Johnny Winter Interview
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Johnny Winter Interview 1986

Steve Paul, who was my manager, had a club called Steve Paul's The Scene, which was the happening rock club in New York in 1968.

All the nice-looking groupies were there, and the musicians were there because the chicks were there, so it worked out all right for everybody concerned. There were a lot of real interesting jams there, though how good they were would depend on what state of inebriation the musicians were in.

Now, of course, as soon as I'd heard Jimi's first record I was in love with his band, so it was a natural thing for me to want to play with him; and he was real interested in slide, and so he seemed to enjoy playing with me.

He never really made much of an effort to learn slide, though. As good as he was, I'm sure he could've done it. I think he had time booked at the Record Plant every damn night, and he'd get different people different nights: when the Scene would close down they'd go over to the Record Plant and put down jams. Then he'd listen to them the next day, when he'd be straighter, and hopefully get ideas from them.

There weren't that many real tunes during the jams we had, but there was one Guitar Slim song called "The Things I Used To Do" where I played slide and Jimi played and sang. As far as I can remember,that was the only actual song we did. The rest of that crap, that Jim Morrison stuff, isn't really me: I never even met Jim Morrison.

We did a lot of jamming at the Hit Factory, stuff that's on tape, but as I remember there wasn't anything that could've been called a song. By the time we met we both had our styles, but you can always learn something from anybody, and I'm sure that there are little things in my playing that I don't even think about anymore that are Jimi.

But a lot of those things would be because we listened to the same people coming up, so we really learned from a lot of the same guys, like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. Jimi was really familiar with the blues; he could play good straight blues, and he knew all those guys.

That's what he was, really: a great electric blues player. He just stretched it out. He had more chords, he didn't stick to just a three-chord thing, But his playing was all blues. He had so much feeling, and he expanded it with the electronics, some people want to call them gimmicks, but they're hard to work with.

I get all goofed up when I start using that stuff, but Jimi would hook up all these different things together and know how to work them. It was really amazing what he could do with them: it was like playing a whole other instrument. It was blues, but it was Jimi. It was like 21 st century music. He took ideas from everywhere, but it all came out Jimi Hendrix. There'll never be anybody who could do what he did any better.

You asked what he was like as a person. Well, the main thing he was involved with were music and balling chicks, and he really didn't talk much to anybody about politics or growing up or whatever. He'd be friendly but kind of distant, not the kind of guy you'd pull out your problems to. When you're that big, you just can't let yourself open to everybody. It's one reason he liked Billy Cox, because Billy really knew him, knew what he was like before it all happened to him.

See, once you've made it, everybody feels like they know you, and it can be very lonely. Jimi didn't have anybody who was just looking out after Jimi; that was one of the main problems. Everybody wanted something. It's too bad that Jimi wasn't looking out for Jimi either.

If only he'd had somebody to say,"Hey man, put yourself in the hospital for a while, get away from the dope, think about what you want to do"; it would have made a lot of difference. But in those days drugs were thought of as something good, and Jimi was thought of as the king of that whole thing: Jimi and Janis were the king and queen of the drug culture.

They almost had to die, because you can't have a culture based on drugs. Toward the end every time I'd see him he'd look more and more depressed. It almost had to end the way it did.