George Thorogood hits one out of the park with new record
Instead of baseball, George Thorogood made it to “the Show” in music, where a playing career can last much longer.
He’s self-deprecating about his voice and guitar skills and says that he is not a rock star on the same level as Keith Richards or Eric Clapton. However, he’s satisfied having major booking managers, such as the one at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, for more than 40 years write his name in the lineup.
“I drive around in a BMW and I live in Southern California,” he told Lake Tahoe Action. “What are you feeling sorry for me for? You want to bat eighth and play second base for the L.A. Dodgers or do you want to bat cleanup for the Double-A Toledo Mud Hens? Figure it out.”
During press interviews, the “Delaware Destroyer” comes out swinging, and no matter the topic, his go-to pitch is a baseball metaphor or analogy. His latest album, “2120 South Michigan Ave.,” is a tribute to Chess Records, a Chicago blues label in the 1950s and ’60s.
“It was pretty much a Capitol (Records) project and they fingered me for the job,” Thorogood said. “Capitol is at a major level. It, to me, is like the L.A. Dodgers in baseball. It’s high-profile.”
The album, released last July, includes cover songs first recorded on Chess by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Producer Tom Hambridge cowrote with Thorogood the tune “Goin’ Back.” Hambridge produced the last two Buddy Guy albums. Guy and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite also appear on “2120 South Michigan Ave.”
“I’m not much of a studio guy,” Thorogood said. “It’s like eating vegetables. It’s like exercise, something you know you need to do, to get to where you want to be, and that’s on the road and on the stage.”
Having the blues come to him is hardly surprising. Whether or not people make the connection, Thorogood’s musical career comes from the blues. He plays guitar like Bo Diddley and sings like Howlin’ Wolf and he rocks like Chuck Berry. And when he gets the slide sign, out comes Elmore James.
Three bands first captured Thorogood’s attention in the early 1960s: the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys and The Beatles. He especially liked the Stones’ hard-edge sound.
“It had a rawness to it, and I thought I heard it before,” Thorogood said. “It was American rhythm and blues. I checked out WIllie Dixon, then I got a Bo Diddley album, then a Chuck Berry album. It was those guys who got my attention.”
The blues artists gave Thorogood the notion he could be successful in music.
“It gave me hope,” he said. “Anybody who says I’m going to do what John Lennon and Paul McCartney do, well, you’re kidding yourself. How many Brian Wilsons are there? How many Peter Townshends, Jim Morrisons or Jimmy Pages? I was realistic. If you can’t be Willie Mays, you bunt.
“I said if you are going to get anywhere you are going to play bad and you are going to sing bad and sing funny lyrics and that’s what’s gonna make you. So that’s what I went after.”
– The South Shore Room: “I always like working that room, you know why? Because if anything happens to me right after I play that gig, it’s going to say George Thorogood and Sammy Davis Jr. gave their last performances on that stage.”
– Destroyers lead guitarist Jim Suhler: “I’ll stack up Suhler’s guitar work, especially his guitar work in the studio, I’ll put that up against anybody, Steve Cropper, Steve Miller, just about anybody. He’s the Robert Duvall of guitar players. There’s nothing he can’t do.”
– Charlie Musselwhite: “He got John Lee Hooker to be the best man in his wedding. He can’t be all bad.”
– Brett Favre, whom he appears with on Wrangler Jeans commercials: “That guy’s had more comebacks than Frankenstein’s monster. I was always pulling for him.”
– His vast knowledge: “It wasn’t like I was just put on the planet last week. You gotta know stuff or else people won’t talk to you.”