On the Road Again: George Thorogood
Courtesy USA Today
On the Road Again, USA TODAY's spotlight on artists on tour, this week looks at bluesy rockers George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
Six-string extravaganza. When George Thorogood and the Destroyers hit the road with Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot! May 27 in Red Bank, N.J., concertgoers will get a double shot of rock-and-roll guitar. With hits like Bad to the Bone and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, Thorogood bases his sound in Chicago blues and boogie, while Setzer carries the flag for rockabilly. "There's a passion from both angles, but it's a clear-cut distinction of styles," says Thorogood, 65.
Off to a fast start. After playing a few acoustic shows on his own, Thorogood formed the Destroyers in 1973 with drummer Jeff Simon, who still plays with him. The group played its first gig at University of Delaware's Lane Hall. "We had only had one or two practices, and it was kind of a lark," Thorogood says. "When we started playing, the room took off. Jeff and I were quite alarmed by this. We hadn't even done with the first set, and people were going, 'Where are you playing next?'"
Thank goodness for grandmothers. Early in the Destroyers' touring career, the band destroyed the transmission of their used Volkswagen van. Simon's grandmother saved the day by dipping into her pension fund and buying the group a brand-new Chevrolet van. "This is what saved our life," Thorogood says. "We used it as a motel, we practiced our guitars in it, we drove it. Having that happen to us was a big, big break for us."
B-b-b-b-bad. Thorogood wrote signature hit Bad to the Bone after touring with the Rolling Stones and the J. Geils Band in 1981 and realizing he needed a song that would be identifiable from its first notes, like the Stones' (I Can't Get No) Satisfacton or Geils' Centerfold. "I heard them doing that and thought, 'That's what you have to do.' All rock classics have that intro where you immediately turn the radio up and start driving faster."
Hey! Bo Diddley. Thorogood has opened for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, jammed with Muddy Waters, but Bo Diddley will always have a special place in his heart. "Bo Diddley is one of the people who was close to me, technically," says Thorogood, who played with the first-generation rocker and Albert Collins at Live Aid in 1985 and on several other occasions. "We became, if you can become close to Bo Diddley … let's put it this way: He was always nice to me."
The big game. Like most musicians who've achieved the luxury of taking off days, Thorogood makes a point of not playing on certain anniversaries, birthdays and key family events. And Super Bowl Sunday. "I did a Super Bowl gig once," he says. "That was part of the ticket, to watch the Super Bowl on the big screen, then our band was going to play. Big mistake. First of all, they served a turkey dinner, which has that tryptophan in it that makes you drowsy. And it was a self-seater. And the game went into overtime. By the time we hit the stage, everyone was zonked out."
George Thorogood And The Destroyers conquer Stagecoach
Blues rock may be seen as an acquired taste, but anyone around the Palomino Stage on Sunday night either knew what they were getting or learned to love it. On Sunday George Thorogood and the Destroyers set the tone for the final evening of Stagecoach 2015.
Even with the sun going down, Thorogood came out in sunglasses and hit "Rock Party" to a huge ovation.
"Away we go," screamed Thorogood as the crowd started chanting and screaming with the beginning of "Who Do You Love." From there, the band went on to play "Help Me," "Night Time," "I Drink Alone," and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer."
The performance was far from over though as Thorogood played to the crowd between and during each song. He kept asking them for more and they gave it while the band played "Tail Dragger," "Get A Haircut," and finished with the iconic "Bad To The Bone."
George Thorogood's top 5 tips for guitarist
Courtesy - MusicRadar.com
"Don't practice. Practicing is boring and discouraging."
#1 Be Patient
“Playing the guitar well takes a long time, so don’t be in a hurry to be great all at once. It’s not like playing the harmonica, where you can sit down and make something happen right off the bat. The guitar takes time – you've gotta investigate what it can do and what you can do with it.
“Also, you have to find the right guitar. I went through many, many guitars before I found the one I was comfortable with. As my hands and my expertise were developing, my guitar needs were changing. I was lucky and found a Gibson ES-125 at a hock shop. I remember it was a Tuesday and I had a gig on a Saturday. I went in, played the guitar, and it was like it was meant to be.
“If you’re going to be serious about playing the guitar, don’t give up. You’ll hit some bumps in the road, and you’ll also find a bunch of guitars that aren’t right for you. Just be patient and work through it.”
#2 Don't Practice - Just Play
“OK, I know I said 'work through it' with the previous tip, but you can't look at playing the guitar like work. Tip number two: Don't practice.
Practicing is boring and discouraging. Tell a kid to practice and he won’t do it. Just play. If you’re having fun and enjoying what you’re doing, you’ll get better at it faster and you'll keep at it, as opposed to learning scales and doing hard work.
“Think about it: Willie Mays didn’t practice baseball. He played baseball. He got up and played baseball when he was six years old and kept playing baseball till he was 40. That’s good enough for me.”
#3 Find The Right Players
“This can be tricky. It all depends on what kind of band you want. Do you want a band like Count Basie, or do you want something like Led Zeppelin? Either one requires the right set of players, so you have to decide what you want and go at it accordingly.
“Do you want a vocal group like Peter, Paul And Mary, or do you want an instrumental group like Jeff Beck? Again, it all depends on what your goals are and what kind of music you want to make. The same people who were in Peter, Paul and Mary could never be in the Jeff Beck Group, and vice versa. Put 'em in the right band, though, and there you go.
“Whatever you want to do, you need to find people you can get along with, at least for a couple of hours. It’s not always crucial – you’d be surprised at how many great groups or comedy acts can't stand each other. Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster made seven movies together, and they didn’t like each other that much at all. They stuck together ‘cause they knew it was good business. But in my experience, it’s better if you can get along. It helps.”
#4 Get A Good Manager
“Get a manager who knows the business. I learned that the hard way. You can try to learn the business yourself, but then you may as well be a manager yourself.
“You can’t discount the importance of a good manager. What would have happened if The Beatles never found Brian Epstein? Nothing. They would’ve disintegrated. No matter how great they were – they knew how to play and they knew how to right – they needed a guy to guide them, market them, expose them and plot the moves. Same with Elvis. Sure, he had the talent and a certain vision, but it took Colonel Tom Parker to sell what Elvis was doing.
“If you think you’ve got something going, get yourself a good manager, somebody who believes in you. And let's be honest: A good manager is going to think he can make a lot of money off of you. Nothing wrong with that.”
#5 Pick The Right Amp
“It’s like picking the right guitar, the second piece of the puzzle. To a great extent, it all depends on what kind of music you play. Maybe you play an acoustic guitar – you don’t even need an amp. Problem solved
“What do you want to do with your music? What kinds of places do you wanna play? Big places, little places? I’d say, find something that’s versatile. Don’t get something that’s too big – nothing bigger than 20 or 30 watts. You can always mic an amp through the house PA. Hell, you can have a transistor radio, but if you mic it right you can play the Grand Canyon. So get something small and portable, something that sounds good. You can put that through the PA and off you go.
“Get something that fits in your car. Chances are, you’d gonna be lugging that thing around by yourself most of the time, unless you’re lucky enough to get in a big band and you have other people lugging your stuff around.”
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