Boomerocity

Iconic Interviews & Reviews

Search - Content
Search - Tags
Search - Categories
Support Our Sponsors
  • Badass Generation

         

    Badass Generation
    The Paul Nelson Band
    Label: Friday Music
    Release Date: February 5, 2016
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Johnny Winter fans know who Paul Nelson as Johnny Winter’s “wing man” on the guitar and who helped Winter’s last years alive to be some of the best and healthiest of his life. However, Nelson was not only guitarist to the legendary rock/blues icon but is recognized in his own right as one of today’s premier guitarists. 

    “Johnny definitely took me under his wing,” Nelson remembers his late friend and mentor. “The blues world does that. One musician hands you the torch, and then you try to run with it. Johnny took pride in turning me on to the likes of Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters Delta, Texas and Chicago blues – all the music that he loved. I knew what he was doing for me, and I am really appreciative for that.” 

    Worldwide touring has always been a constant in his career. Nelson and his time with Winter was no different, performing and/or recording along side an array of today’s top artists such as: Slash, Vince Gill, Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Sonny Landreth, Edgar Winter, Leslie West, Susan Tedeshi, Joe Bonamassa, Dickey Betts, Rick Derringer, Brian Setzer, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford and countless others. Major appearances such as television performances on "Late Night with David Letterman" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" soon followed. This finally led Nelson to perform on and produce “Step Back,” a posthumous, star- studded affair, - pairing him on recordings with Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Joe Perry, Ben Harper and many others, earning both Nelson and Winter Grammy Awards for "Best Blues Album" in 2015. Nelson still feels the loss of his friend and mentor. But he also recognizes that new creative endeavors are ahead. 

    The formation of The Paul Nelson Band and its debut album, Badass Generation, marks the next step in that evolution. Nelson’s latest project still maintains an unmistakable connection to the blues, but it also finds the guitarist showing his other musical dimensions, from hard-edged, uncompromising rock and blues to acoustic-driven singer-songwriter fare. 

    On this album Nelson and his newly formed band skillfully incorporate an array of sounds and styles, with what Nelson's fans know to be his calling card: remarkable, world-class virtuosity on the guitar - what you might expect of someone who was also taught by six-string master Steve Vai. "This project has so much input from all of the different styles of music that have influenced me and my band, from blues to classic rock to jam band, pop rock and more. I wanted to play the guitar to serve the songs – and not the other way around. Everything I create has to fit in with the music.” says Nelson. 

    Nelson’s handpicked co-conspirators include vocalist Morten Fredheim, who turned heads topping the European edition of “The Voice”, bassist Christopher Alexander; and Chris Reddan on drums. Gov’t Mule keyboardist Danny Louis also makes a cameo appearance. The collective result is something that’s musically rooted in the classic era of Led Zeppelin, Free, Bad Company, Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Allman Brothers, Aerosmith and ZZ Top – but right at home with a fresh new take in the 21st century. “We got together and painstakingly worked out these songs before we recorded them. The caliber of the musicians in this band is inspiring” Nelson explains. 

    Nelson is eager to begin this new stage of his career with his band mates. Songs such as "Keep It All Together" with Fredheim's soaring vocals, and Nelson's classic guitar sounds to "Goodbye Forever", with it's infectious groove and chorus and "Please Come Home" displaying emotional melodies and soulful slide guitar work, all which are among the few future stand out classics found on this album. "I want our music to touch many people in the same way it did us in the making and performing of this album" says Nelson. His only regret? That his old friend wasn’t able to sit in on a few of the tunes. “Johnny Winter's influence will always be a part of me,” he says. “There are many times when I pick up my guitar, and I feel his music. I know he’s with me in a way, but I also have influences from so many other places. Have I now spread my wings? Absolutely. I’m a musician. I have to keep on writing and performing and never stop.” 

    Johnny Winter fans, in particular, and guitar aficionados in general, will definitely want to add Badass Generation to their listening library.

  • Johnny Winter (2010)

    Posted May, 2010

    Do you remember the “Jay Walking” bit that Jay Leno did on his original late night show? He might still do it but I gave up late night TV for  . . . for . . . sleep!  Anyway, I would love to do my own version of Jay Walking.  What I would do is ask people various trivia questions about classic rock.  Based on my own private discussions with friends, it would be a hoot to see what kind of answers I would get.

    Case in point: Take the subject of Johnny Winter.  I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut that the person on the street will react in one of three ways (just like some of my friends), when I mention this legends name.  Those reactions would be either a blank stare and then, not wanting to look ignorant, say something really stupid like, “Any relation to Jack Frost?”Or, they may try saying something "brainy" like, “Oh, yeah, that comedian dude from the late sixties!

    But the truly brainy ones, those well versed in all things classic rock and blues, a knowing smile will spread across their face with a response that will go something like, “Ah, yes!  PHENOMENAL guitar player!” Or, “YES!  One of the all time blues greats!”

    As for me, when I ask myself these kinds of questions (and I do!), my mind flashes immediately back to the early seventies.  I’m sitting in the living room, having managed, somehow, to commandeer the only TV in the house, and watching Midnight Special.

    I forget who else was on the show but I remember a fella by the name of Johnny Winter being introduced and this scrawny guitarist (are there any other kind?) runs out on stage and starts wailing away the most incredible version of Jumpin’ Jack Flash that I had ever heard.

    I was mesmerized. I was in awe of the other-wordliness of the guitar playing and the showmanship.  In my pubescent mind, I was watching the bleeding edge of rock and roll.

    Later, I was to discover Johnny’s equally musically prodigious brother, Edgar.  Both men grew up in Beaumont, Texas, just 22 short miles from Port Arthur and another 60’s rock icon, Janis Joplin.  Johnny and Edgar were heavily influenced by the blues and gravitated to the blues clubs in the area, often being the only white guys in the crowd and not being hassled in the slightest.

