Setlist History: George Thorogood Plays 50 U.S. States in 50 Days

George Thorogood, the blues based guitarist with perfect teeth and dark sunglasses, played his 50th state in 50 days on this day in 1981 when he and The Destroyers rocked Pasadena, California.

The 50/50 Tour started, wisely, in Hawaii and after a plane trip to Alaska, the rest of the dates would be relatively easy since they'd all be in the continental U.S.

But best laid plans...

Once the tour had completed, the band's management company congratulated them - and themselves.

“We’re playing some places that maybe have never seen a live band,” the singer told the Ottawa Citizen during the unprecedented excursion that included no days off for George and the boys.

One gig that fell through was at the Wyoming State Prison. Usually it's good not to end up in jail, here it just added to the complicated travel itinerary.

Remember, back in 1981 there was no Internet to rely on or mobile phones to help coordinate. Imagine trying to book a show at a jail from a payphone a few states away?

The set from the final show of the 50/50 Tour

Travelling in a converted Checker cab, Thorogood and the Destroyers relied mostly on blues covers from the likes of Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, and Muddy Waters, but it was one of his few originals, "Bad to the Bone" that would help him catapult into heavy rotation in 1982 on FM stations and MTV.

It also helped the Rolling Stones had them open some shows for them in 1981.

Thorogood opening for the Stones at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Here they are playing the Chuck Berry tune "It Wasn't Me."

Part of Thorogood's appeal was despite the fact that so little of the music he was playing was not original, he added something special to it that revitalized it and transformed it.

In part it was his scorching guitar playing added with confident singing. But perhaps the secret weapon of the Destroyers was Hank Carter, the saxophone player who was in the group from 1980 through 2003 until he died at 71 years old.

These boys could cover Hank Williams Sr. and make it sound nothing like country, in part because of that horn.

The 50/50 Tour started off on a bad foot when Thorogood caught a bug. Also, the Glimmer Twins wanted them to open on more dates for them. But, to his credit, Thorogood was committed to his plan.

"I caught a real bad head cold, and after we played those shows with the Stones," Thorogood told Ultimate Classic Rock. "Bill Graham wanted us to play a whole bunch more. But the 50/50 Tour was already booked. So I missed out on some big gigs -- Madison Square Garden, among other places -- with the Stones. Even one of the dates we did on the 50/50 tour was with the Rolling Stones, in New Orleans."

George jamming with the Stones backstage in Virginia.

Recently Thorogood sat down with former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to discuss his 50 years in music.

He explained there were three artists that inspired him to want to pursue the rock n roll dream: The Beatles, The Stones, and Bob Dylan. He said The Beatles represented freedom to him because they didn't need to worry about being drafted into the war, they would never have to cut their hair, and they could wear whatever they wanted.

Dylan, he said, spoke the truth.

But the Stones, particularly in their earliest albums where they mostly covered Blues artists from the US, inspired hope.

"Hope can be a very powerful motivator," he said, adding that after seeing Mick Jagger realized, "this is the only business in the world where a guy who looks like that can become a sex symbol. So they represented hope. And I clung to that."

While George has no new dates scheduled, Jagger and the Stones do. Get your tickets to their Hackney Diamonds Tour here.

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