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Edgar Winter's transformation from jazz musician to rocker

  • Edgar Winter will be performing at Penn's Peak on Saturday, Feb. 4. Opening for him will be Rick Derringer.
    Edgar Winter will be performing at Penn's Peak on Saturday, Feb. 4. Opening for him will be Rick Derringer.
Published January 27. 2012 05:02PM

Both Edgar Winter and his brother Johnny grew up with music.

Edgar recalls, during a phone interview, why they drifted apart and then what brought them back together.

"Johnny started being a blues fan and didn't want a saxophone in the band," said Edgar, regarding to their temporary parting of ways.

In 1969, Johnny performed at Woodstock and invited Edgar on stage with him, bringing the brothers back together for awhile.

Edgar said of Woodstock that it was "the pivotal point and thing which changed my life. Up until then, I was not interested in pop music."

Differences in musical styles again led Johnny and Edgar to eventually travel separate paths, although occasionally they do get together for concerts.

Edgar makes a solo visit to Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Saturday, Feb. 4, with Rick Derringer.

Derringer used to be a band member with Winter. He now has his own band, now, and will be opening the concert, "but hopefully, we'll jam at the end. It all depends on his schedule."

Edgar Winter grew up in Beaumont, Tex., "which has a unique musical culture being right next to Louisiana - swamp music; Mexico - Latin music, and North Texas, which has a great music school primarily for jazz."

He said his father played guitar, piano, and alto sax. His mother was a classical pianist. His grandfather played fiddle and violin. His great-grandfather was a trumpeter.

Edgar said as a child, he played the ukulele and sang Everly Brothers songs. In high school, Johnny switched to guitar while the younger Edgar switched to bass drum and piano.

"When I got into high school, I found my father's alto sax," said Edgar. "He played alto sax in a swing band. He also was in a Barbershop Quartet choir."

Regarding Johnny, Edgar admits, "When I got into saxophone and jazz, that was the parting of ways for awhile."

Johnny started having success and invited Edgar to New York City to play on several albums, "which was a total surprise to me but something that I love," said Edgar. "He introduced me to his manager, who introduced me to Clive Davis, who was the president of CBS. The rest is history."

"The only reason we didn't keep working together is just different musical approaches and tastes," Edgar explains.

Edgar said he is primarily thought of as a rocker and keyboardist, "but I love jazz and classical. Sax is really my act."

Without his brother's success, Edgar said he probably might still be a jazz player or a teacher. Johnny invited him to come to Woodstock and on the stage there, introduced him as "my little brother, Edgar."

The first song they sang at Woodstock was "Tobacco Road," a blues song.

"When I played Woodstock, up to that point I had just thought of music as my own personal, private world," said Edgar. "I was quiet and shy and introverted as a kid. I had never thought of it as a career."

He continued, "When I played Woodstock and saw all those artists who had written songs that they loved and cared about, and looking out over that sea of intimacy, it gave me a whole new appreciation of music that was not entertaining or to my own satisfaction, but to reach out to people."

According to Winter, there are two 'golden eras' in music that are unparalleled. One was the 40s and 50s with the big bands and jazz. The other is the 60s and 70s when rock came onto the scene.

The reasons these periods were special, he said, was because "what was going on culturally certainly influenced the music" and "there was so much more musical freedom."

At the time of the British Invasion, bands would go into a studio with two or three songs and make music right in the studio. "That was very special," Winter said.

"After that, there was more intervention from the record companies. You had to submit demos and get pre-approval from the record companies."

He said, "At the time of the experimental hippie movement, drugs influenced the music. It was just a time that can't be recaptured."

Winter said, "There will never be another Woodstock because that time can't be re-created. I believe that's what rock and roll is all about, the whole idea of the freedom that exists to have a musical adventure."

At the concert in Jim Thorpe, Winter said, "You're going to hear everything you would expect from Edgar Winter: Tobacco Road, songs from White Trash such as 'Save the Planet' and 'Turn On Your Love Light,' 'Frankenstein,' 'Rebel Road' and three or four songs from that CD. It's really a fun set with a great band."

He said his band is composed of Doug Rappoport on guitars, Coco Powell on bass "who is a great singer," and Jason Carpenter on drums, "a Berkeley grad who is a good vocalist.

"We love to stretch it out and jam and have a good time playing stuff that's musical challenging," said Winter. "We're still out there experimenting and having fun. So, get ready to rock and roll."

Edgar Winter, with Rick Derringer, will be performing at Penn's Peak on Saturday, Feb. 4. The concert begins at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $27 in advance and $32 on the day of the event.

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