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Mary Lou Sullivan - Raisin' Cain (2010)

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Mary Lou Sullivan's Raisin' Cain

Mary Lou Sullivan's Raisin' Cain

Photo courtesy Backbeat Books

The Bottom Line

Lively bio of blues-rock guitar legend presents Johnny Winter at both his best and his worst. Writer Mary Lou Sullivan digs deep into her subject's life much like great music biographers as Peter Guralnick did with Elvis or Robert Gordon did with Muddy Waters, interviewing everybody from Winter and his equally famous brother Edgar to former bandmates, managers, producers, fellow blues musicians, and many others. As a result, Sullivan has delivered the ultimate biography of the enigmatic bluesman.

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  • In-depth biography of blues-rock guitarist Johnny Winter
  • Comprehensive discography details Winter's entire career


  • What's not to like? This is a great biography!


  • 386 pages, 6"x9" trade paperback
  • Foreword by Johnny Winter
  • Includes two-dozen rare and vintage B&W and color photos

Guide Review - Mary Lou Sullivan - Raisin' Cain (2010)

When guitarist Johnny Winter burst onto the rock music scene in 1969, his arrival was accompanied by a then-unprecedented amount of hype. Signed to Columbia Records with what was reported as the largest advance in history, expectations were unrealistically high for the young albino bluesman from Texas.

Truth is, by the time that Winter was introduced to the record-buying public, he was already a decade-long veteran of local and regional Texas bands, first performing at the young age of fifteen years old. In the 40 years since Winter's "discovery" and the release of his self-titled debut album, the talented guitarist has endured a fearsome roller-coaster of fame and famine, addiction and alcoholism, acclaim and indifference...and along the way he has created some great music and influenced a couple generations of guitarists that followed.

Writer Mary Lou Sullivan first met Winter a quarter-century ago, and has become a trusted confidant to the tight-lipped musical legend. Her biography of Winter, Raisin' Cain is the result of seven years of work and hundreds of hours of recorded conversations with Winter; the artist's family and friends; and with musicians like Billy Branch, Jerry Portnoy, Bob Margolin, and Tommy Shannon, among many others. Raisin' Cain is an authorized biography, meaning that Winter oke-doked the book, and the man even dug up dozens of photos to help compliment Sullivan's 386 pages of hard-hitting but easy-to-read prose.

Raisin' Cain touches all the bases of Winter's lengthy, wild, and raucous 40-years in the business, from his early days on the Texas music circuit to his signing by manager Steve Paul and subsequent performance at the Woodstock Festival; Winter's short affair with fellow Texan Janis Joplin and the dozens of women that have crossed his path; Winter's heroin addiction and alcoholism; his record label deals, mismanagement, and re-emergence in the 2000s as an elder statesman of the blues.

More than anything, Raisin' Cain does a great job of capturing the one everlasting love of Winter's life: blues music. From his early efforts to hold onto a pure blues sound in the face of pressure to rock & roll, to his joyful production of Muddy Water's acclaimed late-career albums, to the making of nearly all of his recordings through the years, Sullivan captures it all with humor, insight, and deference to her subject. Sullivan's writing style is to simply get out of the way and let those she's interviewing tell the story, and she has strung together the story of Winter's life and career masterfully. Raisin' Cain is highly recommended for any Johnny Winter fan, of course, or anybody interested in blues music. (Backbeat Books, published May 1, 2010)

Guide Disclosure: A review copy of this CD, DVD, or book was provided by the record label, publisher, or publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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