1972 was a year for history buffs. Japanese soldier Yokoi Shoichi, hiding in a cave on the island of Guam since the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur's army in 1944, was discovered by two hunters. U.S. troops remained in Vietnam. Arthur Bremer gunned down George Wallace, a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show for a week.
In Iceland, Bobby Fischer defeated Boris Spassky to become America's first world chess champion. Hunter S. Thompson published Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The Godfather won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Marlon Brando sent a Native American woman to decline his award for Best Actor. Best Actress winner Liza Minnelli accepted hers for Cabaret.
Burglars broke into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate in June and yet Richard Nixon routed George McGovern in the presidential election in November. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 1,000 for the first time in history.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong and Tre Cool were born, as were Mia Hamm, The Rock, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Cameron Diaz, The Notorious B.I.G. and Eminem. Just before Christmas, an earthquake destroyed Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. On New Year's Eve, Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder and future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente died when his plane went down attempting to deliver relief supplies to the victims.
The year also brought about a significant number of albums that would soon be categorized as "classic" rock. Alice Cooper's School's Out, Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything?, Big Star's #1 Record, Yes' Close to the Edge and Fragile, The Allman Brothers' Eat A Peach, Lou Reed's Transformer, Mott the Hoople's All The Young Dudes, The Eagles' self-titled debut, Don McLean's American Pie, the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St. and David Bowie's The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars were all released.
The year 1972 also marked the appearance of Edgar Winter's They Only Come Out At Night. The album, featuring a striking glam-rock-meets-Michelangelo cover image shot by fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, rose to No. 3 on the charts. The first single, "Free Ride," would peak at No. 14. But it was a nearly five-minute instrumental composition titled "Frankenstein," recorded as an afterthought and brought out as a b-side to the non-charting "Hangin' Around," that solidified Winter's place as an Album Oriented Rock icon.
"A lot of people think that I somehow identified with the Frankenstein monster," Winter says, "but that didn't even enter into it. I always thought of myself as the mad scientist-doctor-creator."
The multi-platinum They Only Come Out At Night is by far the best-selling album of Winter's three decades-plus recording career, and "Frankenstein" has appeared on more than 20 compilations celebrating the best of the 1970s. It's been featured in movies. Buick, Heinz and Miller Lite have used it in their ads and, for a time, Phish covered the tune regularly.
One album. One song. One riff. One man's musical legacy. Tattooed on the brain of America.
Edgar Winter was the second son born into the musical family of John and Edwina Winter. His great-grandfather played trumpet. His grandfather played fiddle. His father played saxophone and sang in a barbershop quartet, and his mother played piano.
"My earliest memory of music," Winter says, "is being cuddled in my mother's lap while she was playing piano, hearing beautiful music flowing over me and just being old enough to peek up over the keyboard between her arms. I think most people probably hear music on some kind of mechanical thing, like a record player back in the old days, or now on the Net. But my first memory of music was a live person actually creating it."
Winter's older brother, of course, is blues-guitar legend Johnny Winter and for the longest time the reticent Edgar was content to follow along in his sibling's shadow. The boys took up the ukulele as toddlers, and when Johnny was 7 and Edgar 4, the brothers performed on local radio in Beaumont, Texas. By the time Edgar was 6, they had graduated to television.
"It was called The Don Mahoney Show," Winter recalls, "and it was sort of like a western. They had a clip of him riding in on a horse and they'd have little kids perform. And we were the little kids-Johnny and I-playing ukeleles and singing Everly Brothers songs."
At the age of 11, Edgar was performing with his older brother's band, Johnny and the Jammers, at school dances and assemblies, church socials and a regular gig at the local catfish house.
"We played at a club called Tom's Fish Camp," Winter says. "We made $8 a man. There was four of us-$32 a night.
"Johnny was really asserting himself on the guitar and I knew he was going to be the guitar player. We didn't need two guitar players so it was just natural for me to play something else."
That "something else" was the start of Edgar Winter's rarely rivaled musical versatility. What began with a ukulele quickly encompassed piano, bass, saxophone and even drums.
"I was the quiet, shy kid that played all the instruments," he explains. "The way I started playing drums was the drummer was late from a break. He was flirting with a girl or something, and then Johnny said, "You're fired. Edgar, play drums.'
Johnny was the bandleader until Edgar became interested in jazz and picked up the saxophone at age 16. Both brothers loved the blues, but were at odds when it came to what kind of blues. Johnny loved the Delta acoustic stuff-Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Edgar "gravitated towards the more urban, more sophisticated" artists-the R&B type of blues that included legends like Ray Charles and B.B. King.
Though their taste in music began to split, Edgar continued to play with his brother when Johnny began performing nationally, and the creation of "Frankenstein" goes back to the late-'60s, when Winter's multi-instrumental capabilities served as his calling card.
"Johnny would do the first part of the show with the blues trio," Winter recalls, "and then he'd say, "And now I'm going to bring on my little brother Edgar,' and I'd come on and we'd play some Ray Charles songs.
"I wanted to find a song that would be a vehicle to allow me to play several different instruments. We called it "The Double Drum Song' because we had two sets of drums onstage and I'd play Hammond B3 and then I'd play an alto sax solo and then I did a dual drum solo with Johnny's drummer."
After signing a deal with Epic Records in 1970, Edgar was finally off on his own. That year he released Entrance, a solo album, followed by two records with Edgar Winter's White Trash before the formation of The Edgar Winter Group. By turns, the first three albums embraced blues, jazz, straight-ahead rock and even gospel. Then Winter discovered yet another musical vehicle-the synthesizer.
"I'm variously accused and acclaimed of ushering in that era-acclaimed in the sense that I was on the cutting edge of a new technology and accused in the sense that the synthesizer put a lot of musicians out of work," Winter says.
"My approach was, "Hey, here's a new instrument. Let's see if we can't create some new sounds.' I was a sci-fi nut. I was a Trekkie and I loved like all the old synth stuff, like on "Forbidden Planet.'
Looking for a song that could showcase the synthesizer, Edgar turned once again to his old stand-by, "The Double Drum Song." He thought it would "sound great with that sub-sonic, reinforced synth bottom, and, sure enough, it did." Still, he and his band had no intention of recording it.
The Edgar Winter Group brought back "The Double Drum Song" for live performances and once again, though this time as frontman, Edgar circled the stage playing alternating solos on synth, sax and timbales.
"At the end of recording They Only Come Out At Night, [producer] Rick Derringer and I were still talking about material and he said, "Well, why don't we try to mix that instrumental song?' Back in those days, groups actually created music in the studio. You'd go into the studio and you'd actually jam and create and write songs. Consequently, tape was always rolling. And since that song was something that we played live, there were several 20- or 30-minute versions of it."
In 1972, studio editing was done by hand. Audiotape was physically cut with a razor blade and then spliced back together. Soon pieces of "The Old Double Drum Song" were hanging from every available space in the control room.
"The drummer, Chuck Ruff, just kind of mumbled the immortal words, "Wow, it looks like Frankenstein,'" Winter remembers. "As soon as I heard it I was like, "That's it. That's perfect. It's even got that lumbering kind of monster deal to it.'
"The monster was born."
The Edgar Winter Band plays with Rick Derringer and Dave Mason as part of Biketober West at the Starlight Bowl, 6 p.m. on March 20. $25. 866-854-8512.