Johnny Winter Fans consider "The Progressive Blues Experiment" one of Johnny Winter's best albums if not the best. Originally "The Progressive Blues Experiment" was recorded on the Sonobeat label during October 1968 and the rights were obtained by Imperial which released the album in March 1969, just before Johnny released his self-titled (aka Black Album) in April 1969. This web page has photos of album covers, inner sleeves, record labels together with production details, musicians and track-listing.
"The Progressive Blues Experiment" by Johnny Winter is a legendary 12" vinyl LP album that showcases the extraordinary talent and unique style of the American blues guitarist and singer. Recorded live at the Vulcan Gas Company, an iconic music venue in Austin, Texas, the album's original release on Sonobeat remains a coveted and rare gem among collectors. Its subsequent re-issue by Imperial Records only adds to the album's historical significance. In this article, we delve into the origins, impact, and enduring appeal of this exceptional musical creation.
I. The Genesis of "The Progressive Blues Experiment":
In the late 1960s, Johnny Winter had already established himself as a highly skilled blues guitarist with an unparalleled mastery of slide guitar. During this period, he performed at the Vulcan Gas Company, where he caught the attention of Eddie Wilson and Bill Josey Sr., founders of Sonobeat Records. Impressed by Winter's electrifying performances, they offered him the opportunity to record an album, leading to the inception of "The Progressive Blues Experiment".
II. The Sonobeat Release - Rarity and Significance:
"The Progressive Blues Experiment" was released by Sonobeat Records in 1968, marking Winter's first official studio album. The label was known for its dedication to capturing the essence of Austin's emerging music scene, and this album was a perfect representation of the vibrant blues culture at the time. Due to limited distribution and the label's relatively small reach, the original Sonobeat release remains highly sought-after among vinyl collectors, with only a few copies known to exist.
III. The Music and Style:
The album's musical content reflects Johnny Winter's artistic prowess and profound passion for the blues. Blending traditional blues with a progressive edge, Winter's fiery guitar solos and soulful vocals take center stage in every track. The album features a mix of original compositions and covers of classic blues songs, each delivered with a distinctive and electrifying performance.
IV. The Re-Issue by Imperial Records:
The demand for "The Progressive Blues Experiment" escalated over the years, eventually prompting Imperial Records to re-issue the album in response to its enduring popularity and growing interest from fans and collectors. The Imperial re-release introduced a new audience to Winter's innovative blues sound, further cementing his status as a blues guitar virtuoso.
V. Enduring Legacy and Influence:
"The Progressive Blues Experiment" remains a cornerstone of Johnny Winter's discography, serving as a testament to his exceptional talent and musical innovation. The album's enduring influence can be felt in the works of countless blues and rock musicians who followed, drawing inspiration from Winter's dynamic guitar playing and expressive vocals.
ohnny Winter had grown up in Beaumont, Texas, and recorded many records for local labels in the early '60s, but real success had eluded him. In 1968, he decided to try the blossoming hippie scene in Austin with a hard-driving blues/rock band called simply "Johnny Winter", with Tommy Shannon and John Turner supplying the backing. The group played numerous shows around town.
During this time, their performances at Austin's Vulcan Gas Company and Houston's Love Street Light Circus caught the attention of a writer from Rolling Stone magazine, who was working on an article about the Texas hippie scene. The author dedicated three paragraphs to Johnny, referring to him as "the hottest item outside of Janis Joplin". This coverage brought nationwide attention to the album "The Progressive Blues Experiment," a compilation of songs recorded live by Johnny's trio at the Vulcan Gas Company. Imperial Records quickly acquired the rights and released the album nationally in March 1969.
Bill Josey heard of this impressive band and, upon confirming that Johnny was free from contracts, signed him to a short-term deal. Josey recorded several tracks at the Vulcan Gas Co. and released a single, #197 "Mean Town Blues/Rollin' N' Tumblin'". This marked the beginning of the Johnny Winter publicity campaign.
Rolling Stone magazine featured a story on Texas that prominently highlighted Johnny, and his profile continued to rise. Steve Paul of NYC became interested and secured an exclusive management contract with Winter. Simultaneously, record company negotiations ensued. Sonobeat produced a limited run of demo LPs of "Winter," which generated interest within the industry.
After deliberations, Johnny signed with Columbia Records, while the Sonobeat LP was acquired by United Artists and later released on Imperial as "The Progressive Blues Experiment". It was subsequently reissued on UA as "Johnny Winter -- Austin, Texas" a few years later.
