Apparently George Thorogood has the endurance of a lifetime long-distance runner. After spending years playing the dingy bar circuit throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, the bluesman – who returns to the Fox Theater in Salinas with the Destroyers on Tuesday – eventually hit it big with his notoriously high-energy performances and infectious odes to the old-time blues tunes he grew up on. Now, even after nearly four decades of success, the motor-mouthed 61-year-old star continues to put on the same balls-out, non-stop, two-hour shows he did in his 20s – usually dressed in an all-black getup and bandana with his signature, white Gibson ES 125 TDC guitar in tow.
Thorogood always gives his audience what they want, from his beloved alcohol anthem “I Drink Alone” to the song he’s probably best known for, “Bad to the Bone.” The only thing that’s really changed for Thorogood over the years, it seems, aside from a few wrinkles and slightly less hair, is that life on the road has become a hell of a lot easier with all the success.
“[Touring] is just starting to get fun,” Thorogood says. “The venues are getting bigger and there are people who take care of everything, like carrying all the equipment.”
One reason Thorogood continues to fill the seats – has sold more than 15 million albums in his career – is that he knows the blues (and beer) as well as Willie Nelson knows country (and weed). Thorogood is famously a career student of the masters: From John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters to Elmore James and Bo Diddley, the Delaware native knows every note of every one of their tunes. He was collecting their records before he was shaving.
On the Destroyers’ most recent album, The Dirty Dozen, Thorogood continues doing what he does best: giving gritty and sometimes unknown blues nuggets like Willie Dixon’s “Tail Dragger” and Howling Wolf’s “Howlin’ for My Baby” personalized facelifts. Saxophonist Buddy Leach provides a powerful punch that seamlessly accompanies the frontman’s wailing, whisky growls and crunchy guitar riffs.
“We do some obscure tunes,” he told San Antonio Express News. “Some were known, but the tunes I look for are the ones I want to do. And I still need a couple new jokes to go with the old songs. We always need more ammo to flesh out the show.”
And as long as Thorogood is still breathing, the shows and touring will continue at the pace of about 15 per month. One of the benefits of knowing the material as well as he does and playing it live six to eight months out of the year is additional practice isn’t very necessary.
“We never rehearse,” Thorogood told Yahoo. “If we have to rehearse ‘Who Do You Love’ by now, we’re in trouble.”
The fans never seem to tire of any of the songs or singing along with their memorable lines like, “Well I ain’t seen my baby since I don’t know when, I’ve been drinking bourbon, whiskey, scotch and gin/ Gonna get high man I’m gonna get loose, need me a triple shot of that juice.”
“‘One Scotch, One Bourbon and One Beer’ will never go out of style,” Thorogood said. “Drinking, love, lust and fun never go out of style.”
GEORGE THOROGOOD AND THE DESTROYERS play 7:30pm Tuesday, April 12, at the Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $38. 758-8459.