The Edgar Winter Group
ohnny Winter, the albino rock-blues guitarist, had made quite a name for himself around his native Beaumont, Texas, leading a flashy teenaged band. Younger brother Edgar (born December 28, 1946) was happier fiddling with his keyboards and saxophone, performing in the background and toning down his image. But every so often he would tire of the "commercial sell-out," temporarily assemble a lounge lizard jazz band, expand his creative horizons, then rejoin his elder brother's high energy rock conglomerate. Columbia Records anteed up $600,000 for Johnny's services and placed him on a national tour, which gave Edgar time in the spotlight each night.
"He needed a song to play when they said, 'Let's hear Edgar Winter, bring him out here,'" remembers Rick Derringer, who produced records for both brothers after fronting the McCoys ("Hang On Sloopy"). "So he wrote this song called 'The Double Drum Solo,' just for a working name, and every night when he came out he'd bring down the house. At the end of the song he'd get to play sax, he'd get to play keyboards, he'd get to play drums -- he'd get to play everything."
"When it came time for Edgar to do his first band album, They Only Come Out at Night, he wanted to include that instrumental in the album," Rick explains. "Bill Szymczyk and I -- I was the producer and he was the engineer -- were really looking forward to doing that song. To us, we're musicians, the rest of the album was a little more predictable. The one thing that seemed like it was going to be fun was the instrumental. At one point in the project Edgar started to be nervous. 'Oh, I don't know, it's a little too crazy. Is this gonna be too jazzy, to out of context for the rest of the album?' All of us voiced our opinions immediately, saying, 'It's fantastic, it's gotta be on the record.' We went ahead and finished it; we did some editing to shorten it, as it was too long in the live form. The editing is where Edgar got the name 'Frankenstein,' through all the little cuts and stuff, all the patches in (the) master."
"Frankenstein" was originally the "B" side of "Hangin' Around," added so its sole songwriter could collect more royalties than on any of the LP's other co-authored tunes. However, disc jockeys were drawn to the unusual track and demanded yet a shorter version.
Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #98 on March 10, 1973, "Frankenstein" took 11 weeks to reach the top of the chart and spurred They Only Come Out at Night on to over 1.2 million sales, a figure that doesn't surprise its producer. "Usually you get flack," Derringer says, "but the one song where you perceive a lot of nervousness from the business itself is usually the one song the regular record buying public finds to be the most interesting song on the record."
Edgar has remained fairly inactive since his mid-'70s heyday, although he did release solo albums in 1979, 1981, 1989 and 1994. His song "Way Down South" appeared on the My Cousin Vinny movie soundtrack, and in 1992 he shared a stage with his brother Johnny (at the Ritz in New York City) for the first time in 15 years.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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