    While making a musical name for himself in Beaumont and the surrounding towns, Johnny was discovered by Rolling Stone Magazine, who featured him in a story about the music scene in Texas and declared him the hottest thing going outside of Janis Joplin.

    This ultimately led to Columbia Records winning a bidding war for Winter to join their roster of artists. Later, Johnny drags kid brother Edgar along for what became their legendary performance at Woodstock.  While the performance didn’t make the original cinematic release, Johnny’s appearance is featured in the 40th anniversary DVD released last year.

    With career spanning six consecutive decades, Winter shows no signs of letting up in touring and productivity.  In addition to a heaving solo touring schedule, he’s also slated to appear, again, at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in Chicago on June 6th, 2010. He’ll join a long list of other guitar legends for a day long festival of incredible music.

    It was checking out Johnny’s tour schedule that I was excited to learn that he was going to be appearing in the Dallas area.  As I typically do, I did my darnedest to seek out an interview with Mr. Winter.  I was successful in landing a brief chat with Johnny a couple of weeks ago, being kind enough to answer a few questions.

    Like Edgar, who I interviewed last year (here), Johnny is somewhat soft spoken and is a man of even fewer words. Since I knew our chat would be brief, I got right to my questions by asking what he had been up the last couple of years.

    With his signature brevity, he replies quite honestly, “Enjoying the fruits of finally cleaning up my act by getting off of drugs and alcohol. It has made such a difference in my life.”

    What else can be added to that?  With those monkeys off of his back, Winter has the strength and stamina to present stellar performances while on the road.  To that point, I asked him what can a fan expect to experience at one of his shows today?

    “Mostly blues, but with some rock mixed in. I do songs from my past and present recordings. I have a great new band and a fantastic new guitarist Paul Nelson and of course I bring out my Gibson Firebird and play some slide. I don’t want to give away my whole set, but we really have a great time playing.”

    In preparation for the interview, I had read where a book on Johnny was set for publication just after our chat was taking place.  I asked about it and, again, got a brief but informative answer.

    “Yes, it’s called Raising Cane. I had a writer follow me around for some time and it covers my whole life from start to present. It makes for a very interesting read” he concludes with a laugh.

    As I always try to do when interviewing people, I asked what would be the one thing that he felt has been least covered and understood about him and his work.

    “Actually there has been nothing in my life that I haven’t been asked about - from drugs and playing to sex and rock and roll. If anyone has any questions they should read the book. It’s a very descriptive account of my life even though a few of the people that were interviewed for the book might have sugar coated some of their stories about me for personal recognition. That’s happened a lot in my life. People say that they know me more than they actually do or that they’ve been involved in helping me more than they really did.”

    Since most fans, critics and observers consider Johnny Winter the definitive “blues man”, I asked him what his opinion of the state of the blues today in today’s music market.

    “I don’t think the blues will ever go away. It has moments when it rises to the top and moments when it takes the back seat. But it is and will always be an important part of any style of music.”

    Since the blues is foundational to much of rock music, I asked Winter if he saw the blues saving the music business or was it even the place of the blues to do so.

    “Like I just said, there has to be blues in any style of music. That’s what gives it its feel and soul.”

    As previously noted, Johnny Winter’s career spans six decades.  He’s, no doubt, observed lots of changes, both positive and negative, in the music business. I asked him what has been the most positive change he’s seen in the business.

    “There’s been hundreds of changes, both in promotion and the birth of new styles of music out of old styles. Nowadays, which is a good thing, both old and new music is respected.”

    I asked Johnny to reflect, for just a moment, on if he were a teenager today and was angling to get into the music business.  I asked him how he would enter the business today, given what he knows now and would his style, musicianship and musical interests be different.

    “I don’t think it matters what era you’re in. If you’re good, you’re good.  You really have to practice and study hard. If you have the talent someone will notice.”

    “I have always and will always love the blues. Whether I started in the 60’s or last week, I’m a bluesman and I will stay that way until I die”, he says with his trademark smile.

    I asked Winter if there are any new artists out that is commanding his attention.  I had a few names in made (who will remain nameless) that I thought for sure he would mention.  I should have known better.

    “The truth is I really only like listening to blues from the past. Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and mostly blues from the 50s.  That’s what inspires me!”

    As was mentioned earlier, Johnny was born and raised 22 miles northwest of where Jani Joplin was born and raised.  This October will mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Joplin. Their professional paths wound up crossing and he come to know Janis.  I asked him if there was anything he felt was misunderstood about the late icon.  Again, his answer is short and sweet.

    “I think the description of her history has been pretty accurate.”

    In asking what his foremost memory of Joplin was, Winter shared this amusing story:

    “I remember one time we went together to see a Mae West movie and I was wearing a long coat with fur lapels. The audience turned around, saw me and started to applaud, thinking that I was Mae West coming to watch my own movie.”

    With no signs of slowing down, I wanted to know what was next, CD-wise, from the guitarmeister.

    “I just signed a deal with Megaforce Records and I plan on putting something out within the next year.”

    After the interview, I reflected the conversation and how, if at all, my impressions of the man had changed.  I suppose that I expected someone who was as flamboyant in conversation as he is on stage. Obviously, Winter is the exact opposite.  He’s a man of few words but what he says reflects exactly what he means.  Nothing more, nothing less.

    While putting the interview to paper, I decided to check out other interviews to see what I could have done better.  While watching the videos of some of his interviews, I was noticed something about this legendary man.  As when I interviewed Johnny, when the subject is about Johnny the man, he says only what needs to be said.  I chalk that up to humility.

