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George Thorogood talks blues and baseball with tongue firmly in cheek
By Eric Schelkopf
George Thorogood is not the type of musician to look back. He does not reflect wistfully on the recent release of the CD, George Thorogood and the Destroyers: Live in Boston 1982.
Thorogood also likes to joke around, including making fun of himself and his past baseball career.
About the only thing that Thorogood takes seriously is his music. Thorogood and his band played in August at the House of Blues with Chicago saxophonist Eddie Shaw, whose prestigious musical background includes stints with Little Milton, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
I had the chance to talk to Thorogood about a variety of topics, including his feelings about the new CD.
Q - So I see you are coming to the House of Blues.
Yeah, for the umpteenth time.
George Thorogood in the House of Blues is like putting Billy Williams in Wrigley Field. It's a good fit.
Q - How did you meet Eddie Shaw?
I remember him well before he remembered me. Our band would open for Howlin' Wolf in 1974. I got to know the guys in the band pretty good. I got to know Hubert Sumlin pretty well and Detroit Junior. I didn't know Eddie real well then because Eddie was the leader of the band and he was very busy taking care of Wolf, who had health problems.
Eddie also had normal band duties to take care of, you know paying the band, making sure certain guys didn't drink too much. He was very busy. But I paid a lot of attention to Eddie. I learned a lot from him about how to be a band leader. We finally hooked up again 10 years ago, 12 years ago. We were reunited in a way.
Q - That must have been an honor to meet Howlin' Wolf.
I was long gone on his music long before I met Eddie. I was a Howlin' Wolf freak back in 1966. He was pretty much on his last legs when we met. He died in January 1976. He wasn't long for the world. So I was fortunate enough to catch him not only at the end of his career, but his life.
Q - Rounder just released Live In Boston 1982. I was just listening to it, and it's really energetic, it still sounds fresh to this day. Are you happy that it's out there for people?
It's better to have something than nothing. Rounder is a very heritage minded label. Me, I'm like, we did that an hour ago, come on, let's move on.
Q - It seemed like you guys were really clicking back then. You guys had just come off a tour with the Rolling Stones.
We're clicking now. I was just finding my way around back then. MTV was in its infancy at that point. It was a very exciting time, the early 1980s. The '80s at that time was the new '60s. The '70s were kind of drab, and all these bands kept popping up in the late '70s, like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. All these bands grew up on the '60s music. Everybody was kind of feeling their '60s roots.
At that time, I didn't know if I was going to be a blues band or a rock band. I'm kind of stuck in between somewhere. The money is in rock, buddy.
Q - What do you think of the music business these days? It's gone through a lot of changes over the years.
Every business is changing. The television industry has changed. The movie industry has changed. Sports has changed. You have to keep up with it, or you will be out. It's just like anything else. Where something is lost, something is gained. You put lights at Wrigley Field, didn't you? That's as far as it went, though. You still don't got the World Series.
And I don't think that's going to happen this year.
It's not going to happen until you get some pitchers. Pitching wins pennants.
Q - Speaking of baseball, do you have any regrets of not continuing in your baseball career?
I had no baseball career. What are you talking about? Are you the owner of a team? Where were you in 1968? I could have gone farther? Where did you get this information?
(Of course, Thorogood was snickering a little during this part of the conversation).
Q - How did you make the switch to being a musician?
There was no switch. That's what I wanted to do from day one. Well, actually I danced around with ideas of being a comic when I was young after seeing Jackie Gleason and Ernie Kovacs and Red Skeleton. I was very into that. My mother anyway thought that might be the way I was going to go.
And then I saw this skinny guy with big lips singing, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and I went, 'Hey, that guy's funny. Hold the phone.' I got hooked, like the whole world did.