ROCKLAND — On Saturday, Aug. 2, at Rockland’s Harbor Park, the 67th Annual Maine Lobster Festival will present the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest, as its musical centerpiece. The show was originally to be headlined by quintessential American blues-rocker, Johnny Winter, but on July 16 of this year, Winter unexpectedly passed away while on tour in Switzerland. His sudden death saddened the world, but has not derailed the show, which now has become a tribute to Johnny Winter.

In the words of Winter’s younger brother, Edgar, “My wife, Monique, and I are shocked at the suddenness of Johnny’s passing, especially since I was so looking forward with such joy and anticipation to seeing him again and playing together. I know his body is departing this physical realm, but his presence, his music, and his spirit are undiminished, and alive as ever in my heart. Johnny has always been, is now, and will forever remain my greatest musical hero of all time. But more than all that, he’s my brother — in family, in music, in life and beyond. I will do my best to carry on in honor of his memory and the Winter name.”

The Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest features not only the Edgar Winter Group, but several other musical luminaries from the late’60s/early ‘70s, including Vanilla Fudge, Peter Rivera, who was the singer of the group Rare Earth, and Savoy Brown’s Kim Simmonds. This is the third summer in a row that a version of the show has toured America. The Fest is produced by Flower Power Concerts, Inc., the same company that brings the classic music acts concert series to the Disney World EPCOT Center’s American Gardens Theater each year.

The Edgar Winter Group is best known for its 1972 album, “They Only Come Out at Night,” which in 1973 spawned two massive hits, “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” At the Fest, the group will be providing musical backing as needed for other performers.

Vanilla Fudge enjoyed success by producing heavy, organ-laden, psychedelicized cover versions of earlier hits, such as The Supremes “You Keep me Hanging On,” Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” and my own personal favorite, a haunting recast of the Nancy Sinatra gem, “Some Velvet Morning.” Three of the four original members, including organist Mark Stein, guitarist Vinny Martell, and drummer Carmine Appice, will be appearing.

Peter Rivera formed the group Rare Earth and provided both vocals and drums for the group’s biggest hits, “Get Ready,” “( I Know) I’m Losing You,” and “I Just Want to Celebrate.”

Guitarist Kim Simmonds is the leader of the British blues-rock group Savoy Brown, which produced many classic albums, including 1971’s “Street Corner Talking,” featuring “Tell Mama,” and “All I Could Do Is Cry.” This is the second time Simmonds has been a part of the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Simmonds. He was shaken by Johnny Winter’s death and had this to say: “Having watched Johnny Winter at his first major appearance at The Fillmore East in the late ‘60s, and subsequently doing many shows with him over the years since, I felt a kinship with him. That was solidified, when we did the Blues ‘N’ Rock Fest tour two years ago, and we became friends. I was looking forward to talking with him and jamming with him on the same tour this summer. Now I personally only have memories, and great ones at that, to remember him by. His music, of course, is a great legacy that I will continue to be inspired by. The blues rock tour now has become a tribute to Johnny Winter and I’m happy to be able to honor him and play my part.”

Despite his sadness, Simmonds added that, “The Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest has assembled a bunch of great artists who can still bring it forward. Edgar and his group are terrific musicians, one of the best bands in the country.” Simmonds himself is an excellent performer, whom I have seen on several occasions. I can attest that he knows how to engage and thrill an audience.

Another subject we discussed is how “vintage” musicians with long-running careers are able to stay vibrant and relevant. Simmonds himself tries to strike a balance between the old and the new. He continues to produce albums of all- new original music. On his most recent Savoy Brown release, “Goin’ to the Delta” (Ruf Records, 2014), he returns to his electric blues roots. The album is receiving very good critical reviews, as well as enthusiastic audience reactions at shows. Along with the classic material, he does plan on playing some of his current songs. But he says, “Half the reason you are still around is because of what you’ve done in the past, so it is important to do songs from the past, but you also have to breathe new life into the old material. You have to be able to put your emotions across to an audience, and to express yourself in a way that is completely individual. That’s what people respond to.”

The Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest will get underway at 7: 30 p.m. Tickets to the show are $30, which includes admission to the Maine Lobster Festival fairgrounds. For more information, call 1-800-562-2529, or visit www.mainelobsterfestival.com.

Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, and Kim Simmonds (from left to right) back the late, great Johnny Winter at a date on the 2012 Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest tour (Photo courtesy of Jeff Daly)


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