George Thorogood hasn’t slowed down; says he never will
“I drink alone, yeah,
With nobody else
You know when I drink alone,
I prefer to be by myself” — lyrics from George Thorogood’s hit song, “I Drink Alone” from the 1985 album, “Maverick.”
As the song lyrics imply, when George Thorogood drinks alone, he prefers to be by himself.
However, when the 67-year-old blues singer-guitarist from Delaware goes out on tour, he calls it a “rock party” and wants all his fans to join in the fun.
Thorogood and his longtime band, the Destroyers, will bring the fun at 9 p.m. March 10 to the Grand Sierra Resort’s Grand Theatre.
The Rock Party Tour comes 40 years after the release of Thorogood’s self-titled debut album, which featured a cover of John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” which became Thorogood’s first radio hit.
That started a 16-year string of radio hits for Thorogood, including the covers “Move It On Over,” “Who Do You Love?” and Thorogood’s iconic original songs, “Bad to the Bone” and “Get a Haircut.”
“It’s been quite a run,” Thorogood said, laughing, during a recent phone interview. “But this isn’t a documentation of my career. Documenting is one thing. Celebrating it is another. This is a celebration. Heck, I’m celebrating just still being here 40 years later.”
While the music industry has seen numerous musical genres — and an uncountable number of musicians — come and go since 1977, Thorogood has maintained a steady career playing the blues exactly as he always has. And that, he says, is by design.
“When we first got started I designed the act to last,” he said. “I just wasn’t aware that it would last this long because, understand, when we hit FM radio, there was no MTV and there was no classic rock radio.
“So, what we did was we recorded songs for the fans. It’s like when you make up a menu in a restaurant, the menu’s for the customers, not for yourself. Of course, it’s something that I’d eat as well. But the act and songs were designed for the fans.”
When Thorogood’s run of hits came to an end in the early 1990s, his music was picked up by classic rock radio. That ensured many more years of popularity amongst his fans, he said.
“It’s like having a rerun on television that runs all the time,” he said. “Even if you’re not having new hit songs, you’re still happening. Someone’s still listening to you. Someone’s still playing you.”
Thorogood’s mindset was created by the musicians he enjoyed seeing when he was a youth, guys like B.B. King, John Hammond, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton and Elvin Bishop.
“I never went to see them because they had a new record out,” he said. “I went to see the act because to me they were an established classic act. You know, it didn’t matter when The Doors rolled into town if they had a record or not. They were The Doors, and that’s how I’ve always looked at it.
“It’s like you go to the supermarket and say, “Well, I’m picking up a six-pack of Budweiser and someone goes, ‘But, that hasn’t changed in 70 years’ and I go, ‘Well, that’s why I want it.’”
Thorogood chuckled when asked if he expected to make a lifetime career out of playing the blues.
“I don’t think anybody looks at it as a career until it is 40 years down the road,” he said. “When you’re a rookie and you’re doing it, you’re just thankful you broke into the big time and you want to stay there as long as possible, of course.
“It’s like (former Major League Baseball player) Willie Mays once said, ‘If I thought I was going to hit 500 home runs, I would have never hit 50.’ And he’s got a point. He didn’t get (to the major leagues) and say, ‘Well, I’m going to hit 500 home runs in my life.’ He said, ‘I’m trying to hit a home run today.’ And as time went on, as years go by, all of a sudden you realize you have a career. That’s how I’ve always looked at it.”
Finding his niche
So, when the hits did dry up, Thorogood just kept playing his guitar.
“I never felt like I was left out in the cold,” he said of the changes in radio’s formats. “In fact, I felt like I had found my niche with classic rock radio.”
Thorogood’s last recorded a studio album, “2120 South Michigan Ave.,” in 2011. It reached No. 2 on the U.S. Blues charts, but didn’t make much noise outside the blues community.
Now, Thorogood — who with The Destroyers has released more than 20 albums, selling more than 15 million worldwide — is set to release a solo album of acoustic music. Why now?
“There’s been a demand for it,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been with Rounder Records, it seems every interview I’ve done for 25 years they ask, ‘When are you going to put out a solo record of acoustic stuff?’ and I’d say, ‘I’ll get around to it someday.’ Now I’m getting around to it.”
There’s no release date set yet, but the album is slated for a 2017 release, he said.
But for now, Thorogood is ready to hit the road and party with his band — two of the guys, drummer Jeff Simon and bassist Billy Blough have been with him since the 1970s — and his fans.
“We were a rock party when we started and we’re a rock party now,” Thorogood said. “The name is perfect. If there’s any band that fits that bill, it’s us. We haven’t slowed down and we never will. We’ll never do the Fox Trot Tour. Hey man, if I can’t run with the big boys, I’m not going to run at all. Remember, rock ‘n’ roll never sleeps. It just passes out.”