Johnny Winter has died at the age of 70. A spokeswoman for the legendary singer-guitarist says he "passed away today, Thursday, in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists. An official statement with more details shall be issued at the appropriate time." The news was first reported by Jenda Derringer, the wife of Winter's former bandmate Rick Derringer, who posted on her Facebook page that he was "not in good health and was very frail and weak."
A member of the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and named one of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All-Time by Rolling Stone magazine, Winter was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1944. The older brother of Edgar Winter, he started recording at 15 but his big break came when he opened for another legendary guitarist, Michael Bloomfield, in 1968 when he was discovered by Columbia Records who immediately signed him and gave him a $600,000 advance, the largest one ever received at that time. This led to an appearance at Woodstock in 1969 and a career that included nearly 20 albums. He also produced albums, most notably four for Muddy Waters, three of which won Grammy Awards.
On September 2nd, Step Back, Winter's next album is scheduled to be released. It features contributions by Eric Clapton, Joe Perry, Billy Gibbons, Leslie West and many others. Johnny was also scheduled to tour this summer with his brother Edgar on the Rock n' Blues Fest, which was set to start on July 31st in the Detroit suburb of Clarkston, Michigan. The documentary Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty premiered earlier this year at the South-by-Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. It features appearances by Billy Gibbons, Derek Trucks and many others.