gig I ever played. It was a mess. We didn't know where we were or what we were doing."
— Johnny Winter