Tue, Apr 29, 2014.
He's been on the road, and making albums for 40 years now, but George Thorogood is about to do something he's never done before: "I've never done an interview on an airplane, I feel like Howard Hughes or something." It's pretty hard to be involved in a first with the veteran blues favourite, but it's his busy schedule that's behind the rushed call. Thorogood's Alaskan Airlines plane was about to head for Prince George, B.C., where he's starting a very big, very long trek across the country, 20 dates from B.C. to Halifax, including Fredericton and Moncton shows.
With his plane about to take off, we had a rushed conversation about the ongoing 40 Years Strong tour. It's not just hitting the major markets, because Thorogood has proved time and again he has a loyal crew of fans that will fill all his shows, and he's willing to go where they are. "It's a big country," Thorogood says, obviously at home here. "I don't spend enough time in Canada. You know, ever since 1978 we've been coming here and getting the red carpet treatment. It took us a while to find the right venues, but since 2008 it's been solid with the venues, and Canada's pretty spread out. The reception and the salary is well worth it for me. And it's breathtakingly beautiful."
Most acts celebrating 40- or 50-year anniversaries do it with a few grand shows, special guests, TV specials, and much pomp. Thorogood is doing it like he's always done it, with months and months of shows, night after night. But the road warrior isn't complaining, he's just enjoying. Always known, but never a superstar, Thorogood has gone down a long, hard to get to this point, from his first breakthrough hits One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer and Bad To The Bone. "Our drummer once told me anything that's different is not easy. And if you pick show business as your living, you're in the hardest business in the world. When you're a rookie, new, everybody loves you. Now we're a classic act, people love us again. It was those in between years, they are the grind, it was a grind. The tough road is behind us. You don't know what it was like from 1982 to say, 2002, it was not easy to do. The venues weren't good, the buses were bad. There were no casinos. Now, there are these are great places to play."
Somehow, in all that time, Thorogood has kept his head on straight. He's certainly never shied away from mentioning a fondness for alcohol in many (well, most) of his songs, but you also never here George Thorogood in rehab stories. "Gimme a chance, I'm not through yet!," he laughs. "I guess it's just a matter of luck, common sense, and finance. Drugs are expensive and against the law. I avoid that kind of problem. I look in the mirror, and say, 'wow. 11 pounds over weight, I better hit the gym.' When you are at the level I'm at, I have to keep plugging away. I'm not in the Rolling Stones category. I have no choice, I have to keep working, they aren't just gonna mail me the money."
After 40 years, you can count on George Thorogood. He's going to play what you know and love, and it's going to be rock and blues with his particular sense of humour. He's not going to change. "Look at Woody Allen, he still makes the same kind of films. BB King still does the same kind of music, why would he ever change, it's BB KIng? I still do the same music I have always done from day one. I'm Denis Leary with a guitar, the most obnoxious man in show business."
Actually, he's pretty fun to talk to, even if he has to cut the call short when the plane crew advises that cell phones must be shut off for take-off. He does have time for an encore, one more classic from his repertoire: "Rock and roll never sleeps, it just passes out."
George Thorogood and the Destroyers are at the Aitken University Centre in Fredericton May 22, and at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton May 23.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).