Johnny Winter, 70, ambassador of Texas blues
His last performance was Saturday at the Lovely Days Festival in Wiesen, Austria.
A guitarist who rose out of East Texas in the 1960s to become an ambassador to a generation of young fans digging for American music's roots, Mr. Winter was the most visible Texas blues progenitor of the era, at least until his avowed disciples, brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughn, took up the torch.
Mr. Winter was best known for his string of albums released on Columbia Records in the years after labelmate (and onetime lover) Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company proved the market ripe for a striking hotshot like Mr. Winter. After signing a multi-album contract that offered him lots of money, freedom, and an avenue to fame - and helped land him a slot at Woodstock - the guitarist released a string of successful albums featuring both his own band and luminaries of classic Chicago blues.
A nasty drug habit, though, sidelined his career, as did his steadfast refusal to abandon blues for more commercial guitar rock sound as popularized by chart toppers such as the Rolling Stones and Peter Frampton.
After Mr. Winter got clean, he returned to his chief role, one that consumed his life: celebrating the raw, imposing sound of electrified Texas blues, one more link in a chain of fretmen including Freddie King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson.
Mr. Winter went on to produce three Grammy-winning albums for blues icons Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker while continuing to record and tour.
He most recently was in the beginning stages of promoting Step Back, his forthcoming album of collaborations. The list of guests underscores Mr. Winter's stature. It features recordings with artists including Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Dr. John, Ben Harper, and others.