Vineyards Blues

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Vineyards Blues

Just back from an excursion to Cutchogue with our friends John and Mary, and Peconic Bay Winery for a late afternoon concert among the grapes: Johnny Winter.

For any who don't know know the name, he's an albino Texas bluesman who plays an extra­ordinary guitar, sometimes a dobro.

I first cut his trail in late '68 in a brief mention by Mike Bloomfield, calling him the best blues guitarist no one had ever heard of, in an article in Rolling Stone.

Spurred by that, my friend Simon-the-one-they-call-Richard and I hustled back from a binge in Paris and London to see his first NYC concert, at the Filmore East, in January 1969.

(Good seats: $5.00!)

He was terrific, and I've been a fan ever since.

And while open seating in the Vineyards field was a lot more than $5.00, we went 'cause Jeanne had never heard the man play, and I had to see how he'd held up over the decades.

(Of everyone I'd seen at the Filmore East, I think only Winter and Terry Reid are the ones still alive today.)

The opening act was North Fork-based Jon DiVello Band which played their own originals and a tight version of Winter's first "hit" (it got a lot of airplay on WNEW-FM), Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'."

When Winter came on, it was clear the 67-year old performer has physically lost several steps over the past five decades...

(But then, who among us...?)

...but ye Gawds and the ghost of Robert Johnson, the man can still play, even though he has to do it sitting down.

Johnny Winter at Peconic Bay Winery, Father's Day 2011

Frail, stooped over like a question mark, and his arms covered from wrist to shoulder with "tactical" tattoos, it didn't look like he could make it up the steps and onto the stage, but once there his voice was strong and raspy, and his playing sure-fingered and deft as ever.

His near two hour set... including a short delay to fix a "sound fritz" affecting his microphone and guitar amp... was comprised of his own renderings of others' work: Muddy Waters and Elmore James, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

Loved it!

Loved the whole afternoon and early evening, actually... the vineyard on Route 25 was well laid-out for the event, and even though a bottle of beer or a glass of wine was $3.00 more than what I used to play for admission to the Filmore East, they have a full schedule for the Summer and while I don't see anyone the stature of Winter, the Jon DiVello Band is worth another trip.


1. 1340 said...

Agreed, he has lost the "spring in his step," but there is no noticable loss in his vocals or fingers. He is, as Rick Derringer says, "Still Alive and Well." And his fans are all the more blessed for that.


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