The ‘wunder-kind’ himself is our featured artist this week.
Born in 1948, Winwood started his professional music career at the tender age of 14. Already a keen musician, he was encouraged to play by his foundryman father (a keen semi-pro in his spare time). Learning the piano and singing in his local choir, Winwood soon became a confident performer attempting to emulate the reedy tones of Ray Charles.
After supporting the likes of B. B. King and Chuck Berry on their UK tours, he joined his first band. The Spencer Davis Group was comprised of Winwood, his brother Muff and Spencer Davis, a Welsh guitarist almost 10 years his senior. They scored their first hit with ‘Keep On Runnin’ in 1965, reaching the top spot in the UK charts. At the time, Steve was 17, the royalties he received from the record helped him to buy his first Hammond Organ.
Steve would continue to play for Davis until 1967 when both brothers left the band. Muff left performance behind to become an A&R man, whereas Steve went on to form Traffic. Intermittently recording and performing through the 70s, Winwood soon grew tired of the relentless touring schedule required to build a following.
After the various hits that he’d recorded with both bands, he found himself in a position to work on his own material.
Retiring to his home in Gloucestershire at the age of 28, Winwood began writing and recording his solo records for Island Records, where his brother Muff still worked. Recording all the instrumental parts himself, these records lay the backbone for his huge success in 1986 with Back in the High Life.
Still writing and recording to this day, Winwood shows no signs of stopping. With over 50 years of touring and playing under his belt, the ‘wunder-kind’ is a legend in his own right. No other musician has managed to sustain a playing career as rich and varied as his, with so much success.