Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Raisin’ Cain – the Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter by Mary Lou Sullivan

This book is a well documented chronicle of Johnny Winter's life, loves, bands, records and career. Sullivan spent many years on this project and was stymied several times by uncooperative managers who were afraid that she was getting to close to Winter and that her friendship (and probably the information she was digging up) would compromise the manager's position.

His early years are told in detail, with listings of his many groups and line-ups and independent records that he released. I understand that early unscrupulous managers/bookers/what-have-you have reissued many (if not all) of these tracks under various record titles, with Johnny being none-too-pleased and not receiving anything for them. Unfortunately, unscrupulous managers seem to have plagued him throughout a majority of his career.

Johnny learned to love drugs at an early age and this escalated to heroin use just as his career was hitting its peak with the gold record Johnny Winter And...Live! (surprisingly, his only gold record). He stopped playing in order to clean up, which he finally did with methadone, which ironically, he ended up using for decades and which almost ended his career when he mixed it other prescribed drugs. The lowest point in his career was when he was under a prescription drug haze and his playing and singing were strongly affected. He has cleaned up and, according to the author, seems stronger than before and now has a manager who is truly looking out for Winter and not just working for himself.

There have been many ups and downs throughout his life from his early rise to stardom (and the many people who he helped and who helped him, from his brother Edgar to Rick Derringer to his many sidemen/friends) to drugs almost ending it, to his resurgence with Still Alive and Well and his Grammy-winning work with Muddy Waters, through bad management deals and health issues. Luckily, we still have this major talent with us and with luck, we will for years to come.