I was running late with this week’s LOUIE, and certainly didn’t plan to to utilize it again as I’ve done in the past to pay tribute to another departed musician… but life often throws you a curveball, as it did this week.
Johnny Winter was an exceptional musician whose work I always enjoyed. In addition to being an award-winning guitar player, he was also the producer of three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues legend Muddy Waters.
The first time I saw Johnny perform was at the Keystone Palo Alto in 1983. I remember being completely mesmerized, and so very grateful I brought a camera with me that night.
The second time I saw Johnny perform was the Catalyst in Santa Cruz sometime in the 1990s. At the time, I was involved with the LOUIE project, so I decided to bring a copy of “A Lone Star Kind of Day” CD, which featured Johnny’s version of LOUIE LOUIE. I was hoping I’d be able to chat with Johnny about that particular recording and maybe get an autograph for my collection. Johnny wasn’t meeting with anyone after the show, but one of the roadies took it back to Johnny for the autograph. Johnny graciously autographed the CD, but I was informed that it was a bootleg released without his permission.
I discovered that this CD was one of many recordings released by Roy Ames, owner of Home Cooking Records/Clarity Music Publishing, who briefly managed Johnny in 1969. Apparently, Johnny left Houston for the express purpose of getting away from Ames, who had a reputation for screwing over various musicians. in 2003, Ames passed away, and the ownership rights of the Ames master recordings remains unclear to this day.
Anyways, Richard Berry LOVED Johnny’s version of LOUIE LOUIE. I would often make some cassette compilations of his famous song, and he told me he used to love blasting that particular version in his car stereo!
This year, when I discovered Johnny Winter would be doing an appearance in Santa Cruz for a meet-and-greet at Streetlight Records, I made plans to be there. I printed up some photographs from the 1983 show, which I hadn’t shared with anyone.
Johnny’s meet-and-greet session turned out to be inside Johnny’s tour van, parked outside the record store. Johnny was very gracious to everyone that lined up to meet him. When I gave him copies of the 1983 photos, he immediately recognized his bass player Scott Spray, who was still playing with the band!
We talked briefly about the LOUIE recording, which was mostly me jabbering away about how much Richard loved that particular recording. Johnny didn’t really have much to say about that recording or the guy who released it without his permission, but he appreciated that Richard loved his version.
Anyways, here’s that version of LOUIE LOUIE that Johnny recorded in 1969. Despite the graphics on this video that someone posted, it was not on the Rhino Records “Best of Louie Louie,” or released on any other recording authorized by Johnny Winter… but it’s definitely a keeper!
Rest in peace, Johnny. You shall be missed…
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P.S. Last night, as I heard unconfirmed news about Johnny’s demise, I shared a Johnny song with friends that I hoped would ring true… It didn’t work out that way, but I still love this track!