    However, when Winter is asked about other people or music, he breaks out beyond the tight circle of words and is much more vocal.  Even when talking about his music, he becomes very animated.  While some might say, “Of course! He’s talking about HIS music!”

    I don’t think that’s the point.  I believe that it’s because he’s talking about MUSIC, period.  Johnny Winter is all about the music, especially the blues.  That is his love, his passion and is what flows in his now clean and always gifted veins. To Johnny, it’s always about the music.

    While minor aspects of my perceptions of Johnny have been slightly altered, what hasn’t changed is my perception of Johnny Winter being the consummate rock and blues guitarist.  He’s that and more. He’s a man who, after long, painful battles, has finally successfully conquered his demons while not quenching the creative spirit within.

    Read more about Johnny’s story in Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter, published by Backbeat Books. If that doesn’t satisfy your Winter itch, check out his website, www.johnnywinter.net.  In addition to finding out what he’s up to, you can avail yourself to the many quality items he has for sell at his online store.

  • Johnny Winter - Dallas, 2010

    Johnny Winter In Concert

    Show Date: June 20, 2010

    Venue: The Granada Theater

     3524 Greenville Avenue

     Dallas, Texas

    To say that the Johnny Winter concert at the Granada Theater was jaw-dropping good would be a complete understatement. The show put me in the rare position of being so enthralled with his incredible talent on the guitar, as well as the incredible musicianship of his band, I literally forgot to write down any of the songs that the man played.

    To watch Winter walk out on stage and just start stomping out the blues was mesmerizing. I am not a musician. I don’t even play one on TV. However, I’m one of those odd ducks that enjoy watching the techniques of great musicians as they perform their craft. In watching Johnny do his thang on the six string, it’s obvious that he’s forgotten more about playing the blues than any of us would ever hope to know.

    Winter played his set list with such familiarity that he seldom glanced at the fret board as he played. His long, slender fingers effortlessly flowed all over his guitar as he alternatively played lead and rhythm.

    For me, the highlight of the show was Winter’s treatment of the blues standard, Red House. Watching him play the great tune made me feel that I was somehow watching a rare, historic event. And to think his performance at Woodstock with his brother, Edgar, didn’t make the movie’s original cut!

    Johnny’s band included guitarist and manager, Paul Nelson, who was almost equally as mesmerizing to watch as Winter; Scott Spray provided excellent, steady bass work while Vito Liuzzi pounded the skins as well as any great professional drummer I’ve ever heard.

    The opening act was a man that I had never heard of before but, I promise you, I’ll never forget. His name isMike Zito and all I can say is “WOW!”. Zito’s guitar work blew me away – especially when he performed the title cut from his latest CD, Pearl River. There’s just something about a great guitar player that’s part of a great three piece band. Zito joined Winter on the stage for one song but I could’ve watched them both jam all night.

    Keep an eye on this guy - he’s good – REALLY good!

    This was the first concert I’ve experienced in the Granada Theater. It’s an intimate and comfortable venue with dinner tables and descent food available at reasonable rates. All of the staff that I came in contact with were helpful and friendly. I’m looking forward to seeing many more shows at this place. You should, too.

    To find out if Johnny Winter is playing in your neck of the woods or to just keep up with the latest news about him, check out his website,www.johnnywinter.net. While you’re there, check out his store and bring your music library up to date.

  • Johnny Winter - Dallas, 2012

    Johnny Winter In Concert
    Show Date: February 1, 2012
    Venue: The Granada Theater - Dallas, Texas

    Whoever tells you that lightning never strikes twice in the same place has never seen Johnny Winter perform twice at the beautiful Granada Theater in Dallas.

    Still flying on the emotional high from his appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Johnny and his band came prepared to blow away the sold out crowd at the historic venue.

    The crowd was thoroughly primed after killer sets by the opening acts, Damon Fowler and Jim Suhler. Fowler and his band were incredibly awesome. I had never heard of them before and was disappointed that I didn’t make it into the theater until his set was well underway. Great, great band that I hope to hear a lot more of in the future.

    Homeboy, Jim Suhler followed and it was clear that many of his fans were in the audience because they seemed to know what he was going to play next before he played it. He and the band were tight – especially during their tribute to Rory Gallagher.

    Almost precisely on time, Johnny Winter’s band – consisting of 2nd guitarist (and manager), Paul Nelson, Vito Liuzzi on drums and Scott Spray on bass – came out and played their signature “intro jam”. Towards the end of the jam, Winter was escorted to his chair where he held court and effortless blew through the gem, Hideaway.

    Many crowd favorites were played. One of them, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, was wild and I mean wild. That song kicked the door in for Got My Mojo Working, which brought the entire theater to its feet.

    One personal favorite from the gig were, of course, Johnny B. Goode. I’m telling you, Johnny and the band drove that song like they stole it! If it’s a treat to see Winter in concert, it’s icing on the cake to witness him play this rock classic.

    The other personal favorite was when Winter brought out his old friend, sax man Jon Smith for the song, Black Jack.

    To say that the Johnny Winter concert at the Granada Theater was jaw-dropping good would be a complete understatement. The show put me in the rare position of being so enthralled with his incredible talent on the guitar, as well as the incredible musicianship of his band, I literally forgot to write down any of the songs that the man played.

    To watch Winter walk out on stage and just start stomping out the blues was mesmerizing. I am not a musician. I don’t even play one on TV. However, I’m one of those odd ducks that enjoy watching the techniques of great musicians as they perform their craft. In watching Johnny do his thang on the six string, it’s obvious that he’s forgotten more about playing the blues than any of us would ever hope to know.

    Winter played his set list with such familiarity that he seldom glanced at the fret board as he played. His long, slender fingers effortlessly flowed all over his guitar as he alternatively played lead and rhythm.

