Edgar Winter to chill at SpeedwayWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
Edgar Winter decided it was time to write another biker anthem. Get ready to hit the “Rebel Road.”
“Rockin’ across this American nation/ School of hard knocks is a real education/ Livin’ on the edge is all that you need to know/ Out on the rebel road.”
That’s the catchy chorus of one of the tracks on Winter’s forthcoming disc.
“We hope the record will be out this year, maybe the beginning of next year,” Winter said. “’Rebel Road’ has Slash on it. There are a couple country-rock songs that have Clint Black. My brother, Johnny, of course, is on a song called ‘Rockin’ the Blues.’ ”
The singer-songwriter, who plays several instruments, including keyboards, saxophone and percussion, released his aptly titled debut, “Entrance,” in 1970. Three years later, he teamed with Dan Hartman, Ronnie Montrose and Chuck Ruff for The Edgar Winter Group’s masterpiece, “They Only Come Out at Night,” which features “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.”
Winter, who will play the Toledo Speedway Jam Saturday, July 7, recently answered some questions for Toledo Free Press from his Los Angeles home.
TFP: What inspired you to write “Rebel Road”?
Winter: I’ve always considered myself something of a musical rebel. When I first started out, I had no intention of being commercial and had no particular interest in becoming famous. I think if had not been for my brother, Johnny, the blues guitarist, I might have been a jazz musician rather than getting into blues and rock. But part of what I’ve tried to do throughout my career is broaden musical horizons and make people aware of all the multiplicity of styles that exist. I happen to love all forms of music. I’m primarily thought of as a rocker, but I really love jazz and classical as well. The idea of being a rebel musically ties into not only the way I’ve thought of myself but into the biker culture as well. “Free Ride” has always been one of their favorites, and I’ve always admired that sense of freedom so we were thinking it’s about time to write a biker anthem, and “Rebel Road” seemed to have a personal meaning for me as well as something people can relate to in terms of just being your own person.
TFP: What do you think makes “They Only Come Out at Night” a classic?
Winter: “They Only Come Out at Night” was a definite change in direction at that time. I think if you had to isolate one element it would probably have to be the song “Frankenstein,” and the advent of the synthesizer had a great deal to do with it. I had just formed a new group, The Edgar Winter Group. My previous band, White Trash, had been an entirely different kind of group, more of an R&B soul band. So with “They Only Come Out at Night,” I really wanted to put together the quintessential all-American rock band. And I really felt at that time I was seeking a wider audience, so that intention was there to begin with. And it just so happened that synthesizers were new then. I had been the first person to come up with the idea of putting a strap on the keyboard and playing it like a guitar, and that figured largely into our live shows — it was a powerful, dynamic image and one that stayed with me during the years, and I sort of became the mad scientist of the synthesizer. And “Frankenstein” was one of those unusual songs that had a real personality and sort of made sense in terms of the title “They Only Come Out at Night.” It was just one of those records where everything just magically seemed to fall into place.
TFP: “Free Ride” has been featured in commercials and “Frankenstein” was in the “Guitar Hero” music video game. Do you think this exposure leads to new fans?
Winter: Yes, I think that inevitably happens. I think “Free Ride” has such a universal message and one that has commercial applications as well — it has the word “free” in it, [laughs], which everybody loves. It’s been used in a lot of movies and a lot of commercials. I enjoy all the different usages. I think it has a lot to do with people hearing a song in so many different contexts it definitely broadens the way they think and feel about it.
TFP: You play so many instruments — just always hungry to learn more?
Winter: When we started as kids, my brother, Johnny, and I, our first instrument was the ukulele. Our dad showed us our first chords when I was 4 years old. What happened was Johnny graduated to guitar and it became very evident he was going to be the guitar player, so I then switched to electric bass first, and then I played drums for a while, and then I played electric piano, then got interested in jazz in my teens and started getting into horn — found my dad’s old alto sax up in the attic — and I learned all the sax — alto, tenor, baritone and soprano sax. Played trumpet, trombone for a while in high school. If any of my musical friends want my words of advice, do you ever feel like you’re in a rut, one of the things you can do is just pick up another instrument, and it always has the effect for me of renewing that same feeling I had — that wonder and magic of music that you find when you’re first starting out.