Courtesy Beth Peerless/Monterey Herald
You know what I like about George Thorogood?
He’s a wisecracking funny guy who also loves rock and roll. Pretense is nonexistent in his repertoire, just straight-shooting from the hip. No belly button gazing, only a passion for giving his fans what they come to expect from him, a rocking good time. While he jokes around about his guitar playing expertise, at 71-years-of-age he knows a thing or two about the music business and why he’s in it. If there was anyone who personifies the journeyman musician, it’s George Thorogood.
Case in point. The song titles and what he sings about. What you’ll hear on his “Good To Be Bad Tour: 45 Years Of Rock,” making a stop Nov. 12 at the Golden State Theatre, are the songs you’ve heard before, whether it be on the radio and MTV, on your music listening device, or at a live show. “Bad to the Bone,” “Move It On Over,” “I Drink Alone,” “Who Do You Love,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” and maybe some songs you’ve heard Bo Diddley, Stevie Ray Vaughan or the Rolling Stones do. While his music is described as blues-rock, he doesn’t claim to be a torchbearer for either of those idioms.
“I’m just Thorogood and I go up there and play my tunes for the people who dig ‘em,” he said point-blank. “As far as me carrying on something, the only thing I’m carrying on is the tradition of certain rock bands from the late 60s, early 70s, like Steppenwolf, or Savoy Brown, The J. Geils Band, Canned Heat. I don’t know if I’m even carrying on that tradition, I just come out of that format. Bo Diddley and I once did a blues festival over in Maryland, and we were sharing a trailer, and I said, ‘Bo, I don’t know why they keep calling me up to play these blues festivals. I can’t play blues,’ and Bo went, ‘Neither can I.’”
So he gets me laughing and I mention to him that his longevity on the touring circuit is close to rivaling the Rolling Stones.
“Ha ha!” he exhaled with force. “Well, I learned from them. What were the proper things to study, because I wanted to play the guitar like Keith Richards and sing like Mick Jagger, and I wanted my hair to look like Brian Jones. I said to myself, ‘So if you’re going to do this man, you’d better get into Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.’ Once I did, it was like a drug. I fell in love with that music. I was so fortunate. I like to tell people if you consider people like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Elvin Bishop and Steve Miller, I went to the same college that those guys did. They graduated with honors, I squeaked by with a C+.”
Even though Thorogood is one of America’s great A-Team bar bands, with the kind of music that boogies hard and sells beers, he is a product of the pop culture that popularized the blues. He understands that artists who go on to be major rock stars more often than not start with a love of the blues. They may not be playing the songs of their idols anymore, because they’ve gone on to another rung on the ladder and built a reputation based on their creations. Yes, Thorogood plays some tunes written by the early blues stars, but he aspires to another path.
“Listen to Steve Miller’s guitar,” he said. “You know he listened to Freddy King, you know he listened to Guitar Johnny Watson and other people. And just because those songs don’t emerge in his catalog, it doesn’t mean he didn’t put in the time and learn that style of music like Johnny Winter did. It’s there, as it is with J. Geils and other people. The difference with me is, hey man, if I had a couple of originals like ‘Start Me Up,’ or ‘Rockin’ Me Baby,’ I wouldn’t be knocking around digging up old blues songs, trust me,” he says with a laugh. “I’d be going for the gusto.”
And he keeps laughing and I’m laughing, too. His fans are called “Boogie People,” and if you’re one of them, you’ll be at his show with the Destroyers next Friday. Touring with him are his long-time bandmates, drummer Jeff Simon, bassist Bill Blough, rhythm guitarist Jim Suhler, and saxophonist Buddy Leach. In those 45 years, he’s released more than 20 albums, two that were certified Platinum and six Gold. He’s sold 15 million albums worldwide. His latest release is “George Thorogood and The Destroyers’ Live in Boston, 1982,” a four-LP set on 180-gram vinyl, a two-CD set, and across digital platforms. Tickets for the show Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. are available at www.goldenstatetheatre.com for $49-$79. COVID protocol enforced.
Saturday is going to be one of those nights where lots of really good music is happening all at once. Three of my favorite local bands are performing live. Melodic and groovy original rock band MeeZ is on a triple bill with Intimate Stares and Adam Behan at Other Brother Beer, 877 Broadway Ave., Seaside. It’s an all-ages show that starts at 7 p.m., tickets are $10.
Over at Carmel Rancho Shopping Center’s Coffee Bank Cafe is the New Orleans flavored jazz-rock band Wrockinfoose. B-3 organist/lead vocalist Luca Fredericksen leads a virtuoso group of players, with a full horn section and a lady singer. The show’s patio venue has room for dancing and mingling as well as cooling it in seats. Tickets are $35 available on www.coffeebankcafe.com.
Add to the Saturday night mix The Chuck Brewer Band, performing rocking blues at The Salty Seal (the old Cooper’s) on Cannery Row. There’s no cover charge for the 8-11 p.m. show on the back patio.
Also, a new community event, Night Market 831 at the Sand City Art Park launches Friday from 5-9 p.m. with another already scheduled for Dec. 3. The event will host a dozen local art and food vendors, live music from local soul-hip-hop-funk collective The BASSment, plus family games. Brought to you by Good Vibez in partnership with Cali Roots, the producer of the largest reggae festival in the U.S. right here in Monterey.
Here’s a heads up for a benefit concert to be held at Folktale Winery & Vineyards Nov. 14 from 5-9 p.m. I’ll cover it in detail in next week’s column, but it’s important to get your tickets and make donations early. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Veterans Transition Center, Veterans Healing Veterans, and Raven Drum Foundation. The evening will include a concert with the Big Love Band, featuring Def Leppard’s Rick Allen & Lauren Monroe with Tammi Brown and the Big Love Choir. VIP reception tickets available with early access (4 p.m.), food & drinks, meet & greet with the band, and a coffee-and-dessert afterparty. For details visit: www.biglovebenefitconcerts.com.