Make us your home page
Instagram

Interview: George Thorogood could've been a Southern rocker (but don't ask about Chuck Berry)

Performing Thursday in Clearwater, George Thorogood is eager to prove he’s still got it.

Rogers and Cowan

Performing Thursday in Clearwater, George Thorogood is eager to prove he’s still got it.

Over the past 40 years, George Thorogood has become one of American culture's best-known, hardest-touring bluesmen. But the original Delaware Destroyer could've been a Southern rocker.

"I listened to our sound, I listened to the style I played, and the record label I thought we should have been on was Capricorn," the 67-year-old singer said in a recent phone interview, referring to the Macon, Ga., label that housed the Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker Band and the Outlaws. "I had that Southern slide boogie thing going — which I still do — and I thought that was the label that we could fit right into."

Instead he went with Rounder Records and others, and the rest is history: Singles like One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer; Move It On Over; Bad to the Bone; and Who Do You Love? became inescapable in films, TV and on the radio. Thorogood hit the road, and never looked back.

Forty years after his self-titled debut, Thorogood returns to Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday, eager to prove he still delivers the goods live.

"My creative point is to be even badder and more impressive than the last time you saw me play," he said. "I just see myself as somebody who you're paying good money for a ticket to see, a truly great live rock show. That's it. That's all I've ever thought about since I was 16 anyway."

Considering how many times he comes to Florida, it's surprising that Thorogood never played the Sunshine State until, by his estimation, a couple of years into his recording career. He was listening to Floridian acts, though, as evidenced by his appreciation for the Allmans and other Capricorn acts.

"You recognize where your market might be, somewhere where they'll hear what you're doing and understand it," he said. "I said, 'If they're going to go for the Allman Brothers, they're going to go for me.' I'll open for the Allman Brothers. I'll open for Elvin Bishop. I already opened for John Hammond, and he was on Capricorn. So I said, well, 'Okay, then sign me. I'll go play Bourbon, Scotch and Beer and Madison Blues and all those other boogie things that I do. Move It On Over is Southern rock, isn't it? Hank Williams? I thought that was a good fit."

Given his longevity, he's crossed paths with many of his Southern and classic rock peers over the years, playing festivals with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and REO Speedwagon. Today he'll happily sing the praises of artists he reveres.

There's the J. Geils Band: "Oh, man, nobody could touch them. When they were on, forget it. Forget it. They could blow anybody away."

There's the Steve Miller Band: "Great American band. What is the ultimate classic rock song? Rock'n Me, baby. That's it."

He'll even sing the praises of the Beatles: "I'm Down: They're the only band that could touch Little Richard."

Curiously, the one artist Thorogood won't say much about is the late Chuck Berry. "Never did really did any actual shows with him. But I came in contact with Chuck quite often."

Any stories he cares to share?

"I could, but I don't want to," he said. "They're my stories. But I treasure them."

Thorogood is a bit like Berry, in that after decades in music, he'll still sling his hits just about anywhere if the paycheck is right. He's a constant presence at state fairs, food festivals and blues events the world over — not that he ever gets to see much of it beyond backstage.

"I have a saying in the business I'm in: I've been everywhere, and I've seen nothing," he said. "The best meal I have is whatever I eat before the show, and the best drink I have is whatever I drink after the show."

While Thorogood claims not to care much for branching out artistically, he'll do just that on his forthcoming first-ever solo album, Party of One, coming in August. The album features Thorogood on acoustic guitar, dobro and harmonica — a far cry from his live-wire shows with the Destroyers, including decadeslong sidemen Jeff Simon on drums and Billy Blough on bass.

As a singer, those performances remain what he lives for. Forty years after that debut album, he's not taking any shows for granted.

"I'm celebrating that I'm still here playing songs off that album, and people still want to hear them," he said. "How many people can still say that? People still want to hear Bourbon, Scotch and Beer, which was off that first record. There's something to be said for that."

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

.if you go

George Thorogood

and the Destroyers

Damon Fowler opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. $30 and up at (727) 791-7400 or rutheckerdhall.com.

Interview: George Thorogood could've been a Southern rocker (but don't ask about Chuck Berry) 05/16/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 12:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]