Who was/is Johnny & The Jammers ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Johnny & The Jammers

Johnny Winter is one of the legends of white Texas blues-rock, while his younger brother Edgar enjoyed a period of mainstream rock near-stardom in the mid-1970s with an all-star group (and an unlikely instrumental hit in Frankenstein). But they were precociously talented Beaumont teens when they cut this classic at Bill Hall's studio in the winter of 1959-60. Because of severe sight problems, the brothers -- Johnny was born in 1944, Edgar two years later -- were educated in special schools, where they early on developed prodigious musical skills, until their junior high years. "I played the ukulele until my hands got big enough to play a guitar," Winter told Kent Benjamin in 'Goldmine' in 1998. "I guess I was about 12 when I started to play the guitar. Just did imperfect versions of what I was hearing on the radio.

I started out with Buddy Holly and people like that. That was before I heard the blues for the first time." When he discovered the blues, still far too young to get into clubs, he "listened to all the blues I could get on the radio." In 1958, the blues-struck Winter brothers formed the Jammers' at their new junior high school. "They had been in other schools before then," the Jammers original pianist Charles Helpenstill, who was fourteen when he joined the group, told Texas music historian Andrew Brown. "But their parents were adamant about getting them out into the real world, so they could attend regular schools just like everybody else. As soon as they hit campus, it was like a bombshell, because both of them were so talented." At some point, after winning a local contest, the brothers traveled to New York to audition -- unsuccessfully, it turned out -- for Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour. They won another contest in 1959, this connected to the movie 'Go Johnny Go.'

As Winter recalled to Kent Benjamin, "'Go Johnny Go'...had Chuck Berry and Jimmy Clanton...a lot of rock 'n' roll people in it. And along with the movie, they had this contest, this Johnny Melody contest. I won that, so I got to audition for a recording session with Bill Hall...He had the only recording studio in town. He just said, 'Let's cut it...,' and I had these two songs I had written, and we went in and recorded them. I think we sold 285 copies." Hall was then riding a crest, having brought Daily the Big Bopper and Chantilly Lace, then discovered Johnny Preston and scored with Running Bear and others. The Bopper -- now dead -- had gone on to Mercury, as would Preston.

At the same time, Hall and Daily developed a relationship that led to Hall placing several country masters that saw light on 'D' and numerous rock 'n' roll-ish sides that wound up on Dart. Publishing was split between Glad Music and Hall's Big Bopper Publishing. It's unclear who comprised the Jammers at this point -- Helpenstill and original drummer David Holiday had departed the group -- but Winter and the Jammers' feel for the idiom cuts through the quasi-juvenile theme of the lyric, and Winter's Chuck Berry-ish guitar is extremely assured for a 15 year old. Although such straightforward white blues was far from uncommon in Texas and Louisiana in this period, it would be a few years before it would become widely fashionable. Winter felt pretty isolated in his obsession. "...[N]obody else cared anything about it. I played as much of the blues as I could in clubs, but until the Stones made it, I didn't get to play too much of it."

© Bear Family Records®

Excerpt from
Various - That'll Flat Git It!
Vol.19 - Rockabilly From The Vaults Of D & Dart Records (CD)

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