Thirty years later … still “Bad to the Bone.”
George Thorogood took an old Hank Williams song “Move It On Over” and turned it into a rocker that was roots-oriented Rounder Records’ biggest hit. He added humor to John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” and he made the ’70s palatable to blues rockers with his own hard driving numbers “I Drink Alone” and “Bad to The Bone.” Thorogood’s straight from the groin delivery and tongue-incheek machismo make him more at home with the best of the farm team blues men than the millions of Stones wannabes. His DVD 30th Anniversary Tour — Live in Europe on Eagle Vision is a fitting follow-up to his 2004 blues chart topper 30 Years of Rock. George returns to the studio this fall to record a new album that’s likely to include more speedball renditions of blues standards. “I’m not writing,” he says. “The greatest songs have already been written.”
A man for all stages
Bill Sims Jr., lead guitarist and lead vocalist of Bill Sims and the Cold Blooded Blues Band, also cofounded the all-star American Roots Orchestra. He wrote the music — and won an OBIE Award — for Lackawanna Blues, his second theater collaboration. The play’s TV version, in which Sims appears, has recently been nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Television Movie. His 1999 CD, Bill Sims (Warner) coincided with a 10-hour PBS documentary An American Love Story about this very interesting musician and his interracial family. Mostly concentrating on theater now, he’s currently in “Polk County,” about the music of the 1920s and 30s. For those souls who never leave home, Bill can also be heard on ads for Coca-Cola, Reebok, Folgers and ESPN.
Elmore: What are you listening to now?
Thorogood: I’m listening to Don Wilcock. He’s outasight. He’s up there at Elmore Magazine.
Sims: Elmore James, Gus Cannon, a Memphis jug band with a good banjo. And I always listen to Albert King.
Elmore: What’s the first record you ever bought?
Thorogood: Like everybody else who was born after 1950, the first record that was bought for me that I didn’t buy myself was the same album 90% of the western world was (listening to) called Meet The Beatles.
Sims: A 1958 Bill Bronzy. He was Muddy Waters’ mentor. I bought it in about 1964.
Elmore: What’s the first instrument you ever played?
Thorogood: First, I tried a clarinet. That didn’t work. I tried a trombone. That didn’t work. I tried a piano. That didn’t work. I tried a harmonica. That didn’t work. Finally, I came to the guitar. That worked so fast, it scared me.
Sims: The piano.
Elmore: Who would you like to write with that you haven’t?
Thorogood: I’d like to write a comedy movie with Tommy Chong.
Sims: Keb Mo’ because he brings the old in with the new, and BB King. I’ve written a lot of songs with BB in mind, and I can hear him singing them, but I’d like to write with him.
Elmore: What brought you to the instrument that you now play?
Thorogood: I sat down and said,”Well, I can hammer the shit out of one chord (on a guitar), and I know how to be funny.” So, I took those elements and said, “This is what I’m gonna go with ?cause this is all I got, see?”
Sims: It was a natural progression from piano to guitar. Two brothers taught me. They were so skinny we called them Macaroni and Spaghetti. I picked up the banjo about the same time, in the ’60s, and then the tenor sax and the accordion. I’m learning mandolin right now.
Elmore: Who would you like in your rock & roll heaven band?
Thorogood: The guys I’m playing with right now. I’ll match guitarist Jim Suhler up against anybody, Steve Stills, Steve Cropper. You name it. Jimmy can handle it.
Sims: I’d have to have two people on keyboards: Jimmy Smith on organ and Otis Spann on keyboards; Fred Below on drums, and on bass ?.[long pause]…there are so many?Willie Dixon.
Elmore: What’s your favorite album of all time?
Thorogood: Bob Dylan’s Blood on The Tracks. That album stops the clock for me. Time stands still when I listen to that album.
Sims: BB King Live at the Regal
Elmore: Where do you buy your music?
Thorogood: I don’t. I get it donated. I don’t spend money on anything ’cause eventually somebody will give it to me.
Sims: I still buy vinyl, so I look for them when I’m traveling. Village Records in Mill Valley and, here in New York, Third Street Records. I’m always looking.
Elmore: What was the song that made you realize you wanted to be in music?
Thorogood: The Rolling Stones’ first album or 12 X 5. They were mostly obscure blues songs and yet they were making headlines, and they were on television doing “Time Is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now.”
Sims: “Precious Lord.” I heard it in church.
Elmore: What musicians influenced you most?
Thorogood: John Hammond. What he instilled in me was I said, “All I want to do with my life is make people feel as good as he’s making me feel right now.”
Sims: Bill Bronzy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Albert King.
Elmore: What’s your desert island CD?
Thorogood: Hey, if I’m getting stuck on a desert island, I’m getting stuck with my wife and daughter. Thank you very much.
Sims: BB King Live at the Regal.