Brotherly Love – Edgar Winter remembers Johnny in tribute album

Memories abound as the 50th anniversary of Woodstock approaches. Edgar Winter sees the three-day festival as a catalyst for his career. At the time, he was a member of his brother Johnny’s band, but had no real ambitions of his own. Then he stepped on stage and everything changed.

“I just remember this moment of looking out over this endless sea of humanity and thinking ‘wow, this is really something amazing,’” Winter said in a recent phone interview. “Just the whole thing being set against the social backdrop of the civil rights and the peace movement. Seeing all those people united, brought together in that unique way just changed my whole perspective on music.”

It was a “transformative moment,” he continued. “I decided I would really apply myself, and that’s when I got interested not just in the type of music that I would play for my own enjoyment – which wasn’t going to find much of an audience – but thinking about communication, other than just something to satisfy myself.”

Growing up in Texas, the two brothers jammed together from an early age. Johnny emerged as an ace guitarist; Edgar did the rest. “I was the weird kid that played all the instruments,” he said. “I liked to figure out the arrangements and show everyone what to play. There wasn’t any sibling rivalry; I just loved music in and of itself, not as a means to an end.”

“I just loved music in and of itself, not as a means to an end.”

Johnny, though, wanted to be a star, and desire led him to New York City. Edgar followed. He expected the music scene there to intimidate him, but something else happened. He found a new appreciation for his home state. “I had no understanding of what a special area that was musically,” he said. “Real cowboys playing country music, authentic old blues guys; it’s close to the Mexican border, so you’ve got hot Latin rhythm players.”

He also spent a lot of time in Louisiana, with its adventurous music and 18 year old drinking age. “The Bible Belt is a couple of notches looser there,” he said with a laugh. “We called the French Cajun sound swamp music, and then the term Zydeco came into vogue. I loved all that New Orleans stuff as well, Dr. John & Allen Toussaint. And North Texas is a great music school, with an infusion of really educated musicians… it’s all indigenous music, it’s real.”

The most important factor remains his older brother, who passed away in 2014. “He and I were so close as kids,” he said. “We did everything together, and he’s my all-time musical hero. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am. I might have been a struggling jazz musician, an engineer, or a teacher.

Edgar is now at work on a tribute album, something he resisted doing for many years. “I always got the feeling that it was business people that wanted to exploit Johnny’s name and memory and I didn’t want to have anything to do with that,” he said. Bruce Quarto, a rock fan who made millions in technology and used it to start a record label, changed his mind. “He wanted to do it for all the right reasons.”

An all-star cast includes fellow Texan Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Joe Walsh, Edgar’s old bandmate Rick Derringer, Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes, Slash and Joe Bonamassa. He’s excited to add Buddy Guy and singer Bobby Rush – “I wanted to do a tribute to Muddy, which I know Johnny would have wanted, and the whole Chicago blues thing,” he said. “I decided to do ‘Mojo,’ which is pretty much a Muddy signature song.”

Also on board for a duet are Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal, along with veteran guitarists Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. There is no release date for the ever-expanding effort. “Bruce said to do as much as we want; we’ve got 16 songs and may wind up recording more,” Winter said, adding he’d love to get Jeff Beck.

“When Johnny passed away it was so totally unexpected,” he continued. “Playing his music turned out to be a great source of strength and healing to me… making this album is totally a joyous experience; it’s really something I feel I was meant to do, and I haven’t had that feeling in a long time.”

Edgar Winter performs Sunday, June 23, 7 p.m. at Tupelo Music Hall (10 A Street, Derry) . Tickets are $40-$45 at tupelohall.com

This story appears in the June 20, 2019 issue of Hippo Press

Rising Above – The indefatigable MB Padfield

What does it take to be a musician? That’s an oft-heard question, but equally important is another: Is there anything that  could cause a performer to give up and walk away? For MB Padfield, the answer is an emphatic no. 

Adversity simply made Padfield’s psychic fingertips more calloused and ready for the fretboard of life. She was playing full-time in her teens, becoming a habitué of bars she couldn’t drink in, and battling alcoholism anyway. A year and a half ago, she put her belongings in a U-Haul and moved to Los Angeles, only to have her life’s work stolen when she arrived. 

It’s all she ever wanted – a life in music.

The experiences merely made Padfield double down on the only plan she was certain life had for her. Now over five years sober, she’s juggling a career that includes playing gigs and recording her own music while jingle writing and performing behind the scenes of countless endeavors that quietly pay the bills.

It’s all she ever wanted – a life in music.

Recently, Padfield posted a short manifesto on her Facebook page, writing of struggle and triumph – the Berklee professor who tried shaming her into another career, and the sweet taste of financial independence she left in his wake. “I’ve played 1000+ shows. Yes, really. You’ve probably heard my writing/voice/work and have had no idea,” she said, ending joyfully, “we’re just getting started – don’t sleep.”

Bravado aside, losing all her songwriting to a thief was a hard blow, Padfield recalled in a recent phone interview. “I was pretty depressed,” she said. “When you have stacks of notebooks, you’ll remember some stuff, but you’re never going to write that same song twice – and why would you ?  You’ve already created it.”

She bounced back by plunging into unknown territory. With the help of musician friend Joe Sambo, she got work singing on commercials. “I started getting more involved with them, then I was in their audio department, writing jingles, learning how to craft the choruses,” she said, adding, “the world of advertising is very similar to writing pop music.”

Her credits include two spots for Subaru, commercials in Japan, and most recently a Mickey Mouse 90thBirthday ad for Disney that’s also running in Japan. “I’m tapping into a lot of different music income streams,” Padfield said. “It all pieces together to let me do what I do.”

That “do” is making her own music, which is a challenge amidst relentless gigging. “What some people don’t necessarily understand is how creatively demanding writing is,” she said. “I can’t play six nights a week AND write… that’s how we get a lot of really sad songs about being on the road.”

One solution is coming back home to New England for a marathon of performing every summer. From the start of June until mid-September, Padfield has no fewer than 83 appearances booked, including nearly two dozen at Bernie’s Beach Bar in Hampton (if any club owners are reading, she’d love a Wednesday residency – hit her up on mbpadfield.com).

“It’s very hard, and obviously I’m a one woman operation,” she explained. “I don’t necessarily have a couple band mates that I can delegate tasks to either, which has its pros and cons. But it’s very difficult for me to be creative to the level that I want… of course, I could write whatever, but I want to write stuff that I am passionate about.”

Playing mostly cover songs on the beach, Padfield uses a loop pedal and changes up her set list frequently to keep things interesting. She plays requests, and loves to be thanked with largesse. “The tip jar pays my groceries, helps get my songs mixed,” she said. “I really want to take things to the next level, and I’m completely unable to do that without people.”

This story appears in the June 20, 2019 issue of Seacoast Scene