Interview: George Thorogood

George Thorogood

With over 40 years in the business, George Thorogood continues to be a most sought after party-band, touring yearly throughout North America, and performing his infectious good time tunes and the hits that propelled him to superstar status. With his band, the Delaware Destroyers, Thorogood has released over 20 albums, of which two have been certified Platinum and six have been certified Gold. As he continues to sell, 15 million albums have been sold worldwide over decades. He gained his first mainstream exposure as a support act for The Rolling Stones during their 1981 U.S. tour and also appeared as the featured musical guest on Saturday Night Live a year later. 1982 also saw the release of the single, “Bad to the Bone”, and an album of the same name. Perhaps his biggest hit, the tune has been used over and over, featured in numerous TV shows, films and commercials and now part of the cultural fabric of America. I caught up with George by phone from an undisclosed location somewhere on planet earth…

Mb: Hi George, how are you?
GT: I’m getting by.
Mb: You must be good at “getting by” after all these years…
GT: I don’t have a choice. At least I’m not in a hospital!
Mb: So what’s up today? Where are you?
GT: Well, I’m not allowed to divulge the whereabouts of my location.
Mb: Matter of National Security?
GT: You got it.
Mb: Well you’re going to be in my area in the next few weeks. How often do you tour in Canada?
GT: We usually go about every two years.
Mb: Always in the summer or have you had to face one of our winters?
GT: We usually come in April or May and we’ve been up in the summer to play the Calgary Stampede and this year your (Haverock) Festival the end of July.
Mb: So, now that you’re a music icon, tell me about your first band. When it all began… you own your own amp?
GT: I got a guitar for Christmas and there was a band on my street and they knew what I could do, and one of the guys in band said they needed a lead singer. I had lyrics to a lot of songs and they already had a guitar player. When I got there they hired me and I traded in my guitar and started playing bass. It was a four piece band. We played parties and things like that.
Mb: How old were you?
GT: Fifteen, like anybody else.
Mb: You started playing and you thought “this is for me?”
GT: Ya, right away.
Mb: Do you think everyone, who has had your lasting power, knew right away music was it?
GT: I don’t know, everyone is different. Mick Jagger went to the London School of Economics and Tom Petty said he saw The Byrds on television and he said “I’m going to do that.”
Mb: You? Have other careers? I read on your Wikipedia page you were a roadie for awhile.
GT: I was not.
Mb: Not even in your early days?
GT: No. I couldn’t lift my case, I couldn’t carry my case… I’d tell guys I’d hire to do it for me!
Mb: So you’ve had someone carrying your gear for over 40 years! That’s quite a live career… and you’ve got a lot of records too! A lot of live records, which leads me to believe live shows are important to you.
GT: Actually live records were a way to fulfill the record contract. In the day they’d want you to do a 6 or 7 album record deal, so I’d put it in the contract that some would be live albums. 6 or 7 records, that’s like sixty or seventy songs! I’m not going to be able to come up with that. So the live albums are there to sustain your career and keep it going. That was the plan from day one. Every artists does that. There’s very few people who can stretch out their careers without live records and make something interesting happen on every album.
Mb: I hear that. Especially when you have to write the songs, record the album, rehearse the band….
GT: That’s a lot of pressure.
Mb: A lot of pressure, a lot of money… long risky road. I see you have two of the original guys still in the band with you; Jeff Simon and Billy Blough. That must be good to have “old friends” along… or is it?
GT: It’s positive, ya. (laughs) They know the drill.
Mb: Which is… not to piss you off?
GT: (laughs) Ya basically, that’s one way of saying it.
Mb: So how many gigs you playing in a year now?
GT: Basically 16 or 17 a year.
Mb: Feeling your age or did you find an age defying elixir to keep the motor running?
GT: No! (laughs) Nobody has.
Mb: When touring, do you get off the continent much?
GT: Ya, we go to Europe occasionally.
Mb: And how is that?
GT: Good. We only play places where we do well. If it’s something that isn’t happening, I don’t do it. Only do it, if it’s happening.
Mb: Some music can work anywhere.
GT: Rock works everywhere.
Mb: And your brand of “party rock” is pretty infectious.
GT: That’s how we came up with “Rock Party,” J. Geils Band had “House Party”… every band has one, a song that is just for that, party. There’s no mystery to it.
Mb: And lots of songs about drinking.
GT: Two.
Mb: Just two? Isn’t there an under-lining theme in most of your tunes about “The Party?”
GT: Well, they are the songs that became popular, so we play them. Ya, the audience dictates what you’re going to play. You figure out what their tastes are and when you play it, if they like it, you keep playing it.
Mb: So when you write a song are you wondering about the listener and what’s expected of you?
GT: Exactly, when I’m writing or performing, it’s got to be entertaining. That’s all that matters.
Mb: So looking forward to playing the show and being in Canada again?
GT: Ya, the day I don’t look forward to playing Canada, is the day I hang it up!

George Thorogood & The Destroyers appear at Haverock Revival, Havelock Saturday July 9