Podcast with Paul Nelson, blues icon Johnny Winter’s manager/producer/guitarist — Winter headlines on Saturday at Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival
Johnny Winter is a blues rock giant, but his career and life were at low ebb when he heard a session guy named Paul Nelson at work in a studio where Winter was recording. He asked Nelson to record with him. Soon, Nelson was in his band, and eventually he became Winter’s manager.
Since then, Winter has re-ascended to his rightful place of respect in the music world, with fine new records including last year’s “Roots.” That disc, featuring players such as Sonny Landreth, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and John Popper, shows Winter back in the fine form that had eluded him since a spiral into substance addiction.
Winter, who headlines Saturday’s Blue Ridge Blues & BBQ Festival, at Elmwood Park, is clean now and playing great shows, Nelson said. On this podcast, Nelson discusses how he and Winter re-energized both the act and Winter’s life.
“The road that put him in the shape he’s in is now being used to keep him healthy,” Nelson said.
The plan Nelson implemented to revive Winter’s career won him the W.C. Handy Award last year for manager of the year. Nelson laughed as he told the story of one performer who had heard how well Winter was doing and wanted Nelson to do the same for him. The performer told Nelson that he was simply a drinker, implying that he would be easier to reform.