Thorogood Celebrates Thirty

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- from Rolling Stone

New compilation due along with never-ending tour

Thirty-five years ago, George Thorogood ignored an ad in the local Wilmington, Delaware, newspaper that his mother clipped looking for a baseball commentator. Thorogood did a short stint playing semi-pro ball ("I was doing good until I found out three things kept me out of the big leagues," he says, "I couldn't hit, run or throw.") before fully pursuing music full-time. The next three decades will be the focus of George Thorogood and the Destroyers Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock, a May 18th anthology that includes fifteen of Thorogood's hits along with a new mix of "Who Do You Love" by producer Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliott Smith).

Though songs like "Move It On Over" and "Bad to the Bone" have established Thorogood as one of the preeminent jukebox heroes, he seems to take a certain pride in being a musical underdog for his thirty years, a badge after playing some lean years. Despite multiple of waves of boogie rock bands from the Allmans to ZZ Top, Thorogood and the Destroyers were regular players for more than several years before they landed their first record deal. "The timing was tough, because by the time we came around white guys playing the blues thing was going out," he says. "Duane Allman passed away, Savoy Brown got dysfunctional and Canned Heat died one by one. By the time we got there, the stuff was outdated. I was pretty discouraged -- I was not the person you'd wanna hang around with in those days. I saw Petty and Springsteen and Mellencamp, and they were all getting their shot and I wasn't. I thought, 'I can boogie as good as those cats.' But it just wasn't happening. I was just stuck in those dives."

By 1977, Thorogood had signed with Rounder and released George Thorogood and the Destroyers. "I just wanted to do something that was my own," he says. "I'm like [Tom] Waits in that I'm not a singer singer -- he kinda growls it out there. But I thought this sound was unique to get noticed. Anbody can be a great guitar player. I gave that up years ago. I was never going to compete with Duane Allman or Ry Cooder or those cats. I just thought, 'What you gotta do is get a tune, kid.' We just kept plugging away and 'that tune' got on the radio."

'That tune' is the collection's centerpiece is Thorogood's iconic rave up of the John Lee Hooker standard, "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer," removed from the bluesman's laid-back cool and injected with eight-minutes of guitar petrol. "It was a struggle to get a record company behind that tune," Thorogood says. "But I held onto that song for years knowing it was the song that was going to break us. I knew it was a hit, because the first time I saw John Lee Hooker play it, people were dancing. Usually with the blues guys, nobody danced -- they sat and watched, I guess out of respect, but it felt like church. But people were dancing to that song, and you know what stuck in my mind? They were all women. I thought, 'That song's a hit. And I better grab it before Tom Waits or Dean Martin does.'"

Testament to Thorogood's vision is that the songs that form the core of 30 Years of Rock -- the aforementioned singles along with "If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)," "I Drink Alone," "Gear Jammer," "You Talk too Much" and "Get a Haircut" -- never broke into the pop Top Forty, despite their enduring popularity. And Thorogood's fan base fairly loyally sought out the long-players (four records broke into the Top Forty between 1979 and 1988).

Those songs are the basis of not only the new collection but of Thorogood and the Destroyers' rigorous performance schedule. The group -- bassist Bill Blough (a regular since 1976), guitarist Jim Suhler and drummer Jeff Simon -- is in the middle of a thirtieth anniversary tour, with North American dates stretching into late April, followed by a European jaunt, and then even more U.S. dates.

"It's a long time to do something, isn't it?" Thorogood says. "We've plugged away and here we still are thirty years later. That's longer than Henry Aaron played baseball. Water finds its own level, and the Destroyers have found the right songs and we have a really good solid thing going. I'm looking to sustain that, just like your health. There's the Dick Van Dykes of the world and the Jerry Van Dykes. I'm a Jerry Van Dyke, but I make a living. If Springsteen is the Boss, then I'm the janitor. And a janitor never gets fired. Do you know who lasted longest in the New York Yankees organization? [Legendary clubhouse attendant] Pete Sheehy. That's the job I want."

Track list for The Best 30 Years of Rock:

Move It on Over
Who Do You Love
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
Madison Blues
Bad to the Bone
You Talk too Much
Gear Jammer
I Drink Alone
If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)
The Sky Is Crying (live)
Reelin' and Rockin' (live)
Willie and the Hand Jive
Get a Haircut
Rockin' My Life Away
American Made
Who Do You Love (Rothrock mix)

George Thorogood and the Destroyers tour dates:

3/10: Houston, Verizon Theater
3/11: New Orleans, House of Blues
3/12: New Braunfels, TX, Gruene Hall
3/13: Ft. Worth, TX, Billy Bob's
3/16: Albuquerque, Sunshine Theater
3/17: Phoenix, Celebrity Theater
3/18: Alpine, CA, Viejas Casino
3/19-20: Stateline, NV, Harrah's
4/14: Moncton, New Brunswick, Coliseum
4/15: St. John, New Brunswick, Harbour Station
4/16: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Metro Center
4/17: St. Johns, Newfoundland, Mile One Stadium
6/23: Richmond, VA, Innsbrook Pavilion
6/24: Danville, VA, Rockin' the Rivers
6/25: Atlantic City, NJ, Trump Marina
6/26: Westbury, NY, Westbury Music Fair
6/27: Albany, NY, Palace Theater
6/29: Verona, NY, Turning Stone Casino
7/1: Hampton Beach, NH, Hampton Beach Casino
7/2: Hyannis, MA, Cape Cod Melody Tent
7/3: Cohasset, MA, South Shore Music Circus
7/6-7: Montreal, Montreal Jazz Festival
7/8: Quebec City, International Summer Festival
7/9: Ottawa, Ontario, Ottawa Cisco Bluesfest
7/10: Michigan H.O.G. Rally

ANDREW DANSBY
(March 10, 2004)

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