Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thorogood won't stop musical pilgrimages

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Don't be surprised if George Thorogood pulls a Bob Dylan and pops by Neil Young's old house when he's in town with the Destroyers for Saturday night's show at the Burton Cummings Theatre.

Turns out, the blues-rock veteran is a big fan of both artists.

"I heard a story that Bob Dylan went to Neil Young's house when he was in Winnipeg -- and he had to drive way outside the city. He knocked on the door and asked where Neil's bedroom was. He stood at the window and said, 'I wonder what he was thinking.' How incredible is that?"

Pretty incredible, I agreed, although I tell him whomever told the story got one part wrong: there was no drive outside the city when Dylan paid that visit in 2008. Young's teenage home is just on Grosvenor Avenue.

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"Oh, so you've heard that story before," Thorogood says, sounding vaguely disappointed. I tell him that when Dylan stops by Young's old house, it tends to make the local news.

His disappointment is short-lived, however, when he realizes he could see Young's old stomping grounds for himself. "We actually visited Bob Dylan's house in Duluth, but we didn't have the nerve to knock on the door," he says with a laugh.

That's not the only pilgrimage Thorogood's gone on. An avid baseball lover -- he even played semi-pro in the 1970s -- he's dropped by the childhood homes of several of his favourite players, including Babe Ruth. I ask him if anyone has ever visited his childhood home in Delaware. "Yeah, one person did -- me," he quips. "And I already know what it looks like inside."

Thorogood, 64, is bringing his cavalcade of hits -- including Bad To The Bone, Who Do You Love and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer -- across North America on a 40th anniversary tour, in support of the greatest-hits package, George Thorogood & the Destroyers ICON.

While 40 years in rock 'n' roll is worth commemorating, Thorogood makes little of it. ("At my age, everyday is a milestone.")

"It's our standard operating procedure," he says (with, one assumes, a shrug). "It's like when someone has their 49th anniversary, then they make a big deal about the 50th anniversary, and then the 51st is back to the same deal. This is the same thing. People think this is a milestone for us, but it's no different than what we'd do in our 39th or 41st year. You're going to get all the same ol' George Thorogood jokes. We're going to play Bad to the Bone. But hey, if you want to invite me to my own party, I'll go."

Although Thorogood says self-care on the road is more of a priority these days -- "if your car gets to 90,000 miles, you get more particular about when you turn the engine on" -- he remains committed to life on the road.

"No one is handing me a gold watch and a pension anytime soon, so I've got to keep working. As long as the demand is there and the desire is there, we're going to keep doing it. And I think the desire is based on the demand -- and the delivery. The product has to be good," he says.

George Thorogood & the Destroyers are nothing if not reliable. He's not a diva about playing his hits; he knows where his bread is buttered.

"Why would you make those hits if you're not going to play them? I could never get behind that. Why not just stay home? They're there to hear the hits. Those tickets aren't cheap. My set list is created 100 per cent for fan approval. It's like planning a menu for a restaurant. They're coming not for what they expect, but for what they demand."

And what they demand is direct, meat-and-potatoes boogie rock. Thorogood may sing the blues, but he has fun doing it.

"Pain I keep to myself -- pleasure I share with the world," he says. "Now there's a quote."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 G2

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