The Johnny Winter Story

Rick Derringer

Rick Derringer - Guitar

Around June 1970 Rick Derringer abondened the McCoys and joined Johnny Winter's new band "Johnny Winter And"

 

 

Rick Derringer's All American Boy and Spring Fever remastered

Rick Derringer's (born: Richard Zehringer 5-Aug-1947) first solo albums "All American Boy" and "Spring Fever" have been remastered and rereleased on a single CD

 

The biography of Rick Derringer

Rick Derringer first gained popularity with his band, The McCoys, and their chart topping hit record, "HANG ON SLOOPY", at 16 years of age in the summer of 1965. Immediately following the demise of The McCoys in 1969, Rick merged his talents with albino blues rocker, Johnny Winter forming "JOHNNY WINTER AND" (the "AND" referring to The McCoys). It was the beginning of a long association with both Winter brothers as singer, player, songwriter, and producer (he's produced every Gold or Platinum recording that they've made). In 1971 Rick was featured on 3 of the brothers' records including "JOHNNY WINTER AND - LIVE" and "EDGAR WINTER'S WHITE TRASH" ... "AND - LIVE" included the second recording of Derringer's song "ROCK AND ROLL HOOCHIE KOO" which was first released as a single from "JOHNNY WINTER AND". The following year, the busy Derringer joined full-time and also produced their Gold LP, "ROADWORK".

Derringer's first solo album, "ALL AMERICAN BOY" was released in 1973 and included his rendition of the already famous "ROCK AND ROLL HOOCHIE KOO". In the same year Rick was again included as guitarist/writer and producer of Johnny Winter's "STILL ALIVE AND WELL", and as player/producer of Edgar's biggest hit album, "THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT", the latter featuring the number one, GRAMMY nominated monster hit "FRANKENSTEIN". Several more albums resulted in the 70's until, in 1976, Derringer decided to go solo with the "DERRINGER BAND", which included throughout several incarnations, then unknown musicians Neil Geraldo and Myron Grumbacher, who went ahead to become famous with Pat Benatar. Rick released four albums before disbanding in 1983, the year he made his last solo LP of that era, "GOOD DIRTY FUN".

During the 70's Derringer could also be found guesting on various albums with the likes of Alice Cooper, Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren, and Steely Dan among others. With the end of his solo project, he threw himself into working on a variety of recording sessions as guitarist/producer and songwriter. He worked with artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Barbra Streisand, Mason Ruffner, Kiss, and Madam X - just to name a few! It was in this period that he discovered the talent and produced the first five albums for funnyman, Wierd Al Yankovic. It was from these albums that Rick was to win his first GRAMMY for "THE BEST COMEDY ALBUM", Wierd Al's "IN 3-D" which included the Michael Jackson parody, "EAT IT". Wierd Al and Rick went on to win their second GRAMMY for "THE BEST VIDEO" with Al's second Jackson parody "WHO'S FAT". It was through his work with Cyndi Lauper and Wierd Al Yancovic that Rick was selected as producer and songwriter ("I AM A REAL AMERICAN") for the WWF (World Wrestling Federation). He also designed a guitar for BC RICH handmade guitars called the STEALTH, and later returned to work with his old friend Edgar Winter in 1990 for the LP, "EDGAR WINTER AND RICK DERRINGER LIVE IN JAPAN".

"BACK TO THE BLUES", a solo album recorded for the Shrapnel, BLUES BUREAU INTERNATIONAL label in 1993, marks Derringer's triumphant return to what he does best, hard edged blues. His newest release, "ELECTRA BLUES" stays true to the blues tradition and runs the gamut from grinding slow blues to steaming shuffles with an intensity and prowess that reveals his roots and shows how far he's come throughout the years. Poised for success, the future is looking better than ever for Derringer. His next CD called "TEND THE FIRE" is already out in Europe and receiving rave reviews. Derringer says , "this might be the best music I've ever recorded," and this might be the time when a world-wide audience that's always been there, could finally help him achieve the ultimate success that he has, for so long, deserved.

Rick Derringer on Johnny Winter during an interview with Tom Guerra:

Guitar great Rick Derringer talks candidly to Tom Guerra for Vintage Guitar magazine about his days performing as a bandmate of Johnny Winter in "Johnny Winter AND," and producing some of Winter's most popular albums. Look for a new book on Derringer and other 70's rock guitarists, due to hit the stores in late 2001.

TG: Hi Rick, great to talk to you again. When did you first become aware of Johnny Winter?

RD: It was through Steve Paul, (owner of The Scene nightclub in NYC). Steve had read that now-famous Rolling Stone article (on Johnny Winter) and had mentioned to everybody that he was going to go and find the guy, and sure enough, he found Johnny and brought him back to New York. The first time I saw Johnny play was at the Fillmore East, and I think it was in 1968. I didn't meet Johnny that night, but did a few months later when Steve brought both Johnny and Edgar to see The McCoys at a club called The Tarot Club.

