Edgar Winter has never hidden his debt to his late older brother Johnny Winter. The guitarist’s encouragement and support — including having Edgar as part of his band when it played the Woodstock Music and Art Fair 50 years ago — when they were younger was instrumental.
Now, Edgar is returning the favor with a star-studded tribute album honoring his brother. The singer and multi-instrumentalist hopes to release it in 2020.
“It’s really turned out to be a wonderful blessing in my life, doing this,” Winter tells Billboard. “Johnny’s my all-time musical hero. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am now. I just feel like I need to acknowledge that and put out a record he would love.”
Winter says the 16-song set will include a mix of Johnny Winter originals as well as some of his signature covers, such as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” and Rock Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” which Johnny Winter recorded first, in 1970.
Guests include Joe Walsh, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibson, Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Robben Ford, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Bobby Rush, with others to be announced in the future.
“I was very hesitant to do it at first,” Winter says. “I’d had some offers from various record companies shortly after his death (in 2014 at the age of 70) and it just seemed like not the right time. Everybody was like, ‘What guests can you get?’ and ‘What budget?’ It just seemed like exploitation, and I didn’t feel good about doing it at the time. But the more time went by and I started thinking about it, I felt like it was something I should do.” The as-yet-untitled album will be released by Quarto Valley Records.
“I think I see Johnny in a totally different light than other people do,” Winter says. “He first and foremost loved the blues, but he had a great voice, and in the early years when we were playing together he would sing beautiful ballads like ‘Cryin'” by Roy Orbison in a completely clear, beautiful voice. So I’m going to do some of those songs that are my personal favorites, too.
“I think everybody’s gonna love this album, Johnny’s fans as well as mine.”
Winter also plays on Ringo Starr’s new album, What’s My Name, a guest appearance that he feels went hand-in-hand with this year’s commemoration of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary.
“Ringo is such a unique, just joyful gentleman,” Winter says. “And beyond that he’s such a heartfelt advocate and spokesman for peace and love, and being an old hippie and having played Woodstock, I just love that idea of spreading that light and that message. I think the Beatles did that, and Ringo carries it on in admirable fashion.”