As a writer your experiences are written by the artists you encounter, so when the opportunity to interview a legendary rocker such as George Thorogood arises, you jump at it. The man who brought us immortal rockin’ blues tunes like Bad To The Bone, Who Do You Love? and I Drink Alone is reuniting with his band The Destroyers to co-headline a national tour with Brian Setzer, so Screamer had to nail him down for a few minutes and at least get the scoop. It has been over 20 years since they have played together so this is a show you will definitely want to add to your bucket list. Thorogood is as epic in person as he is on the stage.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers are currently on the Badder Than Ever Tour and he had a show the night of our interview. When asked about what he is looking forward to most about the upcoming tour, he told us that “the main thing I am looking forward to is we aren’t working as many dates as we did last year. We worked quite a few last year. Some years are a little heavier than others, this year should be a little easier to do. I hope it will be excellent. I know with Brian Setzer in the show it will be.” No stranger to performing on the same bill, they teamed up once before in 1988. Thorogood went on to say how excited he was to get the tour going and to work with Setzer again, which lead him to recall some of the other favorite artists he’s worked with. “The two top acts we performed live with would be The Steve Miller Band and The Rolling Stones. They were the best. Can’t get better than that. We were treated really well and there were great venues, and great people in both organizations. Would be hard to pick one over the other.” George Thorogood and The Destroyers opened for the Rolling Stones in 1981 and described the experience as “being like the World Series and New Year’s Eve all rolled into one. It’s any kid coming up in the 60’s dream to work with that band. So many people want to do it, it was the thrill of a lifetime. I cherished every minute of it.”
Thorogood has managed to play for many audiences and his music is timeless. He is always about the fans and having a good time. When the subject came up about how he came to be inspired to write songs like Bad To The Bone and I Drink Alone he had a very heartfelt answer that was nothing less than would be expected from such an outstanding musician. “ I wanna stay in business. I need new material. So generally, I think of what the fans are gonna like. These songs will sell our record or these songs, the audience is gonna go for and is it something some other band hasn’t already done or we haven’t already done. So that’s….I am like any other businessman in the form of trying to keep something new and fresh happening to stay in business. All I am trying to say is all the music I have chosen is for entertainment purposes, nothing personal about it. It’s business, it was a song I thought people would go for. I think it’s been successful.”
In 2015, it’s challenging for an artist, especially a rock artist to become a platinum seller or even make Certified Gold record sales in a day of free music. And George Thorogood and The Destroyers know how it feels to have achieved this back when music was made and bought by fans. As far as whether or not he embraces free music and if it discounts the art of music, he really didn’t have an opinion on it either way. At this point, he seems to continue to just be all about making music, getting in front of his fans and playing his heart out. “I don’t have any feelings about it one way or the other. I am not even sure I know what it is. I am busy doing what I do. I have a show tonight actually, so I don’t really have time to catch up to the digital world so to speak. I would have to be educated on that level.”
Thorogood didn’t start off wanting to play guitar. In fact, it wasn’t until he was in his early 20’s that he even really started playing. “When I was in my early 20’s, I felt I couldn’t sing well enough just to sing so I had to pick up a musical instrument and learn how to play. I couldn’t…I had yet to write any songs. I had to pick up the guitar and I was encouraged by people around me but I didn’t start actually playing until I was 21. I tried playing harmonica but it was a disaster…I wasn’t very successful at it. There are some great harmonica players. There are some that are great at playing both. Bob Dylan for instance.”
The rock music genre has definitely changed over the years since Thorogood has come onto the scene, and when asked how he feels about new bands or artists that are popular, he seemed unimpressed. With his busy schedule it is hard for him to even take time to listen. “ I don’t really pay much attention to that to tell you the truth, been too busy to keep up with it all. When I’m not doing interviews, I’m doing shows. You know, once in a blue moon, I’ll flip on Saturday Night Live and see what the latest band is. It’s a mystery to me. I’m scratching my head trying to figure them out and by the time I figure them out, they’re off the TV and there’s something else on. You tell me, I don’t know which way it’s going. Rock music has never left as far as I’m concerned. I’m still listening to Steve Miller and the J Giles Band, so it’s never left.
Outside of playing music, Thorogood is also a known baseball fanatic which opened a whole conversation about how the MLB is now as opposed to when he was a kid. “They keep saying the game of baseball is in trouble, I’d say the game is fine, the major leagues are in trouble. The game itself is still beautiful. You know, I could still pull of the side of the road and watch kids play. It’s still fun to watch a kid hit the ball and catch the ball. So, the game itself, you know there’s things about the way it’s developed as a business that don’t turn me on too much but you know as you grow up to be an adult you start seeing things you didn’t see when you were a kid. It’s a business now, isn’t it? It’s not just a national pastime anymore like watching television or playing checkers. Baseball is a big time billion dollar business. I once threw a no-hitter in the backyard up against the wall. That was my fantasy about being a baseball player like any other kid. I stepped in the batter’s box one day and someone through a curve ball at me and I put the bat down and picked up a guitar.”
We won’t see Thorogood play 50 shows in 50 days like he did, and he still wonders how he pulled it off and why. Even still, as long as he keeps playing, we can all be happy that he is not going anywhere anytime soon. He is hoping to release another live album one day but they do have plans to re-release their very first album we recorded in 1976 without a bass player and then re-release it in its original form. George Thorogood and The Destroyers will continue to make music and their tour with Brian Setzer starting May 27, 2015 is going to be an ultimate dream for all who love good ol’ rock n’ roll.
Thorogood was getting ready to prep for a show that night but he didn’t leave the conversation without leaving us with a memorable and true statement. “Rock n’ Roll never sleeps, it just passes out!”