Musician George Thorogood said it makes sense to kick off his 2016 "Badder Than Ever" tour with his longtime backing band, The Destroyers, at the IP Casino Resort tonight.
"What's your slogan there -- Texas has 'the Lone Star State' and Mississippi's is 'the birthplace of America's Music,'" Thorogood said in a phone interview with the Sun Herald. "Well, there you go. That's where we want to start our tour -- where music begins."
He's known for rock-radio staples such as "Bad to the Bone" and "I Drink Alone," as well as covers of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" and Hank Williams' "Move It on Over." But Thorogood is one of the last second-generation blues artists, which includes Elvin Bishop, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Gregg Allman and the late Johnny Winters.
A former roadie for Hound Dog Taylor, Thorogood paid his dues in the early and mid-1970s opening for blues icons such as West Point native Howlin' Wolf and Clarksdale's Muddy Waters.
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"I got to see Muddy Waters play a bunch of times," he said. "I'm not talking like hundreds of times but about a dozen times.
"I played some shows with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf."
Thorogood's love for the blues is evident, but the blues world hasn't always been so kind to his legacy.
"All of these 'blues scholars' say that white guys can't play the blues, that I can't play the blues because I'm not black. Buddy (Guy) once told me, 'The guitar strings don't know what color your fingers are.'"
He said he doesn't care what his critics think of his music.
"These 'blues scholars' are a bunch of white guys from New England with degrees from Harvard and Yale," he said. "They make up things like the Memphis Blues Society and they all wear hats. They say I can't play the blues but Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf said I could play -- but what does Muddy Waters know about the blues?"
Thorogood takes it all in stride, though, still touring relentlessly, selling out venues across the country. Although he is recording a new album, he said he felt the most comfortable on stage.
"I hate recording," Thorogood said. "It's like sending out invitations to a party. I just want to get on stage and wiggle my fanny."