Edgar Winter

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

An Interview with Edgar Winter
by Dennis Morgillo
Edgar Winter is the legendary singer/songwriter and multi instrumentalist best known for the Classic Rock Anthem “Frankenstein” and other FM staples. He is the brother of famed blues guitarist Johnny Winter.

Madhouse: So you are out on the road, playing some cool shows with Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, and Eric Burdon. Do you ever think of retiring? 
Edgar Winter:  I still loving playing.  You’ll NEVER hear Edgar Winter talking about a farewell tour.  I’m in it until the end, you know I’m of the old blues man mentality.  When I get up into my 70’s and 80’s I’m gonna play as long as I can get up there and do something.

Madhouse: Ok so now let’s talk about your life here.  You were born in Texas as a child prodigy they say and that you could play many different instruments and sing. 
Edgar: Yea I do recall being described as that but I don’t how much truth there is in that.  But I did start young.  My brother Johnny and I, when I was four years old when we started playing Ukulele’s and singing Everly Brothers’ songs.  But then Johnny graduated to guitar and it became apparent he was going to be the guitar player so with that I was like I guess I’ll play everything else!  But I played electric bass for a while, I played drums in the band for a while and then the electric keyboard came out and I was like great I want to beat my fingers bloody on these upright keyboards.  Then I discovered jazz as a teen and that was the parting of me and Johnny’s style, when I started playing saxophone Johnny was like “I don’t want a sax in the band” so I was like fine I’ll find my own band!

Madhouse: I am very impressed that you displayed broad musical horizons during your career. You love all these different types of music and you play all these different types of music.  You are one of those select musicians that just goes from different item to different item, blues, rock, country, jazz, classical etc..
Edgar: Well to me it’s all music and I could never understand why people who loved classical couldn’t appreciate rock or why people who loved country couldn’t appreciate jazz and to me they are all equally valid, relevant, beautiful forms of music.  I think that started with record companies who wanted to target a specific audience and you know they are very concerned with labels.  They want you to be either a rock guy or a blues guy and they want to know how to market you but really I don’t care.  I want to play whatever I want to at the time and I still feel this way….

Madhouse: “Frankenstein” became the number one hit in the U.S. - the only instrumental of all time to do that. How did you convince the record company to allow you to release it as a single?
Edgar:  It was never actually put out as a single.  The story of Frankenstein is that it was all circumstantial.  I wrote the main theme to that song years before it was recorded and this is when I was playing with my brother Johnny and before I had recorded anything and before people even knew Johnny had a brother.  I was playing with the Blues Trio and he had invited me up to New York to play on his first few records…so I was like a special guest and they asked if I would play on those first few shows and when Johnny would call me out on stage as his little brother people would be like “Ohh there’s two of them?” So I really needed something to showcase myself so I wrote this riff and I was like oh that’s kind of bluesy and kind of good and I would play this double drum solo with Johnny’s guitar player on stage and that all became Frankenstein back in ’68.  We played that all over the world like Woodstock, and Royal Albert Hall.
Fast Forward a few years, and then one day in the studio, our manager said maybe we could edit that into something usable and I was like that’s kind of a crazy idea but I love crazy ideas.  It was a great excuse to get even more blasted than usual and come in and have an end of a project party.  Back then the only way to edit a song was to physically cut the tape and put it back together with tape.  So we had it all dissected, spread out all over the control room and we were just kind of making fun of it like how are we going to put this thing back together and that’s when Chuck Cross the drummer mumbled the immortal words “wow man it’s like Frankenstein” so you know an arm here, a leg there and pasting the thing back together and THE MONSTER WAS BORN!  And as far as getting the record company to go along with it, it was never intended to be on the album much less be released as a single.  It was on the B side and one of the FM college radio stations started playing it, you know this underground radio station and somehow other stations picked up on it and it just spread.  Then all of the other radio stations were requesting a shorter version of it and there you have it.

Madhouse: Wow that is a magical story.  I just wanted to let you know that that was a defining moment in my life when I was nine years old and I saw you doing Frankenstein on the midnight special and it was just crazy.  You were playing the synthesizer, the drums, the sax and you had this cool fringe thing on with the long white hair and I was like this is the coolest guy I’ve ever seen in my life and I told my parents I’m dropping out of school to be you.
Edgar: Thank you, thank you!

Madhouse: A few years back you had a great CD called Rebel Road and slash was on that, tell us a little bit about your memories of playing with Slash.
Edgar: Well I met Slash at a new millennium party at the White House and it was one of those amazing parties where everyone from Sophia Loren to Muhammad Ali was there.  And me and Slash were hanging out, talking getting to know each other and when I wrote Rebel Road I thought who was more on a Rebel Road than Slash!  I hadn’t even seen him in 5 or 6 years but I called him up and asked him if he wanted to play on this thing and he said yea so he came in, killed it, he was great  

Madhouse: What I’m shocked about is that they actually let Slash into the White House.
Edgar: Yea he snuck in *laughs* but there was this weird scandal that had happened which I don’t think I’m going to get into but yea we had a fun time terrorizing everybody.

Madhouse: And now you mentioned before that you played Woodstock with your brother Johnny, there has to be some awesome story there what do you remember about that?
Edgar: Changed my life.  Changed my life.  I consider the beginning of my career when I played at Woodstock because up until that point I was not really that interested in pop music and rock n’ roll I was more of a jazz and classical guy and I considered myself a serious musician, thankfully I’ve gotten over that.  But at that time I didn’t think of myself as singer but as an instrumentalist so when we played Woodstock and the whole thing was set up in front of the social backdrop of the peace movement, but there were people rioting and singing songs that they believed in.  Music meant something back then and when I saw Woodstock it was one of those moments that I was just on that stage looking out at this endless sea of humanity and said “wow this is just hundreds of thousands of people” and I’ll never forget this, when I saw how music had the ability to bring people together in that unique way it changed my whole thinking about music. 

Madhouse: I want to change the subject now, You have been married to the same woman for 37 years which is quite the anomaly in Rock Music and California!?
Edgar: Well Monique is my inspiration, she keeps me grounded and when we met way back when she certainly changed my life and I don’t think I would be here if it weren’t for her.  And we get remarried every year as a matter of fact, not just in a formal ceremony but we exchange our vows every year as well.  I really feel that music is certainly an important part of my life but my relationship with Monique is the most important thing to me.

Madhouse: What are you working on now?
Edgar: I have a musical comedy version of Frankenstein that I’ve been working on called Frank and Stein.  Dr. Stein is like a posh park avenue plastic surgeon for the rich and famous and the monster creation is Frankie. 

Madhouse: What one artist had the most influence on your career?
Edgar: Ray Charles

Madhouse: Any last words:
Edgar: I do want to take this opportunity to thank all my fans for having followed my career as well as my brother Johnny’s throughout all our years, and as most of you know Johnny passed away but he is still present in my heart and his music will live on forever.  Every time I walk on to a stage I think of Johnny and at the end of every show I will play a few Johnny songs you know I’ll play “Rock n’ Roll Hoochie Koo” or “Highway 61”. 
I would like to thank all the fans for helping us do what we love and for being out there rocking so, GET READY TO ROCK N’ ROLL!

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