“What we wanted to do is make an album for everybody”, declares singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalistEdgar Winter on the golden anniversary of November 1972’s They Only Come Out at Night, “from the all-star all-American rock’n’roll band. That was our outright intention. I really wanted to have a utopian band…The thing that made They Only Come Out at Night different (from his eclectic debut Entrance, then the blues/gospel Edgar Winter’s White Trash and the rock’n’soul live Roadwork) was rather than being for a specialized musical audience, it was an album for everybody.” Containing the perennial hits “Free Ride”,”Hangin’ Around”, and #1 groundbreaking instrumental “Frankenstein”, the Edgar Winter Group’s golden anniversary of the platinum seller They Only Come Out at Night is hosted by a rare appearance by Edgar Winter here In the Studio, plus my archival interview with the late electric guitarist Ronnie Montrose prior to his death in March 2012.The top of the American music charts is a long way from the oil refineries of Beaumont TX, where kid brothers Johnny, age 14, and Edgar only 11, started playing at Tom’s Fish Camp, a sawdust-floored juke joint. Owners Tom & his wife Tiny paid the albino, legally blind boys $8 a night. “If they had hired adults to play, they would have had to pay a lot more. But it was good experience for us,” Edgar assures me.
The Edgar Winter Group was an all-star band with Dan Hartman, Ronnie Montrose, and producer/guitarist Rick Derringer. Songs include John D. Loudermilk’s classic “Tobacco Road”; the autobiographical “Keep Playing That Rock’n’Roll”; “Dying to Live”; “Easy Street” from Edgar Winter Group 1974’s Shock Treatment; and three hits from They Only Come Out at Night, “Free Ride”,”Hangin’ Around”, and the #1 song in May 1973, “Frankenstein”. And don’t miss the show closer, the Rick Derringer-penned “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo”, featuring incredible lead vocals by Edgar Winter and guitar by Kenny Wayne Shepherd from the Les Paul and Friends 2005 compilation.
By achieving the top slot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the Edgar Winter Group joined the very exclusive club of instrumental songs which went to #1, an extremely short list which includes “Telstar” by The Tornados (1962) and Paul Mauriat’s “Love is Blue”(1968) (Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas” just missed at #2 in Summer 1968).
( Younger Winter brother Edgar (L) with the late Johnny in center of collage)
“I had been to a lot of the all-Black churches where they had organ, guitar bass, and drums, and they would create pandemonium. People would go crazy in those tent revivals. There would be four or five thousand Black people there, and two or three of us,” explains Edgar Winter.”That’s what Ray Charles did, he translated that into Pop muic. Took it out of church. I think that whole Gospel thing is overlooked. Frequently you hear about the influence of Blues (on Pop/Rock), but you never heard shouting in popular music. And that’s basically where that came from, was from church.”
This edition of In the Studio is dedicated to multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Dan Hartman (died 1994), guitarist Ronnie Montrose, and Edgar’s big brother Johnny Winter (died 2014). This rare classic rock interview with Edgar Winter reveals a true Texas gentleman. – Redbeard