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Tribute To Johnny Winter Highlights Rock ‘n’ Blues Fest Opening

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 25: Blues Artist Johnny Winter performs at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the Fair Grounds Race Course on April 25, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The annual Rock'n'Blues Fest kicked off Thursday night (July 31) in suburban Detroit with a special three-song tribute to the late Johnny Winter.

Winter was to co-headline the 12-city tour with his brother Edgar but passed away June 16 in Switzerland at the age of 70.

On Thursday at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, an emotional Edgar thanked the crowd "for being here to help me through this. Johnny was not only my brother, he was my hero, not just in music but in life." Winter added that Johnny, "showed me that being an albino could be cool. I love him for that." He then dedicated a long rendition of "Tobacco Road" to his brother, noting that it's "a song he and I started out doing years ago and has stayed with me ever since."

Winter later told that crowd that his instrumental hit "Frankenstein" was something he started as "The Double Drum Song" while playing in his brother's band. At the end of his set Winter was joined by the other tour participants -- the Vanilla Fudge, Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds and Rare Earth alumnus Pete Rivera -- as well as special guest Jim McCarty (Detroit Wheels, the Rockets, Cactus) for renditions of two of Johnny Winter's signature covers -- the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash" and Bob Dylan's "Highway 61" -- and his 1970 hit "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo."

The latter's writer, longtime Winter family associate Rick Derringer, will be a special guest for the tour's final two shows, August 23 in Las Vegas and August 24 in Snoqualmie, Wash. The Vanilla Fudge also dedicated one of its songs, a cover of the Impressions' "People Get Ready," to Winter on Thursday.