Johnny Winter “Illustrated Man” (1991)

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At the time that Johnny Winter signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records in 1968, his advance of $600,000 was reportedly the largest in the history of the music industry.¹ Throughout his life, he did most everything else to excess as well: His playing style – my guitarist friend, Geoff, always said Winter played as if he were being paid by the note; Prolific recordings – 25 of his own releases, plus playing on (as well as producing) three Grammy award-winning albums for Muddy Waters; And yes, tattoos – long before they were ubiquitous among rockers and hipsters alike. Here, he sings about his natty tats in ‘Illustrated Man,’ fitting in a dizzying whirlwind of soloing around pithy lines like, “Got the Mona Lisa on my keister, Van Gogh on my nose / I’m a walkin’ work of art, from my head down to my toes.” Crafty wordplay, spellbinding playing, and human decoration; Johnny was a multi-faceted master of fine arts.


¹the prior record, from earlier that same year, was for Led Zeppelin at a comparatively paltry $200,000.


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