TG: How was it decided that The McCoys become the AND in JW AND?

RD: Well, both Johnny and Edgar were sufficiently impressed when they saw The McCoys that night, and that's when Steve hit us with the idea that both Johnny and The McCoys should do something together. The McCoys were in a bad situation... our music had become characterized as "bubblegum" and we didn't want to be seen like that. We wanted a way to gain some credibility since we thought we were pretty good players. Johnny came on the scene with some real respect, so we looked at this as an opportunity to get what we were looking for, some respect ourselves (laughs)!

TG: JW said your playing complemented his and he enjoyed playing with you. How did you guys figure out who was going to play what?

RD: We didn't, and that's why it worked. I've always been a guy who's pretty supportive, its just my nature, so I came in to the situation with the attitude that I wanted to support Johnny and make it work. I was the kind of guitar player who had grown up when electric guitar playing was still in its infancy, so I first learned how to play rhythm. This allowed me to be very supportive of Johnny, who was and is known primarily as a lead guitar player, and frankly, is not a rhythm guitar player. So our roles became very defined very easily because of the nature of our styles. I took the rhythm place, which a lot of people didn't know how to do the way I could, and this was really the first time that Johnny had a rhythm guitar player. On the other hand, when he gave me a solo, I certainly knew how to take advantage of that opportunity.

TG: When you played with Johnny, what were you guys playing for guitars and amps?

RD: I was playing mostly my Les Paul and my Gibson 355. Johnny was mostly playing his Epiphone in those days, that little solid body model. For amps, we both were playing through Marshalls.

TG: You produced several of Johnny's best albums, including "Johnny Winter AND", "Johnny Winter AND Live", "Still Alive and Well", "Saints and Sinners", "JDWIII" ...What was working in the studio w/ Johnny like?

RD: I produced all of his stuff that was either gold or platinum (laughs)! Johnny was great in the studio; he was there to make the music that he wanted to make. We lived right beside each other and had a rehearsal studio that was just ours, with nobody else using it, it was part of Johnny's house, so we could rehearse every day. We played all of the songs on the first Johnny Winter AND every day before we recorded them, so that when we got in the studio, it was totally easy, as we knew exactly what we wanted to do. My job at that time was to communicate Johnny's wishes to the engineers and to the people in New York. He felt that on his first projects with Eddie Kramer, being from Texas, he needed "somebody to translate" (spoken with Texas accent). He felt like his wishes weren't getting through. So as a guitar player and a guy who has some common sense and a friend of his, I was able to communicate his wishes to the hierarchy.

TG: Johnny did some of your songs, did you write them for him or have them already written. What did you think of his versions?

RD: I wrote "Rock N' Roll Hoochie Koo" for Johnny and that band, we also did "Out on a Limb," "Ain't That A Kindness," my brother wrote a song called "Am I Here?", we did a lot of our songs. Johnny was the boss, so what I felt about them wasn't really relevant. But when I got the chance to go back and record them myself, then I was able to go back and reflect about what I was able to improve.

TG: And your recording of "Hoochie Koo" just got an award, right? Congratulations...

RD: Yes, it just received an award from BMI on one million airplays.

TG: You did a tour with Johnny a few years back (in 1997), how was that? <Ü>RD: That was great, it brought Johnny back to life in some ways... Without anybody to give him some competition or to push him, Johnny, like anybody, might get a little bored or sink into complacency. Those shows allowed Johnny to hear us go on before him every night, and once again hear me trying to do the best I can. I'm a pretty competitive guy, and Johnny really responded. Each night, he got a little better better, his solos got a little hotter and I think it worked out pretty well.

TG: You've been playing a lot of blues over the past ten years or so...how did playing with Johnny influence your blues playing?

RD: Frankly, it wasn't that great of an influence. The influence Johnny did have on me was his slide playing. The first time I heard Johnny play at the Fillmore East, I wasn't really impressed. He had come on the scene with everybody telling me how great he was, and I didn't hear it. Johnny overplayed, and because of his eyesight problems, he would sometimes go to the wrong fret and hit the wrong note. I was a little kid from Ohio that was into perfection, and I just didn't get it! I was hearing a bunch of mistakes, when all of a sudden, he strapped on the slide guitar, and I said, "Now I get it." There was nobody at the time who was playing slide guitar like Johnny, and nobody, or no white guys at least, that was playing country blues like that on the acoustic guitar. And it was at that point that I realized what Johnny had to offer.

He taught me some things specifically, more than just from listening to him. We sat down and he showed me things like the open tunings he used, and some different fingerings. He showed me all the things that I now know about slide guitar and country blues.

TG: Getting to your own career, how are things going and when can the readers of TG expect another album?