In chronological order:
Record Format: 12" Vinyl Stereo Gramophone Record
Total Album (Cover+Record) weight: 230 gram
1969 Made in USA
Bill Josey - Producer
Rim Kelley - Producer
Vulcan Gas Company, Austin, Texas
Johnny Winter – vocals, electric guitar, National steel guitar, mandolin, harmonica
Tommy Shannon – bass guitar
John "Red" Turner – drums
"This as recorded one night down at the Vulcan Gas Company, a club in Austin. It's really a live album without an audience, because apart from the two acoustic tracks, it has a sweaty, intense feel, just like a young band blowing for the hell of it, rather than a bunch of seasoned superstars doing their greatest hits for the 14th time."
Johnny Winter's album The Progressive Blues Experiment scores 49 on the Billboard charts and is reviewed in the Los Angeles Times. "Pop Album Briefs" Johnny Winter's Blues Sound - Pete Johnson reviews the "Progressive Blues Experiment" quote "Johnny's playing and singing are frequently high speed, similar in tempo and texture to English blues interpretations His voice has a hoarse crying quality which works nicely on his LP The Progressive Blues Experiment. Johnny Winter. Imperial LP-12431. Columbia Records recently paid more than half a million dollars to sign winner, an albino texas owes singer-guitarist. This album was recorded for a small Texas label (Sonobeat) some time before anyone thought about his pop potentiaL Exploitation albums such as this are generally poor quality (as in Capitol's early Jimi Hendrix product and Mainstream's Big Brother records), but this is a happy exception. It is recorded well and captures some exciting performances of largely traditional material. Winter appears to be a devotee of the Muddy Waters 'Howlin' Wolf Chicago' brand of blues, and the album's highlights come from that school: "Rollin' and Tumblin',' "Tribute to Muddy,' "Help Me" and 'Forty Four.' His playing and singing are frequently high speed, similar in tempo and texture to English blues interpretations. His voice has a hoarse crying quality which works nicely on this LP, though his singing is occasionally buried in the electric instrumentation —Pete Johnson
A lengthy review of the "Progressive Blues Experiment" by Michael Joseph Heinrich
The transcript of this review
Today's column is by Michael Joseph Heinrich, a senior at Encinal High in Alameda. Readers are invited to submit reviews of pop albums to the column each week_ Those whose columns are published each receive a copy of a recently released stereo pop album. Address all correspondence to: "Guest Album," Teen Age, Oakland Tribune. P.O. Box 509, Oak-land, 94604.
Johnny Winter was once referred to as "the ultimate white bluesman" — he's an albino — but perhaps the statement is not without other motivation. Winter is an excellent performer; however, this Liberty re-release only hints at his talent. "The Progressive Blues Experiment" was recorded about a year ago in Austin, Texas.
The sound is hazy. the blend could be better, and Winter's two sidemen are just barely competent. Winter himself keeps his vocals well in control, with good phrasing for the most part, and his guitar work is impressive save for one fault: Winter may start a phrase on his guitar 'way up on the neck, playing little whining notes, then work all the way down to the bottom, then bang, suddenly he's right back up on top again. It's a very unnerving thing, one that gives a feeling of dis-continuity. Nonetheless, Winter is a masterful guitarist, and even in view of the poor acoustics of the LP, it's a good idea to pick up on it.
The set has good things, bad things, all kinda funny stuff, but they should be experienced as an essential part of the fabric of the blues. Examining individual cuts:
"Rollin' & Tumblin' " leads off the album; it's been done many times before, but it's , still fresh here, and the track establishes two things about the set: one, the similarity in atmosphere to a live performance, and two, Winter's ability to breathe new life into a song you've heard over and over. He plays a very solid slide guitar here, a style which can also emphasize percussion as well as chording. "Tribute to Muddy" is a retitled and slightly altered "Two Trains Running." another song we've all heard at least once.
It's done in a slow 6-8 time, with the beat just driving on and on. and Johnny's guitar shin-as usual. It's paradoxical, listening to Winter's style_ He's lifting riffs from all the blues before him, and you think, "Him, I've heard Eric Clap tan doing that... " while Clapton probably lifted it at the same time — he just got it on record first. Winter often sings in unison to his guitar lines; it certainly leaves no doubt as to who's playing guitar. "Got Love if You Want It" sounds like a Magic Sam song — good for dancing, fun to listen to. It leads into "Bad Luck & Trouble," a rural blues multi-tracked by Johnny on guitar, mandolin, and harmonica.