    For me, the highlight of the show was Winter’s treatment of the blues standard, Red House. Watching him play the great tune made me feel that I was somehow watching a rare, historic event. And to think his performance at Woodstock with his brother, Edgar, didn’t make the movie’s original cut!

    Johnny’s band included guitarist and manager, Paul Nelson, who was almost equally as mesmerizing to watch as Winter; Scott Spray provided excellent, steady bass work while Vito Liuzzi pounded the skins as well as any great professional drummer I’ve ever heard.

    The opening act was a man that I had never heard of before but, I promise you, I’ll never forget. His name is Mike Zito and all I can say is “WOW!”. Zito’s guitar work blew me away – especially when he performed the title cut from his latest CD, Pearl River. There’s just something about a great guitar player that’s part of a great three piece band. Zito joined Winter on the stage for one song but I could’ve watched them both jam all night.

    Keep an eye on this guy - he’s good – REALLY good!

    This was the first concert I’ve experienced in the Granada Theater. It’s an intimate and comfortable venue with dinner tables and descent food available at reasonable rates. All of the staff that I came in contact with were helpful and friendly. I’m looking forward to seeing many more shows at this place. You should, too.

    To find out if Johnny Winter is playing in your neck of the woods or to just keep up with the latest news about him, check out his website, www.johnnywinter.net. While you’re there, check out his store and bring your music library up to date.

  • Johnny Winter and Paul Nelson (2012)

    Posted January, 2012

    In this line of work (interviewing artists), it’s always a personal thrill and honor for me to be able to hear icons share their thoughts and stories with me and to the Boomerocity readers.  The icing on the cake is when an icon agrees to a second interview with Boomerocity.   It’s happened a few times in Boomerocity’s 3+ year history and it’s recently happened yet again with rock and blues great, Johnny Winter.

    My first interview with the veteran of Woodstock (here) took place almost two years ago prior to an appearance he was about to make in Dallas.  Low and behold, the second interview took place under the same circumstances.  I learned from my last interview with Winter - as well as from the research I conducted for both interviews - that he is a man of few words.  However, like a well written song that has just the right amount of notes, Johnny’s words convey his thoughts crisply and succinctly.  Nothing more. Nothing less.  The man is not one to hide anything.

    As he’s said in interviews with me as well as with many other people, pretty much everything there is to know about him is out there – especially in his authorized biography, Raisin’ Cain.  You may wince and what all has happened in his life and the demons that he’s battled but it is what it is. Take it or leave it.

    The rock and roll rollercoaster that was, and is, Johnny Winter’s life is well known and documented.  Many people counted the prodigious guitarist down for the count many times over the years.  While they certainly couldn’t be faulted for doing so, Winter has proved them all wrong and is enjoying quite a resurgence in his popularity thanks in large part to the caring, guiding hand of Paul Nelson. Nelson not only serves as Johnny’s manager but is also his wing man (2nd guitarist) on stage.

    Nelson stepped into a very toxic environment that, if it hadn’t changed, would have surely resulted in the premature death of Winter.  It was a long, gradual, methodical process but with genuine concern, patience and sound business and marketing practices, Johnny Winter’s career has taken a turn for the best and reaching a whole new group of fans.

    In chatting with Paul about some background info, I complimented him on his solid job in helping Winter. He shared that, “You know, as a fan, I wanted to do what a fan would do for him and as a musician I wanted to do for him what I would want – what any musician would want to have done if they were having trouble. You have to wear a lot of hats in this business. There was a lot of stuff in his ‘system’ and a lot of stuff had to stop. It takes a lot of time and patience and you really can’t be swayed by other two cents… like, ‘Why isn’t he doing this? Why isn’t he doing that?  You just have to keep focused like a horse with blinders. Then, all of a sudden, people turn around and say, ‘Wow! What happened?’ It took about six years since I’ve been managing him but now he’s off of everything, which is great!”

    I caught up by phone with Johnny and Paul as they were on their tour bus in route to a gig in Massachusetts.

    As Johnny and I make small talk in getting the interview started, I asked how the road was treating him these days, he responded with his characteristic brevity. “Pretty good. It’s the road.”

    Well, with this particular tour, I assumed that Winter’s set is comprised mostly of tunes from your latest CD, Roots, and asked if that was the case.“Oh, we do a couple of songs off the record.”

    And what is the reaction to the tunes from the fans?

     “Real, real good. They’re likin’ Dust My Broom and Got My Mojo Workin’”.

     According to my research, “Roots” is Johnny’s 18th studio solo album since 1968. He has observed a lot of changes in recording technology and process since that album, The Progressive Blues Experiment.  While those changes are obvious, I was curious as to what is the same for him in recording blues today as compared to that first album.

    “Yeah, it’s changed a lot but I still do it pretty much the same way. The technology’s changed but I don’t really deal with that.”

    In one of the Winter interviews I had read, he was asked, when practicing, what scales he liked to play.  He said something to the effect that he just copied the sounds of other artists and played by ear.  I turned the scenario around on him and asked if he was aware of anyone who was copying his licks.

    “Oh, sure, and it’s very flattering. There’s a guy out in California. He plays a lot like me. He sounds almost like me. It’s kinda scary.”

    Back to the Roots CD, Paul Nelson (who both produced and performed on the record) said,  “All those vocals on the new Roots CD,  where all first takes!  We couldn’t believe it.  We were all just stunned!  His singing was great!  This album had to be good!  The music doesn’t lie. If he wasn’t healthy enough, then people would say, ‘Oh, okay, maybe he’s gettin’ a little better but . . .’.   Anyway he was phenomenal. He did a really good job. I knew it was time for him to record.”

    Every artist, when planning to record an album, has their own process by which they determine what songs will go on their album.  I drilled him about what guided him in his song selection for Roots, he said, “I just took songs that I really liked. I could’ve picked thousands more but I picked some of my favorites.”

