Courtesy - AXSCourtesy - AXS
By: James Wood
With a sound best described as powerhouse rock with bar band roots, George Thorogood and The Destroyers rose from the clubs of the Delaware Valley and New England areas in the early '70s on the strength of his take on songs by blues masters like Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley.
Over the course of his 40-year career, Thorogood has released 16 studio albums (including six gold and two platinum) as well as opened for The Rolling Stones on their historic 1981 tour and took part of Live Aid in 1985 where he got to perform with Diddley as well as fellow blues legend Albert Collins. Thorogood has also put his own signature stamp on the blues with songs likes "Bad To The Bone" and "I Drink Alone".
To help celebrate his milestone career, Thorogood plans to do what he does best - bring his music to the people. His upcoming ‘Badder Than Ever’ Tour will visit 15 cities up and down the East Coast and California. In addition to those solo dates, Thorogood will also be teaming up with another musical icon, Brian Setzer for a monthlong tour that will kick off May 27 in Red Bank, New Jersey.
AXS recently caught up with Thorogood to find out about the tours as well as his music and some of the highlights of his career.
What can fans expect from your tour this time around?
They can expect that it will be a better show than the last time I played. The idea is you’re always supposed to improve every time you come around. That’s the only way to stay in business.
Did you find it difficult as a performer coming up in the club scene of Philadelphia, Delaware and New England in the 1970s?
We didn’t really play that many clubs in Delaware because there weren’t that many clubs to play. And the few venues that they did have were playing things that were on the radio at the time. We didn’t do Top 40. We had a different blues/boogie style. So even though I was bit out of place, the things that were on my mind weren’t any different from anyone else who was playing at the time, and that was to try to have a career in music.
In May, you’ll be teaming up with another legend, Brian Setzer. How did this tour pairing come about?
I had toured with Brian years ago and bump into him periodically. And every time that I do the first thing he always says is, “We’ve got to hook up!” I remember the last time I saw him was at his Christmas show. It was a dynamite show with thousands of people and the first thing he says to me is “We’ve got to hook up!” [laughs]. So I said, “Ok. You’ve got it. Let’s go to work!”
Back in 1981, you had the opportunity to tour with The Rolling Stones and J. Geils Band. What was that like for you?
I felt completely natural in that situation. Peter Wolf and Mick Jagger have been two of my main cats as far as what I do on stage. J Geils Band and The Stones were the perfect evolution. I never thought it was anything strange but people would often say how the tour was a unique idea. But I’d say, “What’s so unique about it?” We all had grown up listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry. I’m just a younger classman of The J. Geils Band and The Rolling Stones. We all came from the same place. I was just the little kid on the block.
You also were one of the performers at LIVE AID in 1985. What do remember about that experience?
It was very tough. I found out with less than 24 hours in advance that they wanted us to play. I was on the West Coast at the time and had to get a red-eye flight. I had no sleep and went on at two in the afternoon and it was brutally hot. It was wonderful to be a part of and to play with Albert Collins and Bo Diddley but physically, it was an uphill run.
I have to ask you about a few of your songs and get your thoughts on them: “Bad To The Bone”.
That was a riff that we had been fooling around with for a while. I wanted it to have a catchy title. Something that people could associate with. “Bad To The Bone” is a fantasy. It’s like watching a James Bond movie. All guys want to be that guy and all girls want to be with that guy. I am not that guy. But I remember when we finished it I wanted Muddy Waters to do it, but his people weren’t interested. Then I tried to get it over to Bo Diddley because I patterned the lyrics after him. He wanted to do it but he didn’t have a record deal. So we ended up doing it.
“I Drink Alone”:
It was an obvious song to do. There were so many drinks that had people’s names on it. Even now, it could be Samuel Adams or Dom Pérignon (who was a Monk). But it was the same thought I had with “Bad To The Bone”, which was if I didn’t write it someone else would. Originally, we put that together as a country song for George Jones. But when I went to EMI and told them about it, their line was “You’re going to record that! We did not hire George Thorogood to write to give to other people!” [laughs].
In your opinion, what makes Blues such a great form of music?
It’s a great format for music and the roots of everything that we do. It’s more of a feeling and the foundation for rock music. In general, it’s something you listen to and then you take it and put something to it. Then it evolves into something else. That’s how Blues evolved into Rock and Roll and then into Rock. When I listen to the first Led Zeppelin album, I hear Robert Johnson all over the place.
We mentioned a few of the highlights of your career but are there any that stand out to you as most memorable?
That’s easy. Every night I walk on stage.
George Thorogood And The Destroyers ‘Badder Than Ever’ Tour Dates:
Feb 27 Flynn Theater Burlington, VT
Feb 28 Lynn Auditorium Lynn, MA
March 1 State Theatre Portland, ME
March 3 Colonial Theatre Pittsfield, MA
March 5 The Ridgefield Playhouse Ridgefield, CT
March 6 Tarrytown Music Hall Tarrytown, NY
March 7 Garde Arts Center New London, CT
March 8 Park Theatre Cranston, RI
March 10 The Grand Opera House Wilmington, DE
March 11 The Forum Harrisburg, PA
March 17 Miller Symphony Hall Allentown, PA
March 18 State Theatre New Brunswick, NJ
March 19 The F.M. Kirby Center Wilkes-Barre, PA
March 20 Keswick Theatre Glenside, PA
March 21 The Clay Center Charleston, W. VA
April 26 Stagecoach Festival Indio, CA
George Thorogood / Brian Setzer Co-Headline Tour Dates:
May 27 Red Bank, NJ Count Basie Theatre
May 29 New York, NY Beacon Theatre
May 30 Canandaigua, NY CMAC
May 31 Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion
June 5 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre
June 6 Elgin, IL (Chicago) Grand Victoria Casino
June 8 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater
June 9 Clear Lake, IA Surf Ballroom
June 10 Cedar Rapids, IA McGrath Amphitheatre
June 12 Morton, MN Jackpot Junction Casino
June 16 Albuquerque, NM Sandia Resort & Casino
June 19 Lincoln, CA Thunder Valley Casino
June 20 Saratoga, CA Mountain Winery
Photo by: Aaron Rapoport