Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Edgar Winter’s White Trash
Giving our big sister’s record collection a break for a few weeks, while we pull some out of my own stack. Today we take a listen to one of my favorite live albums of all time, 1972’s Roadwork by Edgar Winter’s White Trash. Winter is a stellar musician who grew up in Southeast Texas and with his brother Johnny left behind some scorching hot records in the late 1960s-early 1970s. Johnny of course was the most popular as the 1960s waned – he became a guitar god with his incendiary performance at the Woodstock festival. Little brother Edgar played sax and piano with Johnny at Woodstock, and he sang a couple of songs.
On the basis of that performance Epic Records signed Edgar to a recording contract and he put together White Trash, a soulful Southern roadhouse group made up of good ole boys from Texas and Louisiana. When I was a kid I in the mid 1960s I had a paper route in Groves, Texas, and one of my stops was a place called the Black Kat Klub. Many afternoons I could hear Johnny and Edgar’s band on the second floor above the club, every once in a while I’d see them while they were hanging out in back of the club.
Edgar cut one solo album, Entrance (1970) with brother Johnny’s band and a second, Edgar Winter’s White Trash (1971) with the hard-working roadhouse gang White Trash. The guy who shared lead vocals (and played sax) was Jerry LaCroix, a Louisiana native who grew up in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area of Texas and who made a name for himself as one of the lead singers of the classic roadhouse band The Fabulous Boogie Kings. LaCroix would co-write with Winter six of the 10 songs on the White Trash album and the two planned to go to Europe and burn Winter’s record company advance locating the “best musicians in the world.”
But that didn’t happen – Winter and LaCroix realized they already had the “best musicians in the world” right there in their own backyard. The band was a success, and they toured the world … and so we come to Roadwork. The double LP captures a skilled band, tight as a high-tension wire, playing full blast in front of a live audience. You simply can’t find bands like this any more. Kicking off with the gospel-flavored “Save The Planet,” Roadwork is steeped in the gutbucket rock and R&B that was so popular in the era. LaCroix shines on his “Jive, Jive, Jive” then blisters your eardrums with an incredible version of the Otis Redding barnburner “I Can’t Turn You Loose.”
After that, it’s time to rock – guest guitarist Rick Derringer steps up to deliver some scorching guitar and vocals on “Still Alive and Well,” which he wrote. Derringer also turns up the heat with a version of Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” Then with the famous line, “People keep askin’ me, ‘Where’s your brother?’ ” Edgar introduces his brother Johnny, who delivers a blistering version of Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.” (That song, and “Still Alive and Well” would appear on Johnny’s Still Alive and Well studio album from 1973 and of course Derringer would have his own hit with “Hoochie Koo” in ’73.)
Probably the album’s highlight is the rockin’ version of “Tobacco Road” (which, at 17 minutes, took up the entire side of an LP) with some tonsil-shredding vocals from Edgar. Most of Roadwork was recorded live at the Whisky A Go Go, but the last three tunes (and the last LP side) goes to the other coast and New York’s Apollo Theater. Apparently the band was a little late setting up, and you can hear the house announcer on mic with a little condescension and possibly a hint of reverse racism: “Y’know, every time we used to go outta town for them jive jobs they give us, they always say ‘black folks: late, can’t be on time,’ now look at the White Trash! (chuckle)”
Surely the sight of an albino onstage got even more laughs from the Apollo crowd, but the soulful lineup of “Cool Fool,” “Do Yourself A Favor” and LaCroix ripping it up on “Turn On Your Lovelight” definitely quieted the giggles. To me, Roadwork is one of the best live rock albums ever made – although it’s rarely mentioned in the list of classic live albums, it captures a hot band that was one of the best outfits goin’ at the time.
Roadwork was a hit when it was released, but White Trash broke up after its release to make room for the Edgar Winter Group with Dan Hartman and Ronnie Montrose. This was the lineup that cut the platinum album They Only Come Out At Night which spawned the huge hits “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride” and made Edgar Winter a superstar. Edgar and Rick Derringer are on the road this summer, as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. LaCroix would go on to play with touring versions of Blood, Sweat and Tears and Rare Earth – he’s still around the Beaumont-Port Arthur area, woodshedding and caring for his sick mother.