    ‘Nuff said.

    When I asked if there’ll be a Roots sequel, Johnny tells me all I really need to know.  “There probably will.”

    As discussed in the Boomerocity review of Roots upon its release (here), there are a boat load of highly talented guest artists lending a hand.  Great folks like Johnny’s brother, Edgar, Derek Trucks and his lovely wife, Susan Tedeschi, John Popper from Blues Traveller, country guitar slinger, Vince Gill, organist, John Medeski, and guitarists Sonny Landreth and Jimmy Vivino all lend incredible sounds to this project.

    In commenting on the guest roster, Johnny “I knew everybody but John Popper. I had met everybody before except for Popper. My manager, Paul, brought ‘em all together.”

    I was especially intrigued by Johnny’s inclusion of Vince Gill on the Chuck Berry classic, Maybellene. “Yeah, he is. He is good!  Yeah, he’s a country guitar player but he’s a really good country guitar player.”

    I expected that Roots to have taken a long time to put together with all of the talent that was on the album.  However, I was stunned at the answer I received from Johnny when I asked him about it.

    “It was about a month. I was only in the studio for about five hours but the whole thing took about a month.”

    Five hours.  I mean, seriously? Five hours?  Unreal.

    A recent high point in Winter’s resurgence was his January 12th appearance with his band on The Late Show With David Letterman.  Paul and Johnny were rightfully still jonesing from the success of that appearance when Paul said, “He (Winter) looked great. He’s healthy. He was singing his butt off and playing great and to have (Paul) Shaffer and the horns kick in, it was a big event – really cool! We had a great time!”

    As indicated in the Boomerocity review of Winter’s biography, Raisin’ Cain, the tome was given very high marks (see the review here).  Winter is obviously very proud of the book judging by his comment to me about it. “Yeah!  We’ve sold three or four editions out. The book is doing well. I didn’t write it. Mary Lou (Sullivan) interviewed me and pretty much wrote what I said. ”

    As for what Winter’s fans can expect from the band during this year’s touring, Johnny replied, “I’ll do mostly blues and a little rock and roll.”  Nelson added, “What happened was, after the Roots idea, and after Johnny picked the songs, I had to make sure that the band - the rhythm section - had learned all of the original versions of the songs that Johnny listened to when he grew up. Then, I had them learn a secondary version – a second version of each of those songs. What happened was that the group as a whole improved. We got more ‘simpler’. We got more pure into that traditional sound but then modernized the sound on Roots. We knew that we had to be a tight rhythm section for Johnny and the heavy hitters we would be playing for on the album.

    “It improved our  live show and the music is more driving. It’s more solid. The song selection is tighter now. Johnny has added Bony Moronie,  Johnny B. Goode. He’s added School Girl – you know, some of the more rock’ish kind of songs mixed in with the blues.  Highway 61. The show is actually now – finally – now that Johnny’s healthy, he’s starting to experiment more and improve and add more of the old catalog and new stuff. So, it’s a lot different. A lot more energy.

     “Another thing: You’ll see a camera crew running around everywhere we are. We hired Greg Oliver – he just finished the Motorhead Lemmy DVD  - the documentary – and he’s doing a documentary on Johnny over the next year. He’s going to do the in-story, we’re going to go by Johnny’s house in Beaumont (Texas), we’re going to go to the old high school there, the Vulcan Gas Company (a music venue in Austin, Texas).  He followed us to Letterman – everything. So, it’s a big deal.”

    When I asked if my personal favorite Winter cover, Jumpin’ Jack Flack, was being played, Nelson shed some interesting light on the tune with his answer.  “We’re still working on it. He goes back to it but he doesn’t want to go too far back to his rock roots. He realizes that that period was important but he really felt that he sold out the blues so anything that resembles that, he shies away from. We put the riffs from it in the rhythm section – we sneak ‘em in and he wails over it and he cracks up.  We’ll do Boney Moronie and, in the verses, we’ll sneak in a riff from Mean Town Blues and then the rhythm section will start doing the riff from Jumpin’ Jack Flash and he just smiles. It’s pretty funny. A lot of fun.”

    When I told Johnny and Paul that the upcoming show at the Granada has been sold out, Paul was bubbling over with excitement and added, “He’s selling out everywhere. People are starting to realize – especially now that he’s healthy – that they don’t want to miss out on Johnny. He’s that hidden gem that deserves the credit that might have passed him by and went more towards a Hendrix or a Clapton.  He’s our living Hendrix! I’m serious!

    “People are starting to research him more now. Now that he’s having a resurgence, there’s more material out on him now – more of the Bootleg Series, the DVD’s . They’re getting it.   Plus that Rolling Stone thing – top guitarist or whatever – he’s definitely having a comeback. When I tell Johnny, ‘Johnny your  having a comeback’, he says, ‘But I never went anywhere!?’ ‘I laugh and say, ‘Just go with it. Johnny!’   He’s really having a good time.”

    I asked what the biggest misconception about him is, Johnny laughed and said, “Only my close friends know what I’m really like.” I could hear Paul laughing in the background.  And then, more seriously, adds, “ I don’t think there’s really any big misconception about me. People pretty much know what I’m like.” I added that he just puts himself out there and people can take it or leave it, he admits, “Yeah, that’s true.”

    As he handed the phone off to Paul, I told him that I was looking forward to a good show at his upcoming Dallas appearance.  He said, point blank, “You’ll get one.”   As they say in his home state of Texas, if it’s true, it ain’t braggin’.

    With the great vibe Johnny’s enjoying with his resurgence, I asked a question that I know has been asked and answered a million times but I wanted the latest answer: Will Johnny be doing anything with his brother, Edgar, and even with Rick Derringer?

