Celebrated guitarist Johnny Winter played a show at The Library Bar on the Oxford Square as the opening day headliner for the 4th Annual Oxford Blues Festival.
Born John Dawson Winter III, Winter, 69, has been playing music since he began on the clarinet at the age of 5. Since then, he has worked as a producer and musician on many Grammy-nominated as well as Grammy–winning albums and with legendary artists such as Muddy Waters, BB King, Bobby Bland and Bob Dylan. Rolling Stone magazine listed Johnny as number 63 on their 100 Greatest Guitarists list in 2003. Johnny was also honored earlier in 1988 when he was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame.
Winter was seated in a second floor room between the front bar and the stage in The Library on the Oxford Square. He was being interviewed by a film documentary crew, wearing blue jeans, sandals, a sky blue sleeveless shirt and a memorable black cowboy hat with open-mouthed snakes wrapped around the brim.
The festival was Winter’s first visit to Oxford, but having lived in Mississippi for a few years, he relishes every opportunity to come back to the state.
“Every chance we get, we do,” Winter said.
Winter, who has travelled all over the world, said he was first drawn to the blues when he heard it as a youngster.
“I heard it on the radio at first,” Winter said. “It just really got to me. I thought that this was great music and I gotta do it whenever I get the chance. It’s (the blues) got so much emotion in it.”
As far as his own musical tastes go, Winter made it clear he is not a fan of today’s music, saying he had his own advice for them.
“I don’t like too many new artists. Most of the people I like were from the ‘50s and ‘60s. My advice is listen to the older people who came first,” Winter said.
Winter did not have much time to sight-see or hang out in Oxford, as he and his band played in Seattle the following night.
There wasn’t much time to speak with Winter as fans who had bought a special ticket for the festival were waiting in the hall. Their tickets afforded them the opportunity to take a picture with Winter and get his autograph. The center room in The Library had quite a crowd even though there was still over an hour until the show began. Some fans had been waiting expectantly for Winter front and center since they opened the doors.
After an opening song from his band, Winter took the stage in front of a cheering and grateful crowd, but this was not the same man behind the scenes. The laid back, relaxed man from the upstairs room had transformed into the world-beloved persona. His sandals were exchanged for black loafers, and his blue jeans and blue shirt had been replaced with slicker black counter parts. On his strumming hand ring finger, which was playing a spectacular show, now sat a gargantuan ring made of diamonds and gold. The only thing that remained was the snake adorned black hat, from under which he greeted the crowd with a smile and a nod.