After spending a decade as Johnny Winter's bandleader and, later, producer, Paul Nelson wasn't about to let the music die when Winter did in July of 2014 at the age of 70.
So he and other the later guitarist's other band members now tour as the Johnny Winter All Star Band, fronted by Detroit native James Montgomery and dedicated to preserving Winter's nearly five decade legacy of rock and blues.
"We want to just keep Johnny's name alive, and the music," Nelson explains by phone from Boston. "It's very therapeutic for the musicians, who lost a friend. Every time we play, we see the empty seat, mentally, but we play the music, we play the songs. We love that stuff."
The band is sanctioned by Winter's estate as well as by his brother Edgar, and Nelson cites the Jimi Hendrix family's Experience Hendrix enterprise as a model for how he'd like to treat Winter's work moving forward. "We actually have pictures of Johnny and Hendrix, and Hendrix would play bass for Johnny, so there you go," Nelson notes. "What could say more about the guy than that?"
Nelson has a number of archival live projects already planned, and he'll be releasing a pair of tracks recorded for but not included on Winter's final album "Step Back." He also executive produced the new documentary "Down & Dirty," which features plenty of Winter footage along with testimonials from friends and admirers.
"Johnny was in really bad shape at one point, and he was being written out of history," says Nelson, whose own band recently released a new album called "Badass Generation." "Everyone else was getting accolades. B.B. King was playing with U2. But Johnny was in such bad shape -- wasn't getting into documentaries, nothing.
"This was a huge comeback in the last few years, before the emphysema got him. So it's great to see the Grammy (for 'Step Back') and the movie and all this stuff, and people starting to see how significant he is. It's what he deserves."
Johnny Winter All Star Band featuring James Montgomery and Paul Nelson
7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 20.
Callahan's Music Hall, 2015 South Blvd.
Tickets are $28 and $25.
Call 248-858-9508 or visit atcallahans.com.
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