    Let’s just say that what I was told made me pogo-stick happy and you’ll feel the same way, too, when the news hits the streets.  Keep your eye on Boomerocity for that news to break.

    Until then, you can check out JohnnyWinter.net to see when and where he’s going to be performing near you.  You’ll see that he’s keeping a tour schedule that would wear out an artist that is less than half his age so there’s a great chance he’s stopping at a venue in your town.

  • Lance Lopez Live In NYC

         

    Lance Lopez Live in NYC
    Lance Lopez
    Label: Cleopatra Blues
    Release Date: February 3, 2016
    Review Date: February 28, 2016

    Unless you’re a hard core blues fan, there’s a better than even chance that you may not have heard of Lance Lopez. If so, you don’t know what you’ve been missing.

    A friend and a protégé, of sorts, of the late, great Johnny Winter, Lopez as been lighting up the blues scene across the country (but ‘specially in Texas) since he was fourteen years young.

    Lopez’s latest offering is actually one of two new discs that he’s put out (the other being the debut record of his super group, Supersonic Blues Machine. See our review of it on Boomerocity.). Live In NYC is Lance’s new live album that was never intended to be recorded. 

    Performing in NYC at B.B. King’s for the late Johnny Winter’s last birthday party, the gig was recorded, unbeknownst to Lance. A few months later, Winter’s wing man, Paul Nelson, called up Lopez to say that he was listening to some great music from that night and wanted to put it out as record. The result is “Lance Lopez Live In NYC”.

    Chock full raw, blues and energy, the disc show that Lance Lopez clearly has the Johnny Winter’s mantel upon his shoulders, heavy with the dust from the crossroads. 

    Yeah, it – and he – is that good.

    Lance Lopez Live In NYC is one of THE must-have blues albums of 2016.

     

     

  • Paul Nelson Discusses Johnny Winter and Badass Generation

    June, 2016

    thepaulnelsonbandIt isn’t a stretch at all to say that Johnny Winter was one of the preeminent blues men of our time. Revered and respected, we lost him far too soon on July 14th 2014.

    Before his death, I had the privilege of interviewing Johnny twice. Both interviews were orchestrated by his dear friend and manager, Paul Nelson. I recently interviewed Paul about his new album (included with this interview in its entirety on Boomerocity.com) but we started our chat about his late friend. At the outset, I said that, while I didn’t want to make this a “puff piece,” I also didn’t want this to a negative chat about his late, dear friend. Nelson jumped right on the comment.

    “You know what? Everything was common knowledge. Even Johnny asked back in the day, ‘Should I be talking about this stuff?’ I go ‘yes.’ I go, “You need to say everything that you did. You went down to the dumps and came back up, and I know if you can that, do it at full swing. That’s what we gotta do. Plus, it’s going to be educational for people and you can help some people get off of drugs and this and that.’

    So he was totally open about the shape he was in and what he was doing, so it’s all good.”

    This was our first chat since Winter’s passing so I asked about how it had been for him in the days immediately after his dear friend’s death.

    “It wasn’t easy. There is a lot of family involved, the band involved, but we put together the Johnny Winter All-Star shows, and that was great to honor Johnny. It was therapeutic for the band as well. And we still do it. We’re doing a series of these in February and March, the movie’s coming out, March 4 “Down and Dirty.” We had guests. I went to Jamaica, we did it with Govt. Mule and Warren Haynes and Sonny (Landreth) – good friends of mine. Edgar (Winter, Johnny’s brother) did one – actually, online at Buddy Guy’s at his Legends club. Ronnie Baker Brooks, Debbie Davies, Joe Lewis Walker, Earl Slick, Mike Zito.

    “So we’ve been doing tons of these. It’s kind of like the Jimi Hendrix Experience thing. That started off as one show of B. B. King’s. It was birthday celebration for Hendrix. Johnny and I were on it and they developed to what you see now, this touring thing.

    “We’ve lost so many important artists, each one, even B. B. King has the B. B. King All-Star Band. His drummer, T. C., put that together. It’s important for everyone. We have to keep his music going and it’s like I said, the movie’s coming out so is what we do, is they screen the movie at these concerts and then they see us play. These are the original members and we also have original members from Johnny’s past. Bobby Torello, the guy that played on previous albums and previous tours. So we’ve been doing that.

    “Johnny had such a comeback toward the end, he got so much healthier except he had the emphysema, which finally was his downfall. But other than that, people saw this resurgence and that actually what the movie’s about, among other things about rock history; his history, and Blues.”

    The last time Nelson and I talked about three or four years ago, I met with him and Johnny when they were appearing in Dallas. Johnny’s favorite guitar had just recently been stolen. I asked Paul if the guitar had ever been recovered.

    “Yes, and the reason why we found it was because I didn’t publicize it. The key is to never publicize something like that because then it goes deeper and deeper into hiding. Luckily a fan saw it at a store being sold by someone else. He notified us, sent it over and we got the Laser back. It was stolen in Massachusetts. We got it back and that’s one of those rare things. You have an instrument like that and what can you do with it? The biggest fear is that it goes into hibernation and then comes back decades. Do not open until 2050. It worked.”

    Before we switched to chatting about Paul’s new CD, I asked him for some closing thoughts about Johnny, maybe something about him that might surprise fans or something that he’d like to share that maybe they’re not hearing about the late blues master.

    “He had a great sense of humor. Not only was he a great musician artist, but his love for the Blues made him, and I’ve only seen a few like this, like Billy Gibbons, Bill Wax, who works Bluesville, Dick Sherman, the producer. Blues historians, just knew everything about who played this, who was on this recording, who had the drinking problem or all the little nuances of the Blues, he knew everything and I was honored that he took me under his wing and that he turned me onto that. ‘Get this album and listen to this specific list, instead of going out and buying all the records by Chuck Berry, or all the records by different people.’ This is what I learned. This is what we all learned back in the day. That was great.

