|IAN "WILLIE" WINTER
Born: 6 November 1949
Died: Melbourne, 14 July 2004
Obituary by Paul Culnane
Oh crumbs, I don’t think I can do justice to this so-called eulogy. Somebody else might choose to do so in proper detail, while I’m left heartbroken and absolutely smashed by the loss of such a beautiful man and true friend. He passed away on 14 July 2004 after a short but fraught battle with severe cancer, liver and heart complications.
You can read all about Ian’s contribution to Aussie music on a comprehensive website created by one of his closest mates, another cool guy, Barry McCulloch. Check this out, enjoy and celebrate ? it will give you Willie’s full story, narrated in large part by the man himself:
…look at this and fall in love with Ian, and cop the magnitude of what he accomplished, before you read on. You’ll see that he did much good!
I can come up with a couple of very nice stories though (among many I could choose from), and that’ll be enough to illustrate how great he was (in so many ways)…
Your humble writer was the live sound engineer for the band Ian played with in Canberra; they were called Kevin McLaughlin & the Murrumbidgee Orchestra (cool, huh?). They released but one single, a co-write between the singer, George Bennett and Willie, called Thunder On The Mountain, backed by a version of Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World. The quintet was hot as fuck, they rocked, and Willie was their lead guitarist. This was late-70s, and the scene was rockin’, let me tell you.
At that time drugs were prominent, and it’s no secret that Ian indulged in various things like that from time to time. That’s his business. No need to dwell on that small detail. But one Saturday night, the band was due to play at "The Floyd" gig ? very important. Willie lived nearby to me, and used to pick me up in his white Ford Zephyr sedan (a "Z-car"!). I was required to do the sound, but during the afternoon, I recklessly dropped an acid tab, didn’t I? By the time Willie came around, I was peaking. I told him: "your hair is changing colour man, you look so psychedelic to me". Ian Winter was ALWAYS so psychedelic to me. His suggested solution: "Come on man, you gotta get it together to do the gig for us". No judgement, no pack-drill. Just an eagerness to go out and play ? a measure of the man’s gentle and entirely selfless nature.
He administered some "medicine": a very strong cup of coffee, laced with a bit of opium, together with the strongest mo-fo of a joint you can imagine, just to get us going (soundtracked by one of his favourites, Lonnie Mack). Ian said he’d protect me and he did. When we made it to the gig, I may have disgraced myself in some ways, but the band played a blinder, and I can still remember how friggin’ great it sounded (down to me, off me ‘ead, and extremely loud!). If I'm not mistaken, the group opened, appropriately enough, with a stormin' rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Rock & Roll". Willie was natural: he just played his arse off as he always did, throwing shapes and launching white-hot typhoons of guitar pyrotechnics. That night he was dressed in a billowy white shirt and kinda tight black jeans (I remember salient details like that). He looked, and played, just fine! He always had a contingent of girls ogling him, as he bent the notes and grimaced while he poured out his soul (sexy fucker!). He always had a contingent of guys ogling him, as they envied his supreme axe prowess: "He took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar!". That night in particular, he was just a rock god, but this image epitomises what I, for one (and I don't think I'm alone), always felt about Willie.
Another memory is of when our hero got up one night to jam with the Richard Clapton Band, at the same venue, "The Floyd" (a funky and fondly-remembered rock-house in Woden, Canberra). Not content with putting his head through the ceiling, Clapton cast aside the remaining vestiges of his dignity when he chased Ian all around the place, shouting: "Where’s that Willie, I want more Willie!" The audience resoundingly agreed…
I’ve got a heap of recordings to prove what a brilliant guitar-player Ian was (one particular live recording of Mondo Rock prompted Ross Wilson to note ? words to the effect of ? that he had never heard anyone else feel the music in quite the same way that Willie did). I can’t prove what a great guy he was, that’s just abundantly evident to those who knew him. But I can still feel the warm vibe of how nice it felt when we hung out together, and hugged and stuff, like mates should.
Ian was popular with punters and fellow musicians alike. Among many bands he played with were Daddy Cool, Carson, Mondo Rock, John Paul Young’s All-Stars, Kev & the MO, his own various self-named bands, oodles more. Right up to his passing, he was working on new material with his partner Nin. She assures me this stuff will see the light of day. Bring it on!
Let me go away now and pray for Ian Winter’s sublime soul (ooh yeah ? he had a glut of "soul"). You should too, in your own way, for he was such a fabulous person!
…with love. Paul Culnane.
…and so very much more ...
© ICE Productions 2004
|Funeral for Ian Winter:
Tuesday 20 July 2004
Fawkner Railway Station is immediately adjacent to the cemetery.
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