RD: Well you know, my whole life has changed a lot over the past couple years. In the nineties I was doing those Blues Bureau records, but over the past two years, I have really gone back to my Christian roots and have been born again. I know some people will be surprised to hear it, but I've found that my music, whether its blues or rock, or whatever you want to call it, can be channeled into a positive direction that actually helps people. Because of this I've been working on an all-Christian album. I've just finished a 12 song demo, which I've been taking around to all of the big Christian labels in Nashville. Some of the biggest Christian artists have agreed to help me with it, including Charlie Peacock, Phil Keaggy, John Elefante, Leo Ahlstrom from NewSong, and Myron LeFevre. My family is involved and my wife Brenda is a great, great writer. She helps me with the writing of everything and also sings with me. I owe a lot to Brenda. Also, our kids Lory and Marty also sing on the record.

And what makes me happy now has changed as well...Its one thing to play in a bar or at a biker festival, and hear a guy who's been drinking beer all day come up and tell you how good you are. For a long time in your life that will make you happy. I started The McCoys in 1962, so I'm approaching my 40th year in the entertainment business. So, after awhile, you can only get so much happiness from a guy who's drunk come up and tell you you're great. For me, I go in and play a few Christian songs for an audience, and now I have people come up and not tell me I'm great, but tell me that my music is helping save their lives, helping them in the Lord, and helping them end their vices. That makes me feel good!!! I never knew music could have that power before. I'm approaching a whole new part of the music business and a whole new life for me, and that's what I'm looking forward to. A few years back I went through a terrible time, and I started praying for the answers and I got them. And part of that was finding Brenda...I know it makes me sound like I'm running for Miss America or something, but its for real, and its helping change peoples lives. I've been playing a new version of "Still Alive and Well" that says "Jesus Christ has risen up to Heaven from the grave, and he's still alive and well." Some people are afraid of going this route, but its not scary, its only positive good stuff. It's not a cult and you get a lot back. I want Johnny to come to one of my concerts and hear my testimony...

TG: Are there any other things regarding your experiences with Johnny Winter that you'd like to share with the readers of TG?

RD: No, just that I had a great respect with Johnny and still do. He's really great, and I really enjoyed my time with him. We both learned a lot together!


Rick Derringer and the McCoys

Formed in Union City, Indiana, in 1962, this group was initially comprised of guitarist Rick Zehringer, his brother Randy on drums and bass player Dennis Kelly. Starting out as "Rick And The Raiders", then "The Rick Z Combo", the group later added organist Ronnie Brandon, becoming the McCoys soon after Randy Hobbs replaced the college-bound Dennis Kelly.

McCoys Hang On Sloopy

The quartet became a highly popular attraction throughout America's Midwest, and gained the attention of producers Feldman/Gottherer/Goldstein who brought them to Bert Berns' "Bang Records". The group's very first release was a simple, hard driving tune called "Hang On Sloopy", which shot to the top of the U.S. charts and reached the top 5 in the UK in the summer of 1965. For a follow-up, the band chose a similar arrangement for a tune called "Fever", a remake of Peggy Lee's Top Ten hit in 1958. A series of successive releases in a similar gutsy style fared less well and a cover of Ritchie Valens' "C'Mon Let's Go" was their only other Top 40 hit.

By 1969, the group had discarded its bubblegum image with the progressive album "Infinite McCoys", and became the house band at New York's popular Scene club.

Albums Rick Derringer recorded together with the McCoys in the late sixties
1965  "Hang On Sloopy" 
1966  "[You Make Me Feel] So Good" 
1968  "Infinite McCoys" 
1969  "Human Ball" 

 

The club's owner, Steve Paul, later paired the group with an up and coming blues guitarist named Johnny Winter and billed them as "Johnny Winter And..." ("And" referring to "The McCoys") featured the Zehringer brothers and Randy Hobbs, with Rick handling the production. It was about this time that Rick changed his last name from Zehringer to Derringer.

In 1971, Rick was featured as lead vocalist on three albums, "Johnny Winter And", "Johnny Winter And - Live" and an L.P. by Johnny's brother Edgar Winter called "Edgar Winter's White Trash".

Eventually, Derringer joined Edgar's White Trash band full-time and produced the gold LP, "Roadwork". Derringer's solo album, "All American Boy" was released in 1973 with the now already popular "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo", this time as a single. Rick was writer/producer of Johnny Winter's "Still Alive and Well" album and player/producer of the hit album, "They Only Come Out At Night". The latter featured the No. 1, Grammy nominated monster hit, "Frankenstein" and "FreeRide".

In 1976, Rick created the Derringer Band and during the latter half of the seventies, released four albums, "Derringer" , "Sweet Evil", "If I Weren't So Romantic I'd Shoot You" and "Face To Face". In 1983, Rick returned to his solo career with the LP, "Good Dirty Fun."

