The other blues brothers: When Joe Perry Met Johnny Winter
Just months before he died, blues icon Johnny Winter and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry met for the first time to talk hell-raising, music-making and the price of fame.
He may have just entered his eighth decade, but Johnny Winter is having a moment. One of rock’s great survivors, the grizzled Texan blues-rock pioneer is as busy now, at the age of 70, as he’s ever been.
As well as a career-spanning new box set – the aptly titled True To The Blues: The Johnny Winter Story – there’s a warts’n’all documentary on the horizon: Down & Dirty, which covers both his lengthy music career and the battles with booze and drugs that have accompanied it.
No less intriguing is Step Back, the second in a series of covers albums – Winter calls them ‘tributes’ – that find the singer and guitarist recording songs by some of his influences from the 50s and 60s, accompanied by friends and contemporaries, such as Eric Clapton, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and, on a version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’s Mojo Hand, Joe Perry.
Not entirely coincidentally, Perry is currently perched on the edge of a sofa in Winter’s trailer parked outside LA’s Saban Theatre, a couple of hours before the latter is due to take the stage. Classic Rock has engineered a meeting between these two icons, who, despite similarly lengthy careers and a shared love of the blues, have never met before.
Indeed, the Aerosmith guitarist is especially enthused to meet the more laconic Winter. Back in the late 60s, Perry was one of those hungry Young Turks who soaked up such groundbreaking Winter albums as The Progressive Blues Experiment and Second Winter, taking cues from Winter’s soulful playing that he would later incorporate into Aerosmith’s arena-wrecking mega-hits. “I’ve been influenced by Johnny probably since I was about seventeen or eighteen,” says an uncharacteristically effusive Perry. “I’ve always loved his music.”