Known for classic rock radio staples like "Move It On Over" and "Bad to the Bone," bluesy rock 'n' rollers George Thorogood and The Destroyers are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a national tour.
The tour brings Thorogood and his band to Ribfest's Main Stage for a headlining performance at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, July 6. The concert is included with $15 festival admission. In advance of his visit to Naperville, Thorogood recently talked with the Daily Herald about his signature guitar style and touring with the Rolling Stones.
Q. What were your musical inspirations growing up and how did you develop your style?
A. Definitely early Rolling Stones; I listened to them and I said to myself, "I can do that." When I grew up I wanted to be Mick Jagger or Jeff Beck -- that was really the dream. Eventually they went on to have monster hits when they started writing originals, and there were all these great artists like Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix plus singers like Roger Daltrey and Rod Stewart. I got to thinking, "I can put together my slide guitar, get a band together, get some good Bo Diddley songs and John Lee Hooker songs and you can be the opening band with people like the Allman Brothers and J. Geils Band." Robert Duvall started as a supporting actor and he's one of the greats, and so going in I thought, "Follow your dream. You're just not going to end up on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' but you might end up on a Steve Miller tour."
Q. Your big break into national exposure was your 1981 tour with the Rolling Stones. What did you learn from touring with such a big band?
A. I was shocked how quickly the band got familiar with what we could do with the Stones. Their stage was a little funny; it was designed by a Japanese artist with lots of dips in it and I had to learn to adapt to that, but I was quite thrilled to do it and we came out of that tour with a lot of confidence.
Q. What is your songwriting process like?
A. It depends on the tune. Sometimes you go backward and sometimes you go forward; and if you come up with a riff, you're halfway home. Something like that can really get in someone's ear, and you write around it and you generally end up with a hit.
Q. You're known for your signature slide guitar sound. How did you come to develop that?
A. I was fooling around with that early on and I got a Ry Cooder record and I picked it up fast. Then I started listening to Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Elmore James and I had friends that told me, "You've really got something going there." With Duane Allman's style being the big thing at the time, it was very much in vogue and I thought to myself, "I could jump on this thing and catch some attention."
Q. When you're performing, how do you integrate the material off your newer albums with the established classics?
A. It's tough to do because we have a time limit. Some bands will stop in the middle of their set and play everything off their new album, but unless you've got a classic on your hands I think that's a mistake; you're just doing it to sell the record. But we definitely try to include several songs from our latest work. And of course we have our standards, which is what people pay money to hear.
Q. Are you looking forward to trying any of Ribfest's famous racks?
A. I've played Ribfest before, and so many people were eating red meat and drinking beer that by the time we hit the stage the crowd was pretty relaxed. I try to keep the meal somewhat light before I go play, because you don't want to be too heavy out there. Maybe I'll bring some with me after the show if there's any left!