One of the saddest sights I have ever seen I saw last Friday night at the Newport. My first-ever guitar hero (after Hendrix), Johnny Winter--my beloved, electrifying, hard blues-rocking, beautiful white flaxen-haired, legally blind Texas albino--took the stage stooped over like a hunchback without his hump, 70 years old but looking 90. I almost cried. I had no idea, none. Johnny! How could you? How could you let the vagaries, vicissitudes and viciousness of life age you into infirmary? You were supposed to be forever young. You rocked on your hugely successful Live Johnny Winter And tour, blowing my psychedelicized teen-aged mind at Public Hall in Cleveland, taking the blues and putting the balls of rock 'n' roll to 'em like only the Stones have ever done--and vice versa, putting the oily blue notes of his piercing metal slide into his rock 'n' roll. Johnny's shit smoked. Plus I was 16 and on my first acid trip. How cool is that? Not only was I there but I can remember. Johnny's super-long dazzling white hair was the center of the universe as he and the ridiculously hot Rick Derringer almost matched him one note for Johnny's several (he played fast). If I'm not mistaken, at least one of his rhythm section went on to anchor Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble. While he performed that electric night decades ago, the lean, lanky Winter would spin his head frequently enough to make his hair look absolutely Fantasia-like--a giant white fuzzy dandelion. Drugs are great when you're 16 years old. Now, my poor beautiful boy is as helpless as a baby. Especially when it came to changing his guitar Friday night. The whole band had to help him. Oh, I love him so much. Reminded me of seeing my old man for the first time in 25 years. I'd last seen him when he was threatening to kick my ass--and he could've. Quarter-century later, he was in his 80s and taking baby steps, Frail, very frail. Sigh. Well, being born an albino carries with it certain genetic debilities I have read, bone density weakness among them. I mean, it's hard enough for normal folk hitting their golden age to not break a hip (which Johnny did a few years ago, too). He was as stooped over as an old Italian man on Euclid Avenue I used to see at the fruit stand back in our old Cleveland neighborhood. OK, so he looked woeful. How bad did he play, you ask? Mostly not badly at all. Mostly good to pretty good. Mostly. He had a fabulously muscular band behind him, pounding out the patterns to “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” “Boney Maroney,” “Highway 61,” etc. And on occasion, Johnny hit his trademark yowl 'n' growl, like he was channeling Howlin' Wolf. His rhythm playing, interestingly enough, was fantastically his own--practically washboard scratchy, heavily on the mark and sounded like an avalanche of leaves tumbling down a mountainside. Really cool. Sometimes his formerly lightning-like leads streaked out from his guitar like the old days. A few times, yes. And they were glorious. Not enough to be able to say he's fully in charge of his fire. But...given his intermittent good singing, several stinging solos and a whole lotta furious rhythm (not to mention that he and his band still play super-high-energy bluesy rock 'n' roll) and I will give him this: he's much, much better than B.B. King who ought to have retired some time ago. When it was time for him to change guitars and put on his legendary Firebird, the whole band put down their instruments, gently and lovingly helped him off his stool and walked him to the side of the stage to a chair. Like they've done it before, one guy took Johnny's magnificently feathered brown felt cowboy hat off and put it on his own head, thereby allowing another musician to take Johnny's guitar off him and replace it with the 'bird. In the meantime, Johnny looked up at all these adults helping him out like he was a helpless little baby. It was so, oh, I don't know--woeful. Then they guided him back to his center-stage position and he burned through a version of Elmore James's “Dust My Broom,” the song's double-stringed slide part slicing through the crowd like a scythe doing the fall harvest. Fuck it--Johnny's still The King. As for the crowd, well, talk about aging gracelessly. Now that Jam Band Nation is hitting it's own early golden years, one can only cringe to watch them move their bodies like arthritic crabs and blown-brain buffalo. Sad, really. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Imagine a twinkle-eyed old hippie playing the bejesus out of his nylon-string guitar, recreating rolling, genuine, real-deal Andalusian flamenco mixed with Ravi Shankar-inspired ragas. Put only 18 people in the same room and you've got the obscure but famous Peter Walker performing at the fine-and-mellow space called Wild Goose Creative on Summit St. last Saturday night. Opener: Mike Fekete, plaintive instrumental guitar picker. Nice. Walker was weird. One minute he was name-dropping John Barrymore, George Harrison and Shankar, and the next minute telling a funny story about playing in Spanish caves back in the '60s, learning the craft of flamenco. Kudos, dude, you paid your dues. I think he was good. I've seen flamenco with dancers, never without, and I think Walker really knew what he was doing (he had none, dancers that is). Some of the stuff was fabulously moody, as it was supposed to be. Other songs, melancholy, for the Spanish are a moody, melancholy race. When they're not being hotblooded passionate about torturing and stabbing and killing bulls and scoring hot Spanish chicks. Which is where Walker perhaps was lacking, a little, anyway. The raw crazy passion. He's kind of cool about his passion, flamenco-speaking. His ragas, though, were outtasite. I mean, tuning down a strange here and there and then skittering up and down his guitar's neck pretty much transported me and the other 16 people in the Wild Goose back to the groovy '60s. We remember, we were there. Opener Fekete played at one point the coolest new age-y instrumental of strictly tapping and half-tone muted chiming chords the likes of which Steve Howe of Yes and “Roundabout” fame would've been impressed. I know I was. What a nice night. A dozen-and-a-half quiet and seemingly thoughtful people listening to rather mellow acoustic guitar music in a sedate setting. I think I like getting old. I mean, I like Downton Abbey, so why not avoid the Italian Disco Whores of Saturday Night High Street and instead hang with the formerly '60s heavies?