Wednesday, August 10, 2011

50/50

In 1981, George Thorogood and the Destroyers embarked on a tour that embodied the grinning absurdity of rock & roll.  Beginning October 23 in Honolulu, Hawaii they played fifty consecutive shows in all fifty U.S. states, ending December 11 at Pasadena, California.  I remember hearing about the feat at the time, on DC101 radio in Washington, D.C., and it lodged itself in my imagination; over the years I'd vaguely recall the event, in a kind of silent awe, and it grew to mythic proportions.

Thorogood in 1981
I didn't pay specific attention until 2001 or so when, researching microfilm materials at the New York Public Library while working on Sweat, I came across an article about the tour in a 1981 issue of Billboard.  There were the details in front of me: 11, 243 miles driven by Checker Cab averaging 248 miles a day, Thorogood and his Destroyers playing cumulatively before 150,000 fans.  The map proved it, or more accurately dared me to believe it: a white line pinging across the great nation from Hawaii to Alaska (on Checker Airlines?) over to Oregon and Washington and relentlessly pushing eastward in great gulps and hairpin turns and then a grand u-turn along the Eastern Seaboard and straight back the other way across the South and Southwest.  At the time of the tour I was rocking out to "Move It On Over," "I'm Wanted," and "Night Time," great early Thorogood cuts that I loved, before he became internationally famous, the happy accompaniment to beer commercials and last calls at Hard Rock Cafes, before he cashed in.  In 1980, Thorogood was still lean and hungry—though he could smell his payday—and had the nerve, humor, intestinal fortitude, youthful energy, and rock & roll ambition to embark on a 50/50 tour.  No matter what I think now of Thorogood and his commercial status, no matter how inessential his music threatens to become, no matter how rote and predictably his persona grew, this Herculean feat of rock & roll showiness will forever endear me to him.

~~
No Nights Off!

At a Thorogood fan forum someone's posted the tour's itinerary and a newspaper article, and below is a cool advertisement (and detail)  from the December 19, 1981 issue of Billboard, a crowing congrats to the kid from Delaware:





Photo of George Thorogood by Chris Walter via Photofeatures.

9 comments:

Ricardo Furioso said...

It happened.
I saw him at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque.
George lit the place on fire.
=Rich Binell

Ricardo Furioso said...

It happened.
I saw him at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque.
George lit the place on fire.
=Rich Binell

Joe Bonomo said...

Great!

Dean Davies said...

They had us rocking in the aisles at WSU in Pullman, WA.

Anonymous said...

I was there. International banquet house, in Anchorage, AK. It was awesome!

Joe Bonomo said...

Very cool, anon!

raid cranium said...

Joe Bonomo said...

Sorry, Raid! I accidentally removed your comment. Please re-post!

Roger Mty Cantu said...

Thanks in part to the great Checker Marathon.

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