Supporting a guitar icon is a daunting task, especially in the blues rock genre wherein solos are oft interminable, and the repertoire is frequently given to songs which are more improvisatory vehicles than compositions.
Two cats who impressed me with the legendary Johnny Winter were Tommy Shannon and the late Randy Jo Hobbs. Tommy appeared on Johnny’s initial groundbreaking sides; Progressive Blues Experiment (1968), Johnny Winter (1969), and Second Winter (1969). Shannon skillfully embellished Johnny’s 12-bar blues forays with chords and rhythmic variations rendered with a warm, legato touch: the perfect approach for a Winter-led trio. Tommy was also masterful as a member of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Double Trouble – detuning to Eb to accommodate his bandleader.
Randy Jo, a dandy persona with mutton chops and fanciful headwear, was the complete opposite of Tommy, plying brazen funky, staccato lines: the perfect approach for Johnny’s expanded soulful line-up which sometimes included Rick Derringer, keys, horns, and backing vocalists. Mr. Hobbs, who was a member The McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy”/ 1965) with Derringer, performed brilliantly on Johnny Winter And (1970), Still Alive and Well (1973), and Saints & Sinners (1974) among others, and was featured on Ronnie Montrose’s Jump On It (1976).