“I never cared about being famous, I just loved music.?
Edgar Winter?s own recording history proves his point. When the look-a-like albino brother of guitar wizard Johnny Winter first impressed the late ?60s rock world as a keyboardist in Johnny?s band, he quickly was signed to a major label.
So what kind of album did he record? An experimental jazz record called Entrance. It was hardly the logical choice for a new artist with the chops to make it as a major rock star, but Winter didn?t think in those terms. He just loved music.
?From the very beginning, all I ever wanted to do was play the music that I really care about. As long as you continue to do that, you?re gonna be OK,? he said.
Entrance was well-received in the open-minded youth culture of the time, and it showcased the diverse talents of the young keyboard player, saxophonist and singer from Beaumont, Texas.
By album number two, he was ready to rock. Edgar Winter?s White Trash was the name of the record, and the band was a free-form fusion of jazz, blues, soul and raw power. In other words, rock ?n? roll.
Hippie idealism ran through the whole record, with songs like the gospel rave-up ?Save the Planet,? an environmental call to action 30 years before it was fashionable, and ?Dying to Live,? a hopeful reflection on human spirituality.
?Keep Playing That Rock and Roll? was the anthem that its name implied, and it?s exactly what Edgar Winter has been doing ever since. And, by the way, he was a major rock star by the time studio album number three came out in 1972, the now-classic, They Only Come Out at Night.
By then, it was the Edgar Winter Group, with bass player Dan Hartman singing lead on his own composition, ?Free Ride,? and the mighty Ronnie Montrose on guitar duty (later replaced by Rick Derringer, who had also been a member of the McCoys and Johnny Winter?s band).
Thirty-five years after the hits that made him a star (?Free Ride? and Edgar?s own tour-de-force instrumental monster-track ?Frankenstein?), Edgar Winter still loves playing them and talking about music of all kinds.
?So many different styles of music are great,? he said. ?Some people, like blues purists or fanatics, get so wrapped up in that one thing to the exclusion of everything else. I respect that, and I have a blues purist side, because I know when it?s real and authentic and when it?s not. But somebody who?s a blues-based player, like Jimi Hendrix, will come along and just completely change everything. I like all of it: I love country, I love R&B, I love jazz, and I love rock and roll. I don?t see why people who love classical can?t appreciate rock.?
Winter?s most recent studio album is called Jazzin? the Blues, and that?s exactly what it does. With more of a classic jazz feel than Entrance, Jazzin? the Blues gives Winter a chance to showcase his smooth sax skills, evident on his slowed-down instrumental version of ?Free Ride.?
His signature song, ?Frankenstein,? also gets full reinterpretation in a 10-minute, B-3 organ groove-a-thon.
Breathing new and distinctly different life into a great song is the very point of jazz, and ?Frankenstein? had always been about letting each individual instrument?s freak flag fly anyway.
?It?s all about real emotion, real feeling, whether it?s blues, rock, or jazz,? said Winter, who preceded the jazz album with a blues record in the late ?90s.
With Winter Blues, Edgar had moved into the same territory as his legendary brother, who is also still out there doing his thing.
?I wouldn?t be where I am if it weren?t for Johnny. You can?t tell my story without telling Johnny