    “On the tour bus, he listened to Blues. He had 15,000 songs on his IPod and he listened to it from when he awoke until showtime and then afterwards, every day. He was just constantly inputting that information and then he would, those lists would come up during that night’s performance. He was a sponge.

    “He was a great guy. At the end of those past few years, he was totally clean. A lot of people don’t know I had him get laser surgery. He was no longer legally blind. That was a big deal. And then, of course, the methadone was gone, the drinking was gone, the smoking was gone. He was really enjoying his life toward the end. He was completely free of all that stuff, and the fans were noticing it. The way he was performing, that’s why it was so important to put out that record, Roots, Step Back, which got he and I the Grammies. What’s so important is that his voice was so strong, his playing was so much stronger, so that was the key. And then when we appeared on Letterman, he hadn’t been on TV because of his health. But this was a huge thing in TV, you can’t really lie. He had added a couple of pounds but other than that, he performed. He heard the whole record. And this movie, he saw the whole movie as well. He did witness everything that’s coming out now; which was important.”

    I asked Nelson if he felt Winter would like how he’s being remembered and what his legacy is so far?

    “Absolutely. There was a reason why he wasn’t up there with his cohorts and his old johnnywinterband colormanagement, he pushed the envelope too. He made Ozzy Osborne look like he had training wheels. But once that was cleaned up, everybody started realizing what an important piece of the puzzle Johnny was and how Rolling Stone should’ve mentioned him in the top 10 at least. I mean, it’s Hendrix, Johnny and, then (Stevie Ray) Vaughan. A lot of people don’t know that Stevie Ray Vaughan used to come over to Johnny’s in Texas and hang around with him. Johnny would teach him riffs.

    “So Vaughan was Johnny’s student. It’s that important. I think that the Grammy solidified it. The TV appearances, Crossroads, these were all important things for him. I was honored that he trusted me enough and we were close friends, to help this out, to know what had to be done to get him back to that position.

    "And, now, you have to buy Johnny’s stuff, you have to listen to Johnny. The whole jam band resurgence is the way Johnny played. His connections with the Allman Brothers, his connections with Hendrix, his connections with The Beatles, his connection with Janis Joplin, his connections with Vaughan, he was everywhere in musical history for decades. Every major event. The 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, the 90s were bad years. The movie described that. The movie is very enlightening about what happens. People are going to be surprised. They’ll finally see the man behind the music.”

    Shifting to Nelson’s new CD, I asked him what was the story and motivation behind it and what did he set out to accomplish when he started making the album.

    “I’ve been studying music for years. I studied with Steve Vai, with Michael Stern, Steve Kahn. I’ve toured with other bands and produced. Johnny was like, “Paul I know you’ve done a lot of other stuff, but I’m glad you just play blues with me. And we get along musically first.” That was first and foremost. He said, “I know no, you can play like Rick Derringer and do all that stuff.”

    "We were always battling on guitar. He goes, “I like the fact that I know that you can play like that, but you don’t so that I can do my thing and we compliment each other really well.” And he was really proud of that, so that was cool.

    "That musical background of all these styles that he recognized, he was actually going to be on this (CD). When Johnny passed, you have to continue on. We’re all artists, musicians, we have to do our thing so I continued playing, producing and all that. But I knew I wanted to do my own thing. I had done my own solo album - an instrumental thing – very ‘Eric Johnsony – before that, called “Look.” I had this singer that I’d produced a couple of years ago, and I had my eye on him from when I was working with his band; then the bass player, Chris Redan the drummer from Popa Chubby, Chris Alexander from Samantha Fish and then Morton Fredheim, who was actually number two on The Voice over in Europe. I said, ‘Let’s get together and start writing material.’

    “So they came over and this stuff just started flowing out of me because I had such a great singer. This guy was like Paul Rogers on steroids. And then all of sudden it was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I thought this was going to be this type of album?’ This stuff just spewed out of us. It was like retro, paying tribute to the 70s type of stuff, which everybody loves; but at the same time, it’s current.

    “So all the different styles starting coming out, Jam, Southern Rock, Blues, and the lyrics started coming out of me; the music started coming out of me and it just happened.

    “I got signed with Sony. They said, ‘We’ll put it out in February’ and then I have a separate deal with Sony Japan that comes out in April. I really wanted to write songs though. It’s inspirational when you work with a singer, though I didn’t want - there’s a real lack of front man nowadays. Now it’s just guitar players and singing. I’m going to be the one who changes it, but everybody professes that they love that kind of music, but then when you ask them to do it, they go, ‘Oh no.’ They’ve played guitars for years and then all of sudden they’re singers in a week. Now that I have a singer, the lyrics flow out. It’s so inspirational when you’re writing something and you know that you have the tools and the players to not worry whether it’s going to be good or not. It’s going to develop. While I’m writing this I go, ‘Boy, is this going to be something else when these guys get a hold of it’ and that’s what was happening. We made this real diverse package and, if you see the cover, it’s a cassette. That’s paying tribute to the past, but at the same time, ‘Bad Ass Generation’ refers to the term that everybody uses now to describe stuff, ‘Bad Ass.’ So, it’s us now appreciating from the past but still making sure that it’s current. And it’s doing really well.”

    When I asked Paul how long it took to make the album, I was astonished by his answer.

    "Three weeks, four weeks. I’m very particular and I had some good people working. I had an engineer, Phil Magnotti. He’s got like three Grammies, so he mixed it. I produced it. We really worked hard on it. The actual material was written in seven days."

    Did it come out the way he wanted it to?

