News Update ...
[This story was amended at 6:30 am Pacific Time]
After being alerted by concerned friends — including a Facebook post by Rick Derringer's wife, Jenda — Guitar Player decided to break a "rumor" story about the passing of blues icon Johnny Winter very late in the evening of July 16.
There was no official confirmation of the guitarist's death at the time, and we were hoping the news was some kind of bizarre hoax.
Sadly, Johnny Winter's Facebook page confirmed the worst this morning:
"Texas blues icon Johnny Winter has passed away on July 16, 2014, in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. His wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of their loved one and one of the world's finest guitarists. An official statement with more details shall be issued at the appropriate time."
GP was working with Winter's press representative, Carla Parisi, to interview him about his new album, Step Back (scheduled for release on September 2), and she also confirmed the news to the Associated Press.
At press time, the cause of death is unknown.
GP was notified of Winter's probable death at 11:41 pm (Central Time) on July 16, by New Jersey guitar teacher and tech Lennie Joseph via a Facebook message. Joseph is friendly with people in the Winter camp, and he was extremely concerned when several associates — including Pete Bremy, the current bassist for Vanilla Fudge — contacted him with their suspicions.
"Hello—there are some very shocking rumors going on that Johnny Winter has passed away. Have you heard anything?" said Joseph's message.
Then, Joseph — as well as our social-networking editor, Jennifer Bergeron — pointed us to the following Facebook post by Jenda Derringer:
Minutes later, Matt Marshall of americanbluesscene.com was the first to file an "official" media report, citing multiple sources:
"Johnny Dawson Winter III has passed away, according to several sources close to the blues man. He was 70. Details surrounding his death have not come forth, but will be added as they emerge."
Wikipedia updated its Johnny Winter page with a death date of July 17 later in the evening, but with no further information.
The legendary bluesman had celebrated his 70th birthday on February 23 of this year.
Rest in peace, Johnny...
Guitar Player's 2006 interview with Winter is here.