The Rock and Blues Fest (formerly ‘HippieFest’) is the summer’s most anticipated event. It marks the first time that all five legends perform together all on one stage for one remarkable evening; featuring Rick Derringer, Leslie West, brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter and Kim Simmonds of the British rock band, Savoy Brown at the Westchester County Center in White Plains on August 12.
NY Rock Music Examiner spoke with not one, but two of the headliners; Rick Derringer and Leslie West (of Mountain). Both seemed very excited about coming to the County Center and discussed their upcoming projects and what’s ahead after the concert. (Leslie West’s interview will appear in Part II.)
Rick Derringer struck me as a laid back, friendly, easy-going legendary rocker. He was very receptive to my interview questions and seemed eager and enthused about the upcoming Rock and Blues Fest.
“The show I did last year (HippieFest) was a great show. It has been going on for a few years. This year, since Edgar, Johnny and myself are all together they decided to change the show to The Rock and Blues Fest. Edgar had been approached and was thinking about doing it and I said, It’s a great show,” said Derringer by phone. “The promoter said, “Do you think we can get Johnny and Edgar?” I responded, “I don’t know, here’s Johnny’s manager’s name” and the next thing you know they put it together—so Johnny, Edgar myself, Leslie West and Kim Simmonds are all in the show—it’s very unusual that all of us are playing together.”
This isn’t the first time that Rick, Johnny and Edgar played together. They were on a short tour in Europe and performed on the same stage before.
“We played on a short tour in Europe, but this is the first time in about 35 years that we played together in the U.S.,” Rick stated.
As a record producer, Rick said working with A-list rock and rollers has been the highlight of his career.
“I worked with anything that was Gold or Platinum that Edgar or John did—I was the producer. And anything that wasn’t coincidentally I was not the producer so that’s a pretty good ‘stat’ to be able to say. It’s always fun; they’re both great talents each in their own way and the opportunity for us to play all together is rare and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Rick has two projects that are almost completed.
“I have a CD tentatively called, ‘Bandana’ which is ready to come out any minute and we’re also working on my fourth Christian album that we’re getting ready to release. (He recorded, ‘Aiming for Heaven’ with his wife, Jenda and two kids, followed by ‘We Live’) “Jenda (his wife) always writes with me so whether it’s called, ‘Rick Derringer’ or not she’s heavily involved and has written the songs for the new album tentatively called, ‘High City’ which will be released soon, but no date yet.”
He appreciates any type of musical genre, whether it’s rock, blues, jazz, you name it!
“All of the above—There’s just two kinds of music good and bad and I prefer the good stuff and I’ve had success in all kinds of genres, a couple of years ago we had a big smooth jazz album it was in the Top 40 for the year and a single that was on all the top jazz stations for five months but certainly, rock and blues just like this tour says.”
A new documentary is in the works about Rick’s life, produced and directed by Gary Mays.
“Gary put an ad up on our website that simply says,’If you have anything to contribute you can email it to him—and we’ve gotten lots of photos and videos over the last couple of years that he’s been working on it. They’re still welcome to send anything in photos or videos; he encourages the fans to email them to him so they can get in the final version because it’s getting near completion.” (It was supposed to be completed by May but we’re past that point—he still has some more people to interview.) I’m not sure when it will be finished,” declared Rick. “He’s interviewed everybody, fans, road crews, all the musicians I’ve played with over the years, family and he’s incorporated other people who have done documentaries previously and incorporated some of their work too; it will be an inclusive full-blown documentary about my whole life.”
Since the 70s and 80s, the entire music business has certainly transformed itself.
“How you buy and access music has changed drastically; but the music itself really hasn’t changed it’s always been the same (since the dawn of man) it’s expression of one person, musically and communications of somebody else and hopefully they receive it well and you’re happy as the maker of the music and that has not changed—music is positive by nature and that doesn’t change.”
His 2009 album, ‘Knighted by the Blues’ happens to be Rick’s favorite album.
“It ranks right up there with Edgar Winter’s ‘White Trash’ album I love that too but I like them all and to me the big hits are always memorable (Hang on Sloopy) (Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo) One of my biggest songs has turned out to be, ‘Real American’ Hulk Hogan used it for the last 30 years as his entrance song, when 9-11 happened it took on a new significance with the lyrics start in the song saying, ‘When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside’ and it become more popular, Hillary Clinton used it in her campaign against Barack Obama four years ago, Obama used it to unveil his birth certificate one year ago, Newt Gingrich used it as his campaign song for this primary season so it gets more pertinent all the time,” Derringer explained. (Real American will be one of the songs played live at Rock and Blues Fest.)
Rick is looking forward to the Rock and Blues Fest.
“All of us have been doing it long enough and we can guarantee that if everyone would come out they will have a great time and see a great show.”
To be continued—Stay tuned for Part II of this interview with Leslie West of Mountain.