Just a musician on the road

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BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
When George Thorogood comes to the phone, you don't expect him to be singing. Or, at least not singing "Beautiful Girls," the ubiquitous reggae hit from Sean Kingston.

"I can't get that thing out of my head, man. That's a hit," Thorogood exclaims when his musical choice is jokingly questioned.

It's quickly apparent that Thorogood, the tough-playing blues rocker, is a straight shooter with a deadpan sense of humor.

Now 56, he has built a three-decade career on ferocious barroom stompers, usually layered with fluid slide guitar and his growling rumble of a voice.

"The Hard Stuff," Thorogood's most recent album with his legendary band, The Destroyers, retained his tradition of combining original songs with well-chosen covers -- this time Bob Dylan's "Drifter's Escape" and John Lee Hooker's "Huckle Up Baby."

But those who come to see Thorogood live are usually hankering for the one-two punch of "Bad to the Bone" (the album was released earlier this summer in deluxe anniversary form) and "I Drink Alone."

Calling before a show last week in New England, Thorogood talked about that reissued album and why he and The Destroyers aren't the World's Greatest Bar Band after all.

Your Richmond show is just you, but you've done -- and are doing some more -- dates with Bryan Adams. That's an interesting combo. I know you guys have known each other awhile, but how did the tour come about now?

We met in the'80s but reunited for these dates. But let me set you straight on something first: A rock star goes on tour. A musician goes on the road. This band goes on the road.

OK, so what's it like going on the road with Bryan?

He's such a great writer. The tears always come when I hear "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman." What Bryan wants to do is play rock, like Jimi Hendrix.

Bryan's expertise lies in doing very tasteful ballad things. His rock statements are OK, but he outshines himself on his other things.

Are you a road hound or has it gotten tiring over the years, being on the road for months at a time?

I've never been out eight or nine months at a time. I do enjoy it because I balance it. I'm home five or six months, I'll go out for a month, then home three or four weeks.

I enjoy playing new material for new people. The only [artists] who are out there 10 months a year are the people who need the money. I'm a live performer. I make a record so I can perform.

Does it feel like it's been 25 years since "Bad to the Bone"?

Never look back, just keep moving.

What goes through your mind when you're singing that song live for the 10,000th time? Is it more of an obligation, or with it and "I Drink Alone" do you genuinely feed off the audience's excitement?

Both. It is an obligation, because that's what people paid to hear. When you go to see the Stones, don't you expect to hear "Jumpin' Jack Flash"?

I like the song myself, but of course I'm feeding off the audience. If it's a great audience, it's a great show.

How involved were you in the 25th anniversary edition of "Bad to the Bone" that came out this summer?

We rerecorded half the songs on there. The original recordings sounded terrible. We didn't have another guitar player, and the cat recording us didn't know jack about what we were doing. That was far and away not our best record.

They wanted us to rerecord three; I said let's do five. This is the way those songs should have been done. The original ones, they're the outtakes! What you have now is the real deal.

You bill yourself and The Destroyers as the World's Greatest Bar Band, but I think a lot of people might say you're selling yourself short because you're such a good blues player.

No, we're the World's Greatest Live Band.

OK, but all of your logos say Bar Band.

It sells T-shirts.

You've covered everyone from Bob Dylan to Nick Lowe. What are you looking for when it comes time to decide what you're going to cover for an album?

A good song. It's not rocket science. But there's a difference -- Linda Ronstadt and Joe Cocker do covers, I do obscure material. If it weren't for The Beatles, what kind of career would Cocker have?

Once in a while, we'll be stuck on a record and we don't have enough material so I'll write a song, or the record company will press me to do a popular song, like "Hand Jive" or "Johnny B. Goode." It comes back to business.

Richmond is the last date on this leg of the tour. Have any plans for your month off?

Minding my own business! OK, I gotta go. Adios!

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This page contains a single entry by fountainhead published on September 20, 2007 11:45 PM.

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