Before I’d even heard him play, Johnny Winter had me kinda freaked out. It was the cover of his 1976 album “Captured Live!” that did it – there was Winter, holding a Gibson Firebird guitar, scarves pinned to the sleeves of what can only be described as his blouse, platform heels poking out of weathered bell-bottoms, snow-white mane of hair tossed back as he hit a high note in what I assumed was ecstasy. To my 10-year-old eyes, Winter looked like a guitar god from some other planet.
I later learned that he was a bluesman with his feet firmly rooted in the earth of Texas electric blues, but that image of Winter as a full-blown rock star never left me. It helped that Winter, now as then, played the blues like it was the hardest of hard rock, a living, breathing thing, not a musical idiom that belonged in a museum. Now, more than 40 years after the release of his Columbia records debut, Winter is still doing what he always did – breathing fire into the blues and, one hopes, inspiring a whole new generation of guitar gods-in-waiting. And maybe freaking out a kid or two along the way.
Winter and his band play at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.). Magic Slim & the Teardrops will open. Tickets are $28 advance, $30 day of show (box office, Ticketmaster.com).
– Jeff Miers