Blues-rocker George Thorogood didn’t really want to do a tribute album to Chess Records greats like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Willie Dixon, but when Capitol Records suggested it, he had to say yes.
“I always thought Capitol was the Los Angeles Dodgers of record labels,” Thorogood said in a recent phone interview. “I’m not going to say no to it.”
He thought too many artists had done the same thing before, but Capitol Records reminded him that there is a new generation that hasn’t heard that music before. In 2011, he released “2120 South Michigan Avenue” (the Chicago address of Chess Records). It was a natural fit since Thorogood always has played riffs straight out of 1950s Chicago blues and rock. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart.
Thorogood will play some cuts off the album, as well as his biggest hits, including “Bad to the Bone,” “Get a Haircut” and other favorites, when he performs Thursday at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.
Thorogood, 63, is a regular visitor to the region, having performed at Turlock Community Theatre in 2011 and 2010 and at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys in 2008.
“I don’t like being on the road, but I like being on the stage,” he said about his busy concert schedule. “It’s a means to an end.”
Raised in Delaware, Thorogood was a minor-league baseball player before he started a music career that’s lasted for more than 30 years. He and the Destroyers moved to Boston in the mid-1970s and launched their recording career.
The group’s first major break came in 1978 with the release of the album “Move It On Over,” featuring the title track, a cover of a Hank Williams song. The single was played frequently on Top 40 radio and propelled the album to gold status.
The band’s popularity peaked with its 1982 release, “Bad to the Bone.” The title song was heavily hyped on MTV, and the album eventually went gold, too.
Thorogood and the musicians continued to be active, scoring a hit in 1993 with “Get a Haircut” and producing album after album. His 2004 greatest-hits compilation went gold and was No. 1 on Billboard’s blues charts for 60 weeks.
Thorogood has never won a Grammy Award, but he was invited to perform at a Grammy Foundation concert in February called “Play It Forward: A Celebration of Music’s Evolution and Influencers.” The event explored the history of music’s most influential figures and their “impact on the American cultural landscape.”
He said he definitely doesn’t want to keep performing forever, but he has to now to pay his bills. “If the government wanted to pay me the same amount of money not to play, it would be great. But they keep raising taxes every year, so you’ve got to keep playing.”
Fans still love his covers of classic blues standards like John Lee Hooker’s “House Rent Boogie/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”
With the Destroyers, Thorogood has released 16 studio albums and sold 15 million records worldwide.
He has plans to make another album soon, although he didn’t want to give too many details. Asked if he had anything else to add to this interview, he joked, “George Thorogood is the baddest man in the world.” Then he paused and added, “Rock ’n’ roll never sleeps — it just passes out.”