Johnny Winter was one of the great blues electric guitarists and a native Texan.
Born in Beaumont on Feb. 23, 1944, John Dawson Winter III grew up comfortably middle class, the son of a cotton broker-turned-building contractor.
He took music lessons and sang in the church choir. At 10 or 11, he was transfixed by what he heard on a black radio station that was a favorite of the family’s maid.
“It was real raw,” he recalled, “completely different than the music my parents and grandparents listened to. I started listenin’ to blues on KJET because I liked what I heard in the kitchen.”
Doing a ukulele act, Johnny and Edgar won a local contest that qualified them to audition in New York for “Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour.” The judges were unimpressed.
As he got older, Winter played clubs around his hometown. After two years at Lamar State College, he quit, heading for Chicago to sing the blues. Within a few months, he was back in Texas, performing at bars and recording on small labels.
Still an unknown, he drew the attention of Rolling Stone, which featured him in a 1968 story on the Texas music scene: “Imagine a 130-pound cross-eyed albino bluesman with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest blues guitar you have ever heard.”