Throughout the 70's and 80's Derringer appeared as a session musician on numerous albums with artists Alice Cooper, Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, Cyndi Lauper, Barbra Streisand and Kiss.

In the mid-80's, Derringer discovered Weird Al Yancovic, producing music for his Grammy-winning albums and videos. Derringer's productions of the Michael Jackson parodies, the No. 1 hit "Eat It," and "Who's Fat," have been among Yancovic's most successful recordings.

Rick was selected to be producer/writer/performer of the World Wrestling Federation LPs. Hulk Hogan's theme song, "I Am A Real American" was written and performed by Rick as a part of these projects.

By 1990, Derringer was once again sought after by Edgar Winter and performed for the LP, "Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer Live in Japan". In the late 1990's, many shows found Rick and Edgar on stage together and they joined for an all-star re-union with the White Trash Horns at 1999's Montreaux Jazz Festival. In 1999, Rick collaborated with Edgar as songwriter/guitarist on his "Winter Blues" CD.

The year 2001 saw Derringer venture back into rock and roll with former Vanilla Fudge members, Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert, producing a CD called "DBA - Derringer, Bogert and Appice", with vocals, writing and instrumentals shared by all three. Rick has followed closely on the heels of this project with a recording entitled 'Aiming For Heaven,' with help from his daughter Lory and son Marty.


Albums Rick Derringer recorded with Johnny Winter


Rick Derringer's Discography

Below the list of Rick Derringer albums which I consider as essential and must haves.

The McCoys / Human Ball - 1969

Mercury SR-61207 (LP), full description and scans of the vinyl covers of: "Human Ball"


All American Boy - 1973

CBS / EPIC (LP), full detailed description of "All American Boy"


Spring Fever - 1975

Blue Sky 80723 (LP), full description and details for Rick Derringer's album: "Spring Fever"


Derringer - 1976

Blue Sky 81458 (LP, full detailed description and lyrics of the songs on the album: "Derringer"

 

Derringer Live - 1977

Blue Sky 81458 (LP), full description of the album: "Derringer Live 1977"


If I weren't so romantic, I'd shoot you - 1978

Blue Sky 35075 (LP), full detailed description of: "If I weren't so romantic, I'd shoot you"


Guitars and women - 1979

Blue Sky 36092 (LP), detailed description and album covers of: "Guitars and Women"

Derringer - Live in Cleveland

Rick Derringer "Live in Cleveland is a special broadcast only record and was not sold to the public. This vinyl lp was released on "Blue Sky" records: ASZ 265

 Rick Derringer - Live in Cleveland Blue Sky  

 

Derringer - Live in Cleveland's tracks include

  • Let me in
  • Teenage Love Affair
  • Sailor
  • Beyond the Universe
  • Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo
  • Roll with me
  • Rebel Rebel

 

Rick Derringer Trivia

Rick Derringer started life as Rick Zerringer.... born and rasied in Union City, IN/OH.... same hometown and high school as Curtis Enis. Along with his brother Randy + Dennis Kelly + Randy ______ (I have forgotten his last name at this moment) were the members of the McCoys. They played every little event you could imagine in 1963-64-65... while they were still in high school. 1965 was the year of HANG ON SLOOPY I believe.... Dennis Kelly dated my sister for a while... and various folks from our hometown (Greenville, OH - 12 miles from Union CIty) often hung out with Zerringers and their friends. Neither my sister or I have any recollection of Rick dating anyone named SLOOPY.... or even dating much.... he was actually a pretty shy kid when the band wasn't on stage. The McCoys were really formed and nutured and pushed like hell by a "stage mother" who drug them all over western Ohio and eastern Indiana to get them exposure and stage time. Randy Zerringer dated a girl from Winchester, Indiana (10 miles west of Union City) who was from a very wealthy family.... and everyone called her SNOOTY.... to her face.... in a nice way... cause she really wasn't... but her parents were.... and her parents really hated it when the McCoys became successful . Randy later produced "offspring" with SNOOTY.... not sure if they ever married. That's all I/we remember on this issue. Jerry R. Lease

"Hang on sloopy"

HANG ON SLOOPY was written by Bert Russell and Wes Farrell. The June 1996 issue of the Ohio State Alumni Magazine had a story about the song.

The origins of Hang on Sloopy. There apparently was a woman named Betty Sloop that frequented a tavern in New Orleans where some band (not the McCoys) played regularly, and the band wrote the song in her honor. She became a nurse or something and lived in Florida. I think the NPR thing was in commemoration of her death. The song itself is pretty unremarkable - but it persevered through about 5 different recorded versions before the McCoys covered it.

A Photo of Rick Derringer in recent years, probable 2009

A Photo of Rick Derringer in recent years, probable 2009

 

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Last Modified: 16-Sep-2013 16:10