Johnny Winter - guitar, vocals; Jon Paris - bass, harmonica; Bobby Torello - drums
There have been quite a few high profile events to commemorate the legendary 1969 Woodstock Festival, but one of the most interesting occurred when many of the original musicians converged in Long Island's Parr Meadows in Brookhaven, NY to celebrate the 10th anniversary. Unlike later events, this was a true 10-year reunion for many of the musicians who played the 1969 festival. Among others, the audience heard performances by the likes of Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Stephen Stills, Leslie West, Jorma Kaukonen, Johnny Winter, Canned Heat, and the Rick Danko/Paul Butterfield Band. Although much had changed in the previous decade and this was a considerably smaller event, the audience was treated to a wealth of memorable music. The King Biscuit Flower Hour crew was on hand to record it all, and several KBFH programs were devoted to highlights from this memorable event.
Texas guitar slinger Johnny Winter, then tearing up the road in power trio format with bassist Jon Paris and drummer Bobby Torello, provided one of the standout performances. This trio had a thundering drive and was equally adept at burning blues or bone-crunching rock 'n' roll. Johnny himself was also in rejuvenated form around this time, having deeply immersed himself in the pure blues for much of the previous year, working and touring with Muddy Waters and James Cotton and sitting in with the likes of Son Seals and B.B King.
Following the introduction Winter and cohorts warm up their chops on Freddie King's "Hideaway," a bouncy romp which soon develops a "Peter Gunn" style drive. Recently recorded for his 1978 album White Hot & Blue, a high-energy take on Junior Well's "Messin' With The Kid" follows, before the trio rips into Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" at a frantic and furious pace. By this point, Winter is blazing away on this dose of rock 'n' roll.
Both songs to follow, Robert Johnson's "Come On My Kitchen" and Muddy Waters' "Rollin' And Tumblin'," return to the blues, each showcasing Winter's hair-raising slide guitar technique. The former begins with only sparse percussion accompaniment from Torello, which allows one to hear every nuance of Winter's guitar and vocal. This develops into a nice jam with Paris blowing harp. This approach continues on the latter song, which longtime fans may notice ventures all the way back to Winter's debut album, The Progressive Blues Experiment.
The best is yet to come and for the next two songs Winter cranks up the intensity level and delivers the most blistering blues of the set. Again venturing back to his debut album, Winter cuts deep into the Willie Dixon/Sonny Boy Williamson classic "Help Me." Winter displays a true mastery here, peeling off lead lines that are both inventive and technically astounding, while Paris and Torello sustain a deep propulsive groove. However, the pinnacle of this performance is Winter's own composition, "Stranger," first featured in tightly condensed form on his 1974 album, John Dawson Winter III. Here the song is more than twice as long and not only features some of Winter's most emotive guitar playing, but also a remarkably compelling and soulful vocal, with little of his trademark raspiness. "Stranger" is a tour-de-force performance that demonstrates Winter's versatility and sensitivity. This all leads up to a cataclysmic take on the Rolling Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash" to end the set.
The crowd is literally going nuts at this point and demands an encore. When the group returns to the stage, they kick into another classic rocker, "Bony Maronie." Although this is primarily a flashfest of blazing guitar licks at breakneck speeds, it certainly is well received by the audience and the group is inspired to veer off into a hot improvisation toward the end where recognizable riffs to other songs are flying by in a stream of consciousness manner. When the group brings it to a crashing close, the audience lets out a truly thunderous roar of approval.
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