    "Even better. There’s a million musicians saying that about their album as we speak, but I was really happy the way it came out because I used recording techniques of the past, but recording techniques of now. We recorded the drums a certain way, the guitars a certain way, the vocals a certain way. But we used today’s sound to beef that up. What if Boston recorded today? What if those guys recorded those same songs now and that kind of thing? We really analyzed and studied the school of the 70s before we started cooking, and then it just came out."

    I asked if there was anything he did on the album that was like ‘I always wanted to do this in the studio and now’s my chance to do it?’ to which he replied:

    “The whole thing was like that. I wanted to write and record stuff that reminded me of the stuff that influenced me. Luckily, everyone else was like that, as well. Aerosmith influences. Led Zeppelin influences. Tom Petty influences. All the other influences. We are at a really good time right now. Warren Haynes is a really close friend to all those guys. When you see the shows that are going on now, you’ll have someone play a blues song for the audience and then, all of a sudden, they’re playing a tribute to AC/DC. Then, they may be doing War Pigs from Sabbath and, then all of sudden, they’re doing Whipping Post. Then, all of sudden, Warren will bring out Scofield and now they’re doing Fusion. It’s the same crowd and they are looking going, ‘What?’

    “I think the audiences are being groomed to be more open, which allows the artist to put more diverse stuff on one album. It’s not like you have to do this and you can’t change it, you can’t add any instrumentation, you can’t leave the blues world; you can’t leave the rock world, that kind of thing. Even Johnny got a lot of crap from being a rock/blues guy. He just wanted to be a blues purist. He hated when he was on top for rock. He thought he sold himself short, but now it’s okay to do that.

    “We are at a good time. I thought that this album’s timing was perfect. It’s really getting a lot of airplay and catching people’s ears because the content, the lyric, the songs.”

    As for what song Nelson would select as a “calling card” for the whole CD, he said:

    “Actually, the tracks were placed strategically. The albums of the past - songs were put in to build up the listener, then bring them down, and then bring them back up at the crescendo at the end. That’s what going on.

    “The first song, ‘Down Home Boogie,’ is one of those. I’m playing slide, which nobody knew that I did. Another one is ‘Roots of all Evil.’ A lot of people like that one. I like that one, too. I love the British kind of drum kind of groove to it. I love the tone of the guitars, the tightness, and then I’m a big fan of Danny Lewis from Gov’t Mule. He plays keys on ‘Keep It All Together.’ I love that song.

    “Fans are, like, ‘I like tracks five and six’ and then another one ‘I like seven and eight’. I’m happy because no one is saying they don’t like anything, so all the songs are playable, airplay wise.”

    One thing that stood out with me on the album was how, “Please Come Home”, has a bit of the Doors meets Ringo Starr meets Crosby, Stills and Nash. Pure musical brilliance. I asked Nelson to tell me the story behind that song.

    “The mixing engineer goes, ‘Oh My God, this one’s a hit!’

    “I wrote that with a singer at, like, four in the morning and we actually went to the rest of the band, we’re putting it together. We woke up and we’re like, ‘Hey, we wrote something last night and we apologize.’ They go, ‘What do you mean?’ We said, ‘Because it’s so different and we don’t know where it came from but we think we’re going to put it on the record.’

    “When I brought it to the mixing engineer, he’s like, ‘This song, there’s something about it,’ to the point where it just got sent to the American Armed Forces Network, the radio for the military, ‘Please Come Home’.

    “It’s got a 60s kind of thing and then all of a sudden an Allman Brothers kind of thing. It brings back memories of, like you said, those bands that you mentioned, absolutely. It came out of nowhere, that one. A lot of people are saying that one. You know a band will write all these heavy rock songs and, then, all of a sudden, that’s the one. They’re like, ‘Really? So that’s the one we have to play all the time?’ But we love it. We were so worried. This is a really different direction. Morton sang the hell out of it.

    “Again, once I finished the album, I listened to it now as a fan, you have to separate yourself and go back and look from the outside of the chess game. This is the most I’ve been excited about my new record. There is something about this. This is actually something that I listened to. I put stuff out, then you go to the next album, the next album, but I keep on coming back to this. A lot of people do and they don’t stop listening to it. So, I’m really appreciative that it’s going over that well. I’m glad you mentioned that song because a lot of people are and that’s going to be the next lyric video that they put out for that one. They’re going to push that one.

    Regarding touring in support of the CD, Paul said:

    "Right now, I’m finishing playing on and producing a Paul Butterfield tribute album. Jimmy Vivino is on it. The keyboard player for Paul Butterfield band is on it. We’re working on getting Elvin Bishop, James Montgomery. We have Grace Kelly, the saxophone player from the Steve Colbert show. Then, we head out to do a two month run of the Johnny Winter All-Star stuff to coincide with the movie at the same time this comes out. In May, I start up with my band and my project and that’s what hits because Japan is going to release it so we’ll probably go over there."

    As we wrapped up our chat, I asked Paul how he hoped to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

    paulnelsonband cover1650"I just want to write good music. I want people to enjoy it. That’s pretty strange because Johnny was asked that question a lot. He wanted on his headstone ‘Bluesman. That’s all he ever wanted to be. Myself, all I want to do is write music that I enjoy and that I know the people enjoy. It’s very important for me, because if they enjoy it, what I’ve been doing has been worth it. And, so far so good. You hear from the fans and they encourage you. They really help. The fans are really important because it’s your gauge that keeps you going saying, “you know what, keep on going, keep on doing it.” So I’ll keep on churning stuff out until that time, like you said."

    You can follow the latest happenings in Paul Nelson’s career by visiting PaulNelsonGuitar.com.

Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

The Boomerocity Interview Vault

Interviews

May, 2015       If you’re a hard core Todd Rundgren fan, then...

Read more

Boomerocity on Facebook