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Blues Connection

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Singer-keyboardist-saxophonist Edgar Winter, who will play at Reseda Country Club on Saturday, is one of those 1970s recording artists who does not make the charts these days. But he still has legions of hard-core fans all over the world ready to listen to his new tunes as well as his old hits.

“I like to thank all my fans for their continued support, which allows me to do what I love the most,” Winter said.

Whether teaming with older brother Johnny Winter or with Rick Derringer or his band White Trash, Edgar Winter scored hits throughout the 1970s.

More recently, the younger Winter’s music has been showing up in films and television commercials.

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His music was featured in Barry Levinson’s 1997 film “Wag the Dog,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro. Winter’s “Way Down South” appeared on the “My Cousin Vinny” soundtrack and he rerecorded his 1973 hit “Free Ride” for the film “Air America.”

His classic rock instrumental, “Frankenstein,” has been heard on national television in a commercial extolling the virtues of Heinz 57 steak sauce.

His most recent album, “The Real Deal,” was released last year and included guest stints by Derringer, brother Johnny, Leon Russell, Jeff Baxter, Jermaine Jackson and others. He’s working on a new CD with his R&B-style;, horn-centered band White Trash.

“This one is going back to the Southern blues, gospel,” Winter said. “More R&B; than rock. I think the times have changed and I’m very happy to see the blues receiving the recognition it deserves.”

Winter and his brother grew up in a musical family in Texas in the 1950s. Their mother was a classically trained pianist and their dad played the saxophone and sang in a barbershop quartet. Both sons learned to play several instruments.

In 1955 the two auditioned for Ted Mack’s “Original Amateur Hour,” performing as an Everly Brothers-style duo. But besides making their own music, the Winter family also listened.

“We watched ‘Hit Parade’ on TV and there were definitely songs that stuck with me,” Winter said. “Ray Charles’ song ‘What’d I Say’ changed my whole way of thinking about music.”

Winter also credits the area where he and his brother grew up for giving them a rich musical education. Beaumont was in a part of Texas that had its own indigenous blues and country-western heritage.

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And, said Winter, it was close to the musical influences of New Orleans and Mexico, as well as the jazz-oriented music department of North Texas University.

While Johnny was more into the rural blues bands of Muddy Waters and others, Edgar Winter said he was attracted to the urban blues bands that featured horns, such as Charles’.

“I’ve always tried to broaden my musical horizons,” he said. “I never could understand musical prejudice--how some people like jazz but don’t like country or blues.”

* Edgar Winter performs Saturday at Reseda Country Club, 18419 Sherman Way, Reseda; (818) 881-2988.

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Blues Band: Mike Morgan and the Crawl, appearing Sunday night at B.B. King’s, are a Dallas-based blues band with a new CD, “The Road.”

It’s a subject Morgan and company know pretty well, since they’re on the road from four to six months each year, traveling most of the time in a 3/4-ton Ford van.

The new CD was released March 10, just as the band was returning from gigs in France and Germany. The reception has been good, guitarist Morgan said.

“It’s better than any of the three CDs so far and they’ve all been pretty good. They say sales are up.”

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Morgan claims they sell a lot of CDs on the road, plus T-shirts and other merchandise, but the road gets old quickly.

“Best thing about being on the road is getting home,” Morgan said. “And the worst part is leaving. The older you get, the more you enjoy that home life.”

* Mike Morgan and the Crawl perform Sunday night at B. B. King’s Blues Club, Universal CityWalk, 1000 Universal Center Drive, (818) 622-5464.

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Short Takes: The late Luther Allison, who performed one of his last concerts at B.B. King’s in Universal City last summer, won five W.C. Handy Awards posthumously last week in Memphis. Allison was named best entertainer and also won for best contemporary male vocalist, best guitarist and best contemporary album for “Reckless.”

Luther Allison & the James Solberg Band were named best band. Other Handy winners who have performed recently in the Valley include Carey Bell, Rory Block, Rod Piazza and Eddie King.

* Recording artist Rick Braun headlines a benefit performance for musician and Van Nuys resident Moon Calhoun on Friday at 8 and 10:30 p.m. at a new club, Point 705, 705 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach.

Proceeds will offset medical costs for the former drummer, who was paralyzed in a bicycle accident four years ago, and for his wife June, who is battling cancer.

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Calhoun was known for his work with the Gap Band, Ray Parker Jr., Leon Russell and others. For tickets, $30, call (310) 372-9705.


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