Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
Winter in July
for Johnny Winter
February 1944 – July 2014
So, bikers from
So, women in tight jeans slurred hips that said denim blue is the only blues.
So, every one of us that night had visibly aged, had glacial drifts qualming down our hair.
And you played for us two sets, Johnny, and
And I was with you, my brother, revisiting, resurfacing Highway 61.
And you were the Mean Mistreater, beating back my heart with the blood of your axe.
And when you rasped “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” I swallowed your tattoos. Your arms, a-swirl in ocean depths of ink wells before it was cool.
And when you changed guitars, the guitar found you, brought to you—by a band-mate—on your stool.
I remembered 1971, first hearing Live Johnny Winter And. The year struck in my throat. The word and joining all the bad of my teenage sad.
You were a guitar-slinger, Johnny. Your six-string gun still stinging my gums.
The way your blues roamed through me loose as if my mouth might finally stray it right.
“It’s My Own Fault,” I sang with you over and again, sorry it had taken me so long to finally catch you live.
You could barely walk off stage after your blistering set.You weren’t sick or old but a scrap of blue metal plated to the stage.
How I grieved you, Johnny. Grieved for you, swallowed in those tattoos.
How the squid took your arm.
How the needle made its bite.
How you finally found a way to jump the junk and keep it clean.
How it’s always our own fault when the cards fake dice. When the road churns dirt. When winter comes in July.
And a white, white cloud—shaggy across the plains—is the cut of your hair, aching the stage.
And Highway 61 is never Highway 16. Or the bus from
How do I live now, knowing you’re not there—always twelve years ahead of me since I was fifteen, bending the bent of the road with your axe?