Johnny Winter's first manager Steve Paul, and current manager Paul Nelson shared their memories and insights for this biography, as did Val Minett who worked closely with the late Teddy Slatus, and Muddy Waters's manager Scott Cameron.
Steve Paul was Johnny's first professional manager and the man who negotiated the history-making deal with Columbia Records. I met Steve backstage at B.B. Kings in NYC after one of Johnny's shows. Paul Nelson, Johnny's current manager, hooked us up by having us seated at the same table. Steve is the charismatic visionary who owned the Scene, the hip New York club in the late 60s where rock stars hung out, jammed, and made musical history. He orchestrated Johnny's appearance at the Fillmore East with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, Johnny's jams with Jimi Hendrix, gigs at the Royal Albert Hall and every major festival – including Woodstock – across the country. Steve created a promotional engine that kept Johnny on the covers and pages of major music publications and generated slots on several high profle TV shows.
Although Steve hadn't given an interview in 30 years, he liked me, Johnny, and the project. After several phone conversations and meetings, he agreed to an email interview, where he shared his thoughts and memories of his 15 years as Johnny's manager. Ever the visionary, Steve's latest project is Downtown TV, an online entertainment network.
Val Minett worked for Slatus Management from 1998 to 2002, when Teddy Slatus, Johnny’s manager from 1984 to 2005, was sinking rapidly into the throes of alcoholism. It was a four year business relationship she described as “a weird time that felt like 20 years.” Originally hired as Johnny’s webmaster, she also produced the compilation DVD Pieces and Bits. As Slatus became too inebriated to function, she began arranging tours, setting up interviews, and going to gigs.
Yet another victim of Slatus’s disreputable financial practices, Val shared her dealings with Slatus and his partner Betty Ann Johnston after she moved to Connecticut for a job and a paycheck that never materialized. She offered insight into Slatus, who she called “a tortured soul," and his bizarre experience with a bottle of scotch and a prostitute that forced her to represent Johnny’s interests -- alone – at a meeting with Sony executives. Val described the hateful and co-dependent relationship between Slatus and Johnston, the appalling scenarios she often encountered when she needed Slatus’s signature on checks, and the lawsuit she filed to get compensated for her work on the Pieces and Bits DVD.
I met guitarist Paul Nelson at Carriage House Studio during the recording of "Im A Bluesman." Our first interview took place in my home where we shared a pizza and a lot of laughs watching Johnny Winter videos that Susan Winter had so generously loaned me from her personal collection. I did a second interview with Paul after he became Johnny's manager in 2005. He explained how Teddy Slatus had overmedicated and financially exploited Johnny, and his own ensuing determination to get Johnny off of the medication and free from Slatus’s stranglehold. Paul shared his strategy that has revived Johnny’s health and career and generated high profile gigs, including Johnny's appearances with the Allman Brothers at the Beacon Theater and at Eric Clapton's 2007 Crossroads concert.
I interviewed Scott Cameron, Muddy Waters's manager, who is now executor of Muddy's estate, from his business offices in Chicago. Scott shared his memories of the Blue Sky recording sessions for Hard Again, I'm Ready, and King Bee, the three Grammy Award winning albums that Johnny produced and played on with his hero. Scott shared his thoughts about Johnny's role as producer, the impact he had on Muddy's career, and the warm friendship and mutual respect between the musicians.