Johnny Winter marks his 70th by playing the blues

Johnny Winter is flanked by fellow guitarists Paul Nelson (left) and Mike Zito. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Johnny Winter is flanked by fellow guitarists Paul Nelson (left) and Mike Zito at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York on Feb. 23. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

By Chris M. Junior

There’s a video clip on Johnny Winter’s official site in which the blues great says, “Being worshipped is not fun. Being appreciated is fun.”

The low-key Winter must have enjoyed himself on Feb. 23. That night at New York’s B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, appreciation for Winter’s life and career was everywhere, as his concert also served as a 70th-birthday celebration and a push for his new 4-CD retrospective, “True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story.”

Seated throughout his headlining set, Winter stormed through material that put him on the map, including his early 1970s covers of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (both included on “True to the Blues”), and what inspired him to be a musician, such as the Muddy Waters-popularized “Got My Mojo Workin’ (which Winter recorded for his 2011 album, “Roots”).

Johnny Winter (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Johnny Winter (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Paying tribute to him onstage were fellow blues artists Popa Chubby (who during his guest spot on “Got My Mojo Workin’” elicited a big grin from the normally poker-faced Winter), Mike Zito (who jammed on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and later presented Winter with a guitar as a gift) and Joe Louis Walker (who strapped on opener Lance Lopez’s guitar for “It’s All Over Now”).

As the show was winding down, statements from the likes of Derek Trucks, Carlos Santana and Pete Townshend about Winter’s impact as a blues guitarist appeared on the club’s inexplicably blurry video screens. For a lifelong musician like Winter, appreciation from peers and disciples is the kind of fun that probably never gets old.

Winter’s next block of North American tour dates begins with a March 6 show in Leesburg, Va. The “True to the Blues” collection is due Feb. 25 via Columbia/Legacy.

Johnny Winter blows out the candles on his birthday cake. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

Johnny Winter blows out the candles on his birthday cake. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)

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