On their 17th studio album, George Thorogood and The Destroyers pay tribute to their Chess Records heroes, including many of Thorogood’s legendary mentors who helped to launch his career in rock & roll. Titled 2120 South Michigan Avenue, the 13-track album will be released by Capitol/EMI on July 12 on CD, vinyl LP, and digital download. ’2120′ features Thorogood’s raw, rocking turn on classics by a who’s-who of the blues, including Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and other Chess greats, as well as new original songs written by Thorogood, the album’s producer, Tom Hambridge, and Richard Fleming.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers have been recording and touring for more than 30 years. While in his teens in Delaware, Thorogood was turned on to Chess Records and the label’s genre-defining artist roster by the Rolling Stones.
“The first Rolling Stones album I bought, 12×5, included ’2120 South Michigan Avenue’,” says Thorogood. “I said, ‘I know I’ve heard this somewhere before …’ I wrote to Chess, they sent me a catalog, and my life was changed.”
Named for the address of Chess Records’ Chicago headquarters, 2120 South Michigan Avenue is produced by musician, songwriter and producer Tom Hambridge, a four-time GRAMMY Award nominee and 2010 GRAMMY winner for Best Contemporary Blues Album (Hambridge produced Buddy Guy’s Living Proof) and ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award winner. The album’s featured guests include 2010 GRAMMY Award winners Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite.
The album opens with “Going Back,” a blistering new song written by Hambridge and Thorogood, setting the stage for Thorogood and The Destroyers to rip through classic Chess chestnuts including “High Heel Sneakers” (featuring Buddy Guy, who originally recorded the song for Chess), Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful,” Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock,” Muddy Waters’ “Two Trains Running,” Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley,” J.B. Lenoir’s “Mama Talk To Your Daughter,” Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me,” Little Walter’s “My Babe” (featuring Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica), and Jimmy Rogers’ “Chicago Bound.” The album also features another new song by Hambridge and Thorogood, along with Nashville songwriter, Richard Fleming, titled “Willie Dixon’s Gone,” and the album’s closing title track, the Rolling Stones’ instrumental, “2120 South Michigan Avenue” (featuring Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica).
George Thorogood forged his signature sound of blues-infused rock & roll with the musical guidance he received from his Chess heroes. The Destroyers fought their way to the top, barging out of Delaware in the ’70s as a jarringly high-energy bunch (also featuring drummer Jeff Simon and bassist Billy Blough), playing raucous, slide guitar-stoked, blues-rock takes on tunes by Chuck Berry, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and others. Soon, they were touring and gigging with many of these statesmen of the blues, and learning invaluable lessons with every encounter.
“We were playing with these tough guys – these legends – away from their mean streets of Chicago. The audiences on the road were a real shift from the rough scene they fought through at home,” says Thorogood. “That’s the blues. That’s the education I got, hanging out day in and day out. There’s an incredible story behind the music – they’re speaking the truth.”
Thorogood is proud to honor Chess Records’ architects of modern blues and rock & roll, saying “Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley are religion to me. I know their ears and eyes are on me, so I have to nail it.”
2120 South Michigan Avenue producer Tom Hambridge says of Thorogood, “What’s makes this album so perfect for George is that he has been doing it authentically all along. He can deliver Howlin’ Wolf better than anybody, because he’s lived it. He’s not going to sing something he doesn’t believe in.”
The Destroyers have expanded through the years; the band now includes original members Simon and Blough, as well as guitarist Jim Suhler (a Texan who was brought aboard in 1999) and saxophonist Buddy Leach, who joined in 2003. Their latest album, 2009′s The Dirty Dozen, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Albums chart, fueled by the album’s #1 single, “Tail Dragger.” Thorogood is no stranger to ruling Billboard’s Blues chart, as 2004′s Gold-certified Greatest Hits: 30 Years Of Rock was the magazine’s #1 Blues Album for both 2004 and 2005, and the band’s 2006 studio album, The Hard Stuff, hit #2 on the chart. The band has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.
George Thorogood and The Destroyers will include some songs from 2120 South Michigan Avenue in setlists on their North American tour, which kicks off this week and includes stops this summer at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre and South Dakota’s Sturgis Rally. Thorogood will debut several songs from the new album at Southern California’s Canyon Club on April 13, a concert that will be recorded for Westwood One’s “Superstar Concert Series” and later aired by more than 100 of the radio network’s affiliate stations across the U.S.