Traverse City National Cherry Festival: “It was 40 years ago today/Frankenstein taught the band to play”

Well, maybe the lyrics don’t quite go like that. Actually, there are no lyrics for “Frankenstein,” one of a very few instrumental pop hits.

But it was indeed 40 years ago that the Edgar Winter Group’s album They Only Come Out at Night was released, with its twin hits “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” And when Winter performs July 5 at the National Cherry Festival, audiences will hear the album in its entirety.

“’Frankenstein’—it’s the indestructible monster!” said Winter with a laugh by phone from his home in Los Angeles.

In a more serious vein, he reflected on the hit and its brethren.

“It’s amazing the songs are still popular,” Winter said.  He and the band never expected the kind of lasting success that those hits and other popular songs have generated.

“Who would have guessed they’d still be played on classic rock radio—or that there would even be a classic rock format?” he said.

So not only will audiences hear the aforementioned hits, but also songs like “Round and Round,” “Undercover Man,” “Alta Mira” and others, many of which Winter hasn’t performed live in years—if ever.

“We’ve relearned a lot of the songs we haven’t done in years,” said Winter.

Of course, the group will also be performing many of the other songs that have become mainstays, like “Keep Playing That Rock and Roll Music” and “Tobacco Road.”

“That was an autobiographical tune,” said Winter of the former. “I came to New York (from Texas) so my brother Johnny and I could break into the business.

“And ‘Tobacco Road’ is kind of a vocal and guitar question and answer that became one of my trademarks.”

Another of Winter’s trademarks is the fact his music has always been an amalgam of numerous styles: Blues, rock, gospel, country, jazz and funk all have made their mark in his music.

His band the Edgar Winter Group was famed for the interplay of the leader with his guitarists, like the late Ronnie Montrose and Rick Derringer. On the other hand, his band White Trash mixed R& B, funk and jazzy licks.

“The point of what I’ve tried to do is break down prejudices and expand horizons. Entrance (his first album) has jazz, classical, rock – it’s an eclectic sound.”

Winter says his current band continues in that tradition. “I always want to find the most versatile musicians I can. Doug Rappoport on guitar has been with me over 10 years,” said Winter. “That’s longer than Ronnie or Rick were with me. He’s developed into a phenomenal guitarist.

“Koko Powell on bass is a great singer, and everything swings. Our drummer, Jason Carpenter, is the most recent member, and he’s been with us over three years. He’s a Berklee [College of Music] grad, and has a beautiful high falsetto voice. He sings like a bird. But everybody sings great.”

While the band members are all accomplished musicians, they try to serve the songs and keep the audience in mind as well. “We like to stretch out and solo, but we don’t want to be too self-indulgent. But we love to play,” Winter said.

Whether that’s on “Frankenstein” or tunes like “The Power of Positive Drinkin’” from his most recent recording, Rebel Road. The latter boasts harmonica by country star Clint Black, additional evidence of Winter’s inclusive, eclectic approach.

Edgar Winter and Rusted Root perform July 5 at the National Cherry Festival. For tickets and additional information, go to

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