Thorogood still a heavy hitter

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The guitarist and former baseball player has been rocking the music world for four decades.
The Wichita Eagle
Julio Franco.

Not Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols.

No, rock guitar icon and baseball addict George Thorogood compares himself to Franco, the borderline Hall of Fame player who was still playing ball last season at the age of 48, rather than to the two future baseball Hall of Famers.

"Julio has what you call quiet dignity, perseverance, and he's got respect for people," says Thorogood, who will bring his Destroyers to the Cotillion on Thursday. "Jose Canseco cannot figure why he can't get a job and everybody hires Julio Franco."

He tells a revealing story about Franco:

"Two years ago Julio's playing with Atlanta, he comes up to bat and it's a right-handed pitcher, Bobby Cox bats him cleanup. (For you non-baseball types, the cleanup position is regarded as a team's best hitter.) Here's a guy, 46 years old, batting cleanup.

"He comes through with a single, knocks in two runs and he steals second base," Thorogood says with an exclamation. "And you've got some 23-year-old sitting on the bench complaining that he's got a headache and he doesn't want to play that day."

The analogy makes sense. Thorogood has been rockin' the music world for four decades with tunes such as "Bad to the Bone," "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "I Drink Alone" on two dozen albums, including numerous ones that went gold. And he doesn't cancel concerts because of headaches.

Most of his hits came in the '70s and '80s, but Thorogood's hard-driving music can be heard in most self-respecting bars, on TV, in movies and on classic rock radio.

Thorogood has had to work hard with relentless touring and recording to get to this level and stay there. The former minor-league baseball player offers another baseball analogy.

"Al Kaline, now here's a guy who won the batting title when he was 20. Youngest guy to win the batting title, and he never won another one."

Despite that, Kaline's career was so long and consistently outstanding that he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

"When Kaline went to the Hall of Fame, he gets up to the podium, he takes his hand and he wipes it across his forehead and he says in the microphone, 'Whew, boy, was that tough.' It never was easy for him. He said, 'I never enjoyed a day in the big leagues. I had to scrap for everything,' " Thorogood recalls with obvious empathy.

Thorogood's scrapping has paid off even if his profile isn't as high as a Bruce Springsteen or a Mick Jagger.

"I've had people come up to me who haven't seen me for years, and they look at me and go, 'Are you still playing?' And I go, 'Yeah.' Then they go, 'Oh, where are you playing?' And I'm thinking, I live in Beverly Hills, and I got two BMWs paid for in cash," he says in a disdainful tone.

So when will Thorogood decide to hang up his guitar and leave the game?

"When we'll play a gig and a reviewer comes with his son, and the next day the reviewer will say he told his son: 'Yeah, you should have seen him 15 years ago.'

"I'm gonna call the guy up and say, 'Thank you very much, sir, you just retired the great George Thorogood.' "

But like Julio Franco, that day may not be coming very soon.

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This page contains a single entry by fountainhead published on March 8, 2008 12:15 AM.

George Thorogood re-energizes electric blues was the previous entry in this blog.

A conversation with George Thorogood is the next entry in this blog.

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