The effect is crowded, cluttered, like three individuals sitting around working out for their own pleasure. It doesn't make for the greatest music. "Help Me" is done surprisingly close to the way Cream might have done it. The guitar dominates the track, right to the end. Then the guitar work really comes across on "Mean Town Blues," Winter's strongest original in this set. The rhythm is heavily syncopated, pushing forward all the time — the break goes just about as far as possible playing straight slide style. "Broke Down Engine" is a hard-four blues with just Johnny and his righteous old National The mood is light, both in lyric (" . . . You're like a broke down engine, mama — ain't got no drivin' wheel . ") and in music: Winter constantly breaks tempo and meter to get in another line or two on his guitar before the lyric comes around, showing a rare lack of reliance on musical rules in the form of a crutch.
There's nothing that livens up a set like a good workout on "Dust My Broom" or the like, and "Black Cat Bone" backs that up beautifully. Winter plays his Elmore James thing meticulously, and the song rolls along — far too swiftly for my taste. "It's My Own Fault" is the slow blues of the set; more or less like any good slow blues, but here it's apparent more than any other place on the album that the band needs another guitarist to fill the gaps left by the guitarist's breaks: They sound awfully thin. "Forty-Four" starts out a lot like a Jimi Hendrix song, and the feeling sometimes peeps out throughout the cut. In view of all that went before it. the cut was a weak choice with which to close the album. that's Johnny Winter's first LP. It's refreshing, tiring, promising, exciting, and just a little down-homish, and if you think you can catch it better yourself at the Fillmore with your t w o -tr ack Sony, fine. The all-important thing is to hear Winter. He's well worth it now, and is probably getting. heavier every day.
The Progressive Blues Experiment is reviews as Guest Album by Frits Kuder
Fritz Kuder of Danville reviews Johnny Winter's new album in today's column. Readers are invited to submit reviews of their favorite albums and interviews with pop music entertainers to the column each week. Those whose columns are published will each receive a copy of a recently released stereo pop album. Address all correspondence to: Guest Album, Teen Age, Oakland Tribune, P.O. Box 509, Oakland, 94604.
"The Progressive Blues Experiment" is truly one of the sleeper albums of the year. The feature artist is Johnny Winter. Winter recently signed a new contract with Columbia Records. The contract calls for $600,000 spread over a period of five years, plus royalties from records. This contract shows that some one obviously thinks quite a bit of Winter, but that is another story, so let's get on to the album. Johnny Winter is not alone on this album either. Johnny heads a group called WINTER. The other members of the group are Tom Shannon, electric bass, and Red Turner, drums. Shannon plays a booming, driving bass.
Turner's off beat drumming is perfect for the songs on the album. The album starts out with a classic blues song, Muddy Waters' famed "Roling and Tumbling." Winter and his group give it a fine treatment. Perhaps most pleasing is Winter's searing lead guitar. Next on the first side is "Tribute to Muddy." This is a heavy bass pattern and contains some of the fastest guitar work on the record. The third cut is called "I Got Love if You Want It" and is a rather typical blues song. The fourth number really shows Winter's versatility. On this triple taped song he plays the guitar, mandolin, harmonica and does the vocal. Quite a talent.
The first side ends up on a Sonny Boy Williamson number called "Help Me." It is masterfully done. Winter's ability to sing the blues shows that he has worked out with people like B. B. King and Mike Bloomfield. He does all the vocals on the album. He possesses the classic voice of a traditional blues shouter, which is very nice if you like blues. Now on to side two. The first song on this side is a not so original Winter composition called "Mean Town Blues." This number is based on a John Lee Hooker song "Boogie Children." As the title would, suggest the song features a heavy boogie and Winter's brilliant guitar work.
In the next song 'Vinter displays his style on the slide guitar. The song called "Broke Down Engine" literally explodes in your face. The next song is a Winter original called Black Cat Bone. It has a rousing lead guitar and must have been recorded at higher volume level. Winter pays tribute to B. B. King on the fourth cut. It's a seven minute song from King's own pen called "It's My Own Fault." The album ends on a song called "Forty Four." This last song was written by Chester Burnett, better known to his fans as Howlin' Wolf.
So there it is, an album drenched in the blues. If you enjoy the blues the album is a real treat, If you don't know about the blues it may open your eyes to them.
Johnny Winter , was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. Best known for his high-energy blues-rock albums and live performances in the late 1960s and 1970s, Winter also produced three Grammy Award-winning albums for blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. After his time with Waters, Winter recorded several Grammy-nominated blues albums. In 1988, he was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame and in 2003, he was ranked 63rd in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the '100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time'. He was also known for his collaborations with other musicians, including Muddy Waters and Edgar Winter. Winter's career spanned several decades and he released numerous albums throughout his lifetime. He died on 16 July 2014.