Two of the biggest names of 1970s classic rock are teaming up for a monster show Saturday night at Honokaa People’s Theatre.
The Edgar Winter Group and The Rick Derringer Band will rock the venerable venue at 7 p.m. It’s the last stop on their four-island “Still Alive And Well” — a Tribute to Johnny Winter Hawaii Tour 2018. Doors open at 6 p.m.
“We’re gonna rock out,” Winter told the Tribune-Herald last week.
Winter, a multi-instrumentalist proficient in all types of music, including blues and jazz, is best known for his 1973 double-platinum rock album “They Only Come Out at Night” — with the hits “Free Ride” and “Frankenstein.”
Derringer, a guitarist and vocalist, made his mark while still a teenager as the leader of the McCoys, which scored a 1965 national hit with “Hang On Sloopy.” He later hooked up with the Winter brothers and released the original version of his signature song, “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” on the “Johnny Winter And — Live” album in 1971.
In 1973, Derringer’s “All American Boy” album was released, and the already popular “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” became a hit single.
“Rick and I have such a long and storied history. We go way back,” Winter said. “He produced all of my early albums and I enjoy doing shows with him. His band will open and then my band will play. He always has a standing invitation to come up and jam, so we’ll probably end up doing something together.”
Edgar Winter is, for the uninitiated, the younger brother of the legendary blues-rock singer-guitarist Johnny Winter, who died July 16, 2014, at age 70.
“Johnny was my all-time musical hero,” he said. “If not for him, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I might’ve been a jazz guy or an engineer. Johnny had the dream. As far back as I can remember, he read all the magazines and watched ‘(American) Bandstand.’ He was Johnny ‘Cool Daddy’ Winter with the guitar and the shades, the girls, the whole thing. He had the drive. He was more extroverted; I was more introverted. I was the weird kid who played all of the instruments.”
A tribute album to Johnny Winter is in the early planning stages.
“I’ve been approached a number of times and turned it down,” Edgar Winter said. “It’s been more than three years now since Johnny passed away. It was a little difficult at first. There was a tour we were supposed to play together, the Rock/Blues Fest. But Johnny passed a couple of weeks before that tour started. Everybody was so supportive and I played the tour anyway. I played a lot of the songs that we used to play. It turned out to be a source of great strength and comfort.”
Like his brother, Edgar Winter also has left an indelible mark on music. For one, he was the first musician to strap on a synthesizer keyboard and play it while moving around on stage — and the “keytar” was born.
“The ARP 2600 had a separate keyboard and the rest of it, the brain, was this mad scientist thing with sliders,” he said. “When I looked at it, I thought, ‘Whoa, you can put a strap on the keyboard and play it like a guitar,’ which I proceeded to do.
“I’ll always remember the first night I walked out on stage with that keyboard. People couldn’t believe it. It was such a simple, obvious idea. And I just happened to be the first guy to think of it. We did a show with Billy Preston and a couple of weeks later, there’s Billy on TV doing it. I thought, ‘It’s catching on already.’”
And although other bands used synthesizers, “Frankenstein” was the first rock instrumental to feature synthesizer as the lead instrument.
“The song ‘Frankenstein,’ I had written years before, when I was playing with Johnny,” Winter recalled. “The riff (sings it) was sort of a bluesy, cool, walk-on sort of thing. It was just a instrumental vehicle. I played a Hammond B3 (organ) and alto sax and we did a dual drum thing. We called it the ‘double-drum song’ and we played it all over. We did a version at Woodstock, at Albert Hall — and promptly forgot about it.
“When I started using the synthesizer, I was looking for a vehicle for that instrument, and I thought that song would sound really cool with that subsonic synth bottom.”
Recording the song, however, turned out to be another thing, entirely.
“Back then in the studio, the cardinal rule was the tape was always rolling,” Winter said. “A lot of times, we’d come in and warm up. We’d play that song. It didn’t have a name then; we called it ‘the instrumental.’ So we had a few versions and a long, 30-minute version of it. And at the end of the project, Rick Derringer said, ‘Maybe we could edit that into something usable.’ I said, ‘That’s a crazy idea, but I love crazy ideas.’
“We had an end-of-the-project editing party. The only way to edit things in those days was to specifically cut and splice the master tape. It was a sort of harrowing experience. Tape pieces were lying all over the control room, on the backs of chairs, on the couch. We were trying to figure out how to put it back together, which pieces to use. And Chuck Ruff, the drummer, mumbled the immortal words, ‘Wow, man, it’s like Frankenstein.’ And when I heard it, I went, ‘That’s it.’”
From the half-hour or so of recorded material, the final version of “Frankenstein” — which spent a week atop the Billboard Top 100 chart in May 1973 — was a groundbreaking piece of sonic awesomeness that’s still a staple of classic rock radio. Winter promises a killer version during Saturday’s show and added he and the band are looking forward to it.
“The last time I remember playing Hawaii was when I was touring with Leon Russell, and that would have been in the mid-to-late ’80s,” Winter said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played Hawaii with my own band. It’s always been as part of some other situation. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s so long overdue.
“You know, I love music. That’s the reason I started playing. That’s the reason I’ll keep playing. You’ll never hear Edgar Winter talking about a farewell tour.”
Admission is $48 general, $72 gold circle. Tickets are available at Hilo Ukuleles &Guitars, Hilo Music Exchange, Keaau Natural Foods, Waipio Cook House and Top Stitch in Honokaa, Waimea General Store in Parker Square, Kona Music Exchange and Sound Wave Music in Kailua-Kona, Kiernan Music in Kainaliu, by calling 896-4845 and online at bluesbearhawaii.com.
Also available at bluesbearhawaii.com is the Rick Derringer VIP Experience.
For $100, VIPs get admission to sound check, a meet-and-greet and photo taken with Derringer, an 8-by-10-inch Derringer photo and an exclusive tour laminated VIP pass.
Concert tickets are not included and must be purchased separately.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.