Entertainment Local

Derringer ready for Rock 'n' Blues Fest

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

Rick Derringer

Rick Derringer

This one’s for the hippies, those with memories of Woodstock, lovers of blues rock, fans of early 1990s professional wrestling — and pretty much everyone else.

And yes, there is a common thread binding all of the above. It’s called the Rock ’n’ Blues Fest and it’s coming to Casino Rama Saturday night.

Now in its third year, the musical experience that began as the Hippie Fest will feature Rick Derringer (Hang On Sloopy), the Edgar Winter Band (Free Ride), Pat Travers (Snortin’ Whiskey), Ten Years After (Love Like a Man) and Canned Heat (Going Up the Country).

“I thought it was a great tour and a great name, myself,” Derringer said of the festival’s original moniker. “(Fans) came out dressed in their hippie clothes.”

But some of the organizers wanted to diversify, if only by title, and the Rock ’n’ Blues Fest was born.

This year’s tour kicked off at the end of July in Las Vegas. It signals a continuation of the longtime musical partnership between Derringer and Winter, who met in the late ’60s, and the former started working for the latter as a producer in the early ’70s.

“We’re almost like brothers,” Derringer told The Packet & Times.

Now, back to the tie that binds.

Derringer’s musical career has taken him from rock to blues rock to what is formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation. Hulk Hogan’s longtime entrance song, Real American, was Derringer’s handy work.

“Originally, we wrote it just to write a very patriotic song,” he said. “We didn’t write it for Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan heard it and wanted it for his theme song.”

It was always a popular tune in the pro-wrestling world, but it took on fresh significance Sept. 11, 2001.

“When the World Trade Center was brought down in 2001, people realized the lyrics had new pertinence,” Derringer said, reciting the opening line: “When it comes crashing down and it hurts inside ...”

Hogan wasn’t the only big name to latch onto the patriotic piece. Hillary Rodham Clinton used it as a campaign song when she was seeking the Democrats’ presidential nomination. On the other side of the political spectrum, Republican Newt Gingrich’s camp also blared the song whenever he won a victory in the primaries.

“It’s become more what we characterized it when we wrote it,” Derringer said.

But perhaps his most popular single to date is Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo. (That song also became a pro-wrestling hit when Derringer re-recorded it with wrestling announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund.)

Unlike many classic-rock artists who depend solely on their previous hits to continue to draw crowds, Derringer likes to try new things. His latest tracks include Knighted by the Blues and Sometimes. He also has another one ready to go. Bandana, which Derringer said he might perform Saturday, is expected to be the first single and title track from a new CD that’s in the works.

“Dust never settles under my feet,” he said.

But the Rock ’n’ Blues Fest is about more than Derringer, and he’s excited for the audience to get to see the others on stage, including Canned Heat, one of the first bands to commercially market itself as a blues-rock outfit, and Ten Years After, a band that performed at Woodstock in 1969.

Even if the other names on the bill don’t sound familiar, their songs will, Derringer assured. And there’s a reason for that: relevance.

“We’ve gone from an era when real vinyl albums and album artwork had a real relevance to our society that (some newer acts) don’t have,” he said. “Their relevance as people and artists is not possible today like it was in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s.”

But is Derringer OK with that reality?

“It doesn’t matter if I’m OK with it,” he said, adding he has, however, accepted it. “Those times are gone. Say goodbye to them. They’re in the past. Leave them in the past. That’s why we have classic (rock) radio.”

For tickets to Saturday’s show, visit ticketmaster.ca. For more information, visit casinorama.com.


Twitter: @nathan_taylor82

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