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If I was to ask you what was the most successful Johnny Winter album chart-wise, which release would think it was? Surprisingly, it was 2014’s Step Back, his final studio album which reached #17 on the Billboard 200. Very good it is too.
If, like me, you feel like charts are not as important now as they once were, indeed, I can’t even work out how they’re calculated any more, being a strange mix of sales, streams, plays and a hundred other metrics, then looking back to when charts mattered, we find his highest charting album was Still Alive And Well, which got to #22 in the USA.
Yes, JW never had a top 20 album, despite being one of the most important artists of the rock era and despite always being a big live draw throughout. His second album, self-titled, got to #24. The wonderful Johnny Winter And Live album, the record that turned me onto JW when I was 15, peaked at #40 (although it is his only album to go gold) their studio album #154. The Progressive Blues Experiment peaked at #40, Saints and Sinners #42. Those are his top charting albums on Billboard.
I had assumed Hard Again, his important collaboration with Muddy Water had been a big hit album but no, it got to #143. I’d also assumed Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, the famous number that Rick Derringer brought to the ...And band was a hit single, but it wasn’t. It didn’t chart for the band. Rick recorded and released it on All American Boy, of course, and that got to #23.
In the UK, only three albums charted, Second Winter made #59 in a two week chart stay but it was the ...And albums that we liked over here. The first got to #29 and Live to #20. Even so, he’s only spent 12 weeks on the UK album charts across his whole career.
This really shocked me, actually. Johnny has been such an important musician in my life, his music a constant soundtrack. I had bought every single release, so I assumed, wrongly, that millions had done likewise. But no, they hadn’t.
This all goes to prove that you can be a pioneer, a master, a huge influence and a big live draw for 50 years, be appreciated as an important musician and have provided much joy for decades and it doesn’t always translate into sales.
But the albums are all still available. There’s still time to explore them all. If there are any you’ve not heard, or not listened to for a long while, now is a good time to do so. His music is timeless and as powerful now as it ever has been. Long live the blues. Long live Johnny Winter