Legendary rocker George Thorogood will return to Happy Valley on July 26 to play to a sold-out crowd at The State Theatre. Thorogood will bring along his longtime backing band, The Destroyers.
The slick slide guitarist discovered music early.
“I heard (music) on the radio just like everyone else,” Thorogood said. “I couldn’t sing like Roger Daltrey or Robert Plant. And, I certainly knew I wasn’t going to write ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ or ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’ I knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
Thorogood said he didn’t realize his potential on the six string until he heard it from his friends.
“I had other people come to me — friends of mine, accomplished guitarists — and they heard me fooling around doing John Lee Hooker-type stuff or Robert Johnson-type stuff or Jimmie Reed, and they said, ‘you know, you can really do that,’ ” Thorogood said.
“Then, some other people come into a room and heard me playing and thought it was a John Lee Hooker record,” he continued. “That put a lightbulb inside my head. I thought, ‘well I got these people fooled; I might as well just play the guitar. If I’m going to go anywhere with this thing, I’m not going to make it just as a vocalist.’ ”
Thorogood believed that he wouldn’t be a headliner, so he set his sights on being an “opener.”
“You start to grow up and say, ‘I’ll never be Willie Mays or Joe Dimaggio, so I’ll bat eighth and play second base and bunt. But, I’ll still be in the lineup.’ So that’s what I thought, ‘I’ll put together a band and be the opening band for Steve Miller, J. Geils, etc., and I can get paid, and I’m still in the game,” Thorogood said.
The ever-humble rocker is still a fan at heart.
“We all started that way (as fans),” he said. “The ultimate thing with rock ’n’ roll is like how John Lennon wanted to be cool like Elvis Presley. Everybody wants to do this when they’re young. You either practice your guitar moves in front of the mirror, or you practice your baseball swing. Everybody wants to be cool, but only about 2 percent of us are Steve McQueen. There’s only a handful of people that really are cool, and guys like me — we’re not. We live out the fantasy.”
While Thorogood may not consider himself a legend in the music industry, the veteran rocksmith has achieved several radio hits, many still played to this day.
“Ever since radio picked up on our material, particularly ‘Bad to the Bone’ and ‘One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,’ that put us on a lot of classic rock radio,” Thorogood said. “Now, that gets established year after year after year. A whole generation tends to look at that act with those eyes.”
Thorogood likens it to the Turner Classic Movies TV channel.
“Now, when I saw ‘On the Waterfront’ and it was on TV, it was just another movie. But, now it comes on Turner Classic Movies. So now, someone who watches those movies for the first time or hears ‘Rockin Me Baby’ on the radio, it’s called a rock classic, and people grow up thinking of that act in those terms,” he said.
As for new “rock” music, Thorogood says he hasn’t heard it. But, that isn’t a slam at the modern musical scene; rather Thorogood just believes that the traditional rock music has had its time in the sun, and now it’s time for something else.
“Everything has its time,” Thorogood said. “Like the Renaissance era or the great jazz era. There’s just a time for certain things. And that time (for rock), the bulk of it was from about 1955 until about 1985. That’s only 30 years in history — it’s a very small period in time where rock music made its mark. After that, it kind of dwindled down. ... The last great rock group that came out was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and that was 1975.”
Thorogood has been around the industry for decades and is still going strong. But there are a few legends he’d love to work with.
“Who’s that guy that plays the left handed guitar that’s shaped like a violin?” joked Thorogood. “He responds to ‘sir’? Who else is there? There’s nobody else left! And, hey, I’m still waiting to see if bad Bob Dylan needs a slide guitar player, but he’s pretty busy these days. I’m still holding out for those two. When I went to see him (McCartney) play — and I’ve seen him four times — I was in the front row and I just had my hands clasped and my eyes closed. People said, ‘Oh, look at Thorogood, he’s in such reverence of Sir Paul.’ And I said, ‘No! I’m praying he doesn’t play slide guitar! He can do everything else!”
George Thorogood & The Destroyers promise a solid night of rock ’n’ roll entertainment for fans of all ages.
“Come out and celebrate Mick Jagger’s birthday in great fashion,” Thorogood said. “Mick’s not playing that night, so come out and see the next best thing. We have some fond memories of folks from State College, and we’re trying to add yours to the list.”
IF YOU GO
- What: George Thorogood & The Destroyers
- When: 8 p.m. July 26
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.thestatetheatre.org