George Thorogood on the Black Keys, Jack Johnson and Current Acts He Likes

George Thorogood on the Black Keys, Jack Johnson and Current Acts He Likes

It's fair to say George Thorogood has been around the music biz a little while. When he was in his 20s, the blues/rock guitarist best known for being "B-b-b-buh-bad to the bone" briefly moved to England just so he could play guitar 12 hours a day without any distractions.

In 1973, the Delaware-bred guitarist began leading The Destroyers and carving out a career for himself. Today, he's around 60 (he's cagey on specifics regarding his age) and has 17 studio records under his belt. His discography heavily focuses on covers of blues and rock songs released pre-1970--ideally, lesser-known tracks that have gone untouched by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the like.

Thorogood's latest album, 2120 South Michigan Ave., pays homage to Chess Records, the long-gone blues/R&B/soul label that was once home to Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Etta James. (The record title comes from the label's address in Chicago.)

To give you an idea of the era of artists he prefers, Thorogood's latest disc features takes on work by Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and Willie Dixon, among others. Still, the snappy guitarist does have a couple of opinions on contemporary music--it just takes a little bit of prying to get to them. For this week's print edition, we spoke to Thorogood, who performs with The Destroyers on Thursday, March 8, at the House of Blues in Anaheim, about playing in a strip club and his self-deprecating worldview. Now, let's see what he has to say about his favorite recent musicians. OC Weekly (Reyan Ali): Is there anything out there right now that particularly interests or disinterests you?

George Thorogood: Hmmm... Chris Isaak, he's good. Jack Johnson. Brilliant, brilliant.

What do you like about Jack Johnson?
You know, quality. It's just outstanding stuff. I mean, good is good, right? And you can tell that he's really coming at it from an artist's point of view, it seems, not just to be a commercial success or do all that other stuff that kind of turns me off. Chris is a real artist. He's a brilliant performer. And Jack Johnson, his stuff that I heard, I said, 'Well, this guy's really got it. He's got something going here.' I don't hear too much stuff like that anymore, and I don't really have the time, so I don't want people bringing me something that I'm going to say, 'I don't have any time. There isn't enough time in the day for me to sit and listen to 50 albums. Bring me something that I know I'm going to appreciate.'

How about something like The Black Keys, who are, to some extent, making blues popular again?
Well, they're an interesting act. I didn't really hear enough of 'em, but there's a uniqueness there about them. It's funny because we had such a tough time trying to find a bass player--[drummer] Jeff Simon and I--that I actually thought of just the two of us playing. I was going to call the act Janitor and a Drum. [Laughs] And now they're doing it as two pieces and they're pulling it off. I think they're just two pieces, isn't it?

And I think they're just really good, it's just not the uniqueness that there's just two of 'em. They're just good, and they have a unique style, and it's refreshing. It isn't really something of my style that I would say, 'Oh, it's something I will passionately follow,' but I do appreciate it.

George Thorogood & The Destroyers perform with Michael Williams Band at the House of Blues, Thurs., 7 p.m. $37.50 in advance; $42.50 at the door. All ages.

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