Hampton Beach show

George Thorogood is giving blues-rock a solo run

April 11. 2018 12:42PM

After a string of hits with his band The Destroyers, George Thorogood is trying something new — a solo CD. But he hasn't left the blues-rock behind. 
If you go...
WHO: George Thorogood

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton

TICKETS: $26 to $60

INFO: casinoballroom.com; 929-4100

After 15 million albums sold worldwide, more than 8,000 live shows, and a catalog of beer-drenched, bar-room hits with his band The Destroyers, George Thorogood last year released his first solo album, “Party of One.”

“A few years back,” Thorogood said, “there was an actress who was considering retirement because she thought there was nothing left for her to do. People asked, ‘Who do you think you are? Katharine Hepburn? Meryl Streep?’ And she said, ‘Not at all. But I don’t want to keep repeating myself.’ Personally, I’d never want to feel like I’m doing ‘Bad to the Bone 2,’ ‘Bad to the Bone 3,’ ‘Rocky 5,’ ‘Rocky 7,’ you know? So I asked myself, ‘What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet?’ And this is it.”

Thorogood, who will play the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in an 8 p.m. show Saturday, said in a press statement that his latest album is a tribute to the artists who shaped his musical consciousness.

“I can pinpoint the moment it happened: Spring of 1965, The Rolling Stones brought Howlin’ Wolf onto the TV show ‘Shindig.’ It was my first taste of the real deal, and it was amazing,” Thorogood said. “So I started listening to people like Wolf, Muddy Waters and Lightnin’ Hopkins, and felt the rawness and the honestly of it all. I was hearing where bands like The Stones, The Yardbirds and The Animals got their thing, and realized it was all connected. So when I learned to play guitar, I was playing along to records by John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley just to see what happened. I thought if I could eventually get people’s attention, it would validate my passion.”

Thorogood and his bluesy rock band, The Destroyers scored with now-signature hits including “Bad to the Bone,” “I Drink Alone,” “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and “Move It On Over.”

Still, Thorogood began his career as a solo acoustic performer.

“I was a street musician for a long time,” Thorogood said. “Three months can seem like three years when you’re on the streets of San Francisco in the winter. But I finally scored a gig opening for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the greatest blues-folk act of all time. The club owner hired me on the spot. Brownie and Sonny wanted me to succeed, so every night I went out there and played better and better.”

He also played with with Hound Dog Taylor and Robert Lockwood Jr., who was taught how to play by Robert Johnson.

“I was kind of ragged in those days, but these were the kind of people who were in my corner. They all kept saying to me. ‘You’ve got the right idea, kid, but you’ve got to stay with it. You can do this.’ All these years later, that’s what this album means to me,” he said.

Produced by Grammy-winner Jim Gaines — known for his work with John Lee Hooker, Luther Allison and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as several of Thorogood’s biggest discs, the 15 cuts on “Party Of One” are a platter of traditional blues, classics and modern blues benchmarks. The primarily acoustic instrumentation, including slide, Dobro, and harmonica, is performed entirely by Thorogood live in the studio with minimal overdubs.

Thorogood brings a distinctive intensity to standards by Willie Dixon (“Wang Dang Doodle”), Brownie McGhee (“Born With The Blues”), Robert Johnson (“I’m A Steady Rollin’ Man”) and the CD-only “Dynaflow Blues”), Elmore James (“Got To Move” and “The Sky Is Crying”) and John Lee Hooker (“Boogie Chillen,” and a blistering revisit of “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”).

Thorogood also offers interpretations of tracks by Hank Williams (“Pictures From Life’s Other Side”), Bob Dylan (“Down The Highway”), John Hammond Jr. (“Tallahassee Women”), Johnny Cash (“Bad News”) and The Rolling Stones (Jagger/Richards’ “No Expectations”).

“I think this is a project that’s long overdue,” he said “Maybe it should have been the very first album I ever made. And after playing with the band for all these years, I had to kind of reverse my hands and my head in order to do this thing justice.

“My whole career, I’ve always said, ‘Just give them what you are, and they’re either going to dig it or not.’ This record is what I was, what I am, and what I always will be,” he added.

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