With a wide-ranging catalog of classic FM radio hits, his music is essential listening for any serious rock fan. His albums include six gold and two platinum collections. He created an enduring guitar lick which has become a worldwide generational favorite. To his credit, he has fronted one group of musicians over the last four decades. What’s more, he has a new tour kicking off this month and an upcoming gig as co-headliner in the spring. He is still the baddest of them all. It can only be the inimitable George Thorogood.
On the road again, an international trend, call him a rock god
George Thorogood and the Destroyers are ready to embark on the “Badder Than Ever” tour, beginning Feb. 27 in Burlington, Vermont. The Delaware-based axe slinger will surely be busy this spring and summer. Thorogood and company will also join Brian Setzer for the former Stray Cat’s “Rockabilly Riot” national tour which begins May 27.
After their US schedule is wrapped, Thorogood and the Destroyers will travel across the Atlantic to Germany, Holland and then Norway. It seems everyone wants a piece of George, but in a good way. You can check out the complete list of “Badder Than Ever” concert dates below. Tickets for select cities are on sale now.
Thorogood walks among the pantheon of rock’s most elite stars. Few can match his accomplishments. With a slew of best selling singles and albums, you might think he would want to stop and smell the roses for a while. Not George. He remains at the top of his game, hungry and poised to strike that first chord for audiences. Like a six-string sidewinder, he is fast, precise and aims for the bull’s-eye every time.
An Interview with George Thorogood
MusicInterviewMagazine.com caught up with George Thorogood prior to his “Badder than Ever” tour. The renowned rocker talked about readying for the road, “Bad to the Bone,” the World Series and much more.
Congratulations on the “Badder Than Ever” tour. The schedule starts off in Burlington, Vermont, eventually winding up at Indio, California’s Stagecoach Festival. With more than 15 million albums sold, you have been a concert mainstay for over 40 years. How are you and the Destroyers preparing for the new tour?
Well, the same as we prepare for any tour, trying to keep the weight down and the chops up. You know, there’s an old saying in baseball; getting to the big leagues is tough, staying in the big leagues is tougher. But what got you in the big leagues, will keep you in the big leagues. We must be doing something right. We’re always trying to hone what it is that we do. You could say people are going to hear a more insulting Don Rickles, or perhaps a Rodney Dangerfield with less self-respect.
Are all the favorites like “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” “Madison Blues” and “I Drink Alone” going to be on the set list? What else can fans expect on the tour this time around?
No, we dumped those songs, too many people liked them. Oh, just kidding. I could see it now, a promoter booking us and then me saying, ‘No, we’re not going to do “One Bourbon.’” You know, as every year goes on, the popular songs get even more popular, while the time you have out there shrinks. I guess that’s due to the different laws. But you have to make the shows fresh, not exactly as last time, similar, but not the same. That takes a lot of work and preparation. It’s a constant process. I imagine it’s the same for many artists.
The “Badder Than Ever” tour will cover a lot of ground, eventually bringing you to the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway on Aug. 1. Notodden is one of the biggest blues events in Europe. What’s different about playing to a blues audience, like the one in Norway?
I don’t know. I don’t really play the blues, but we are going to play a blues festival. We play a couple of blues songs but we’re not really a blues act. Our music is typically featured on classic rock radio, not classic blues radio. I look at us as a rock act. That’s probably why they want us to come. Aerosmith, Pat Benatar, Steve Miller, they’re all rock acts and yet they play blues festivals. That’s what draws half the people.
Why do you think people around the world just cannot get enough of American guitar-driven rock?
You would have to ask them. But I think it’s like this. Certain things start out as a fad. Then they become a hobby. Then they become an institution. Then they become a religion. Now, the music is a drug. Why do they want American music? You figure because that is where the best rock is. For some reason, that’s where all the hot stuff comes from and that’s what people go for. I mean, Steve Miller is from San Francisco, right? It’s not boasting or being overly patriotic or anything. It’s just what it is. England and America have the best rock. The Who does Eddie Cochran, Van Morrison and Eric Burdon grew up listening to Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker. That’s the source. Not to say there hasn’t been great music from other places in the world. Look at ABBA and the Bee Gees. Like them or not, you have to recognize they were chart-busters.
You have mentioned your influences include 1950s Chicago blues and rock and roll, guitar legends John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. “Bad To The Bone” demonstrates that same greatness. Did you know the song was going to be such an enormous success?
No, I didn’t. I put together a very generic blues rock song and pictured either Muddy Waters or Bo Diddley doing it. I wanted to write it like Muddy Waters music and with Bo Diddley’s lyrics. That was a conscious effort. Think of it like this. When someone like Chuck Berry sat down and wrote the lick for “Johnnie B. Goode,” he probably didn’t say at the time it was going to be something for the ages. You don’t know that until it happens, if it happens.
The riff in “Bad to the Bone” is such a lasting lick. It never goes out of style.
You know, you gotta’ have a lick. Maybe there will be a day when someone will say they cannot remember when “Bad To The Bone” was not in their vocabulary. That could happen. The lick is dangerous and that turns people on. It’s dangerous in a benign way. I hope that makes sense.
You are a musician who always remains at the top of his game. Do you still consider yourself a maverick?
I never did to begin with. That was something other people laid on me. That was not my doing. Some people don’t know they are an outlaw until somebody tells them. That was not something I invented, or cultured or anything like that. I wanted to be invited to the party.
Do you see anyone picking up the blues rock gauntlet?
Oh, I’m sure there are a hundred of them. I just don’t know who they are because I’m so busy.
Lastly, it is no secret that you are a big baseball fan. Do you have any predictions for the upcoming World Series next fall?
The Mets, all the way! Did you see what happened in Major League Baseball yesterday? They were talking about a bunch of recent big signings and all these guys going for it. Right on the bottom, they listed the comments that fans had posted. Somebody said who cares about all these signings and free agents because the Mets are going to win it all.
Feb. 27 – The Flynn Center, Burlington, Vermont
Feb. 28 – Lynn Auditorium, Lynn, Massachusetts
Mar. 1 – State Theatre, Portland, Maine
Mar. 3 – Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Mar. 5 – Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Mar. 6 – Tarrytown Music Hall, Tarrytown, New York
Mar. 7 – Garde Arts Center, New London, Connecticut
Mar. 8 – Park Theatre, Cranston, Rhode Island
Mar. 10 – The Grand Opera House, Wilmington, Delaware
Mar. 11 – The Forum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Mar. 17 – Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, Pennsylvania
Mar. 18 – State Theatre, New Brunswick, New Jersey
Mar. 19 – FM Kirby Center, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Mar. 20 – Keswick Theatre, Glenside, Pennsylvania
Mar. 21 – The Clay Center, Charleston, West Virginia
Apr. 26 – Stagecoach Festival, Indio, California
Jul. 21 – Honbert-Sommer Festival, Tuttleingen, Germany
Jul. 23 – Circus Krone, Munich, Germany
Jul. 24 – Lowensaal, Nurnberg, Germany
Jul. 25 – The Paradiso, Amsterdam, Holland
Aug. 1 – Notodden Blues Festival, Notodden, Norway
Photo credits: George Thorogood feature photo with black guitar and headband – Rebecca Blissett; George Thorogood and the Destroyers/ Jazz Fest – Dan Thorson; George Thorogood with sunglasses and white guitar – Aaron Rapoport; George Thorogood side view – Aaron Rapoport; others – official website.