Interview from WLAV-FM

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Thorogood Rides On

Looking back, it seems fitting that George Thorogood's signature song, the self-penned "Bad to the Bone," was a staple for years at various Major League Baseball stadiums across America. After all, the Delaware native and longtime New York Mets fan played in the minor leagues before choosing to make his regular living on concert stages instead of baseball fields.

Thorogood reportedly decided to change careers after seeing a 1970 performance by blues musician John Hammond Jr. Favoring tradition over trends, Thorogood opted to play music that "will never go out of style" -- and to him, that was rowdy rock and raw blues.

After assembling his original Destroyers lineup, the singer-guitarist moved with the band to the Boston area, where blues fan John Forward saw them perform circa 1975 and subsequently served as their liaison with Rounder Records, an independent label based in Cambridge, Mass.

George Thorogood and the Destroyers, released by Rounder in 1977, established the template for almost all future Thorogood albums -- plenty of familiar and obscure covers, plus a token original (sometimes a few) that usually followed the structure, theme and spirit of the outside material. The self-titled debut disc featured a version of John Lee Hooker's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" that has long been a staple on classic-rock radio, while Thorogood & Co.'s 1978 follow-up, Move It On Over, included covers of Hank Williams' "Move It On Over" and Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" that still get plenty of airplay.

Starting in 1982, Thorogood and the Destroyers began a long association with EMI. Their first album for the label, 1982's Bad to the Bone, was certified gold on Aug. 7, 1985 -- two days after their follow-up release, 1985's Maverick, achieved the same distinction. Through 1999, Thorogood & Co. placed 16 tunes on Billboard's mainstream rock songs chart, including the originals "Born To Be Bad" and "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)," plus covers of late blues artist Robert Johnson's "I'm a Steady Rollin' Man" and rock legend Chuck Berry's "Reelin' and Rockin'."

Since the 1999 release of Half a Boy, Half a Man and Live in '99, both on CMC International, Thorogood and his band have remained active on the touring circuit. Ride 'Til I Die, their latest album, was issued in March on Eagle Records, and they'll begin a stretch of North American tour dates April 8 at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield, Calif. The current Destroyers lineup includes the longtime rhythm section of Jeff Simon (drums) and Billy Blough (bass); guitarist Jim Suhler, who joined the fold in 1999; and brand-new saxophonist Arno Hecht, who previously worked with the Rolling Stones, J. Geils Band and many others.

Thorogood recently sat down with us to discuss his original music-career goals, Suhler's contributions to the Destroyers and the chances of Ride 'Til I Die being his last studio album.

George Thorogood: My [original] plan was to do four [albums] . . . I [signed] with Rounder Records, and we did the first one, and I wanted to do a deal. I said, 'I want to do one more studio album, an all-acoustic album and a live album.' That was going to be my diploma, so to speak, for getting work. I was going to say, 'Here's what we can do live, and here's what I can do as a soloist,' so if, like, Bonnie Raitt was in town, I could open for her as a solo performer, and if Buddy Guy or Elvin Bishop was playing, we would open for them as a trio. I was really pushing to get a gig in Chuck Berry's backup band. That was it. That was pretty much my goal.

Something went wrong somewhere. I don't know what happened. I had a very simple plan -- a simple three-piece band. Our act isn't exactly brain surgery. To come back later with 11 records . . . I had a problem with EMI because every time I'd re-sign, they'd say, 'You're going to do a six-record deal.' [I would say], 'No, wait a minute! . . . Two records!' I didn't want to walk [away from the label]. I just said, 'I don't have that much material! I want to make good records.' From 'Get a Haircut' up until 'Half a Boy and Half a Man' . . . there's maybe 10 good songs there, and that's good enough for one record. There were a few complaints [from] the people, and they said, 'This album isn't strong enough.' I said, 'I told you! I can't do that! I'm not Sting.' I'm not Sting. I'm not Bruce Springsteen. I don't have this incredible genius of depth musically or writing or any of that. Paul Simon puts out an album once every 10 years, but it's a killer album when he does. I said, 'I want to do it about every five years, and let's do a three-record deal. Throw out a live album every 10 years or so and we got a deal.' Eleven records -- it's pretty amazing. It's pretty amazing someone would want me to make 11 records. That's even more flattering. That's an accomplishment in itself.

As the Years Go Passing By

[It's] a strong possibility [that this could be our last studio album] . . . this album is what we're about. [Producer] Jim Gaines captured what we are -- the entire 25 years of the Destroyers' existence . . . [All I've been doing during that time is] improving my r

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This page contains a single entry by fountainhead published on April 7, 2003 9:58 PM.

Ride 'Til I Die review from was the previous entry in this blog.

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