George Thorogood Rocks the House on September 212120 South Michigan Avenue, home of Chicago’s Chess Records, may be the most important address in the bloodline of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Join Silver Legacy in welcoming George Thorogood & The Destroyers on Friday, September 21 at the Grande Exposition Hall.
That address – immortalized in the Rolling Stones’ like-named instrumental, recorded at an epochal session at Chess in June 1964 and included on the band’s album 12 X 5 – serves as the title to George Thorogood’s electrifying Capitol/EMI salute to the Chess label and its immortal artists.
Thorogood has been essaying the Chess repertoire since his 1977 debut album, which included songs by Elmore James and Bo Diddley that originated on the label. He has cut 18 Chess covers over the years; three appeared on his last studio release, 2009’s The Dirty Dozen. On 2120 South Michigan Avenue, he offers a full-length homage to the label that bred his style with interpretations of 10 Chess classics.
The album also includes original tributes to the Windy City and Chess’ crucial songwriter-producer-bassist Willie Dixon, penned by Thorogood, producer Tom Hambridge, and Richard Fleming, plus a cranked-up version of the Stones’ titular instrumental.
Chess Records had been making musical history for a decade before it moved into its offices on Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the Windy City’s record business district, in 1957. Leonard and Phil Chess, sons of a Polish immigrant family and South Side nightclub operators, bought into a new independent label called Aristocrat Records in 1947. The brothers bought out their partners in 1950 and gave the label the family name; by that time, they had racked up blues hits by Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Robert Nighthawk, and St. Louis Jimmy.
Chess’ studio spawned timeless ‘50s and ‘60s recordings by Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Howlin’ Wolf, which served as inspiration for the Stones and their blues-rocking brethren, and then lit a fire under their successors George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
2120 South Michigan Avenue isn’t just Thorogood’s salute to a great record label – it also pays homage to the tough, larger-than-life men who made the music. Some of the songs from the Chess catalog heard on 2120 South Michigan Avenue were staples of the Destroyers’ live repertoire. The special guests on 2120 South Michigan Avenue sport direct connections to Chess and Chicago’s blues scene. Guitarist Buddy Guy made his Chess label debut 51 years ago.
Thorogood remembers, “I went to [the Austin blues club] Antone’s for the first time in 1977, and I saw Buddy Guy play. It was the first time I saw him, and I never forgot that he led off with [Chess artist Tommy Tucker’s] ‘High Heeled Sneakers.’ I thought that was just unbelievable. Buddy just tore it apart, like he does everything – that’s his style.”
Through the entire project, Thorogood and the Destroyers attempted to put their own distinctive spin on the Chess material while maintaining fidelity to the originals’ attack.
“When you do Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, when you play Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, there’s no experimenting,” Thorogood explains. “That’s a religion, and you’ve gotta do it right.”
The historic music heard on 2120 South Michigan Avenue didn’t merely change George Thorogood’s life, as he himself notes.
“It’s not a musical phenomenon, it’s a social phenomenon. The man who created rock ‘n’ roll was Chuck Berry, and he listened to Muddy Waters. Bo Diddley went to the same school and listened to the same people. Rock ‘n’ roll changed the whole world. That never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Chess Records. It’s the source of the whole thing.”
To say that George Thorogood and The Destroyers is a must-see is an understatement. Join them live on stage on Friday, September 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for $40 with premium seating available for $65. To reserve seats visit www.silverlegacy.com or www.ticketmaster.com or call 800-MUST-SEE (687-8733) or 775-325-7401. You can find more information and the latest updates on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Silver Legacy iPhone and Android Apps.
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