George Thorogood both was blessed and cursed to come of age during the late '60s and early '70s.
There was nothing better than being a music fan at a time when The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and others were expanding the musical boundaries, he said. But it also was intimidating for an aspiring musician.
''I can't sing like these people,'' Thorogood said. ''I can't play guitar like Carlos Santana and I certainly can't write a song like Paul Simon. What am I gonna do?''
Thorogood became a bluesman and a showman.
Both talents will be on display when he performs outside the Covelli Centre on Aug. 11 for the second Tangled Up in Bluesfest.
''Pretty much in my mind, with the exception of a couple acts, in 1969-70 rock was peaking with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin,'' he said. ''There was no place left for it to go. So instead of going forward, let's go backward. Who did Jimi Hendrix listen to, who did the Stones listen to?''
WHAT: Tangled Up in Bluesfest with George Thorogood & the Destroyers
WHEN: 7 p.m. Aug. 11
WHERE: Covelli Centre parking lot, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $49 reserved and $25 general admission.
He followed that path from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker all the way back to Robert Johnson. And while Thorogood didn't think he could top Hendrix, he thought he could put his own mark on the blues standards and rarities written and sung by Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James.
''It was never my plan to be a guitar virtuoso like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana,'' he said. ''I was the only guitar player in the band and got a reputation for being a guitar virtuoso, but that's just not me. I'm an entertainer, first and last. I tell a lot of jokes. I work the audience.''
It's one of the reasons it took Thorogood longer to break through with European audiences, which traditionally have supported the blues even more than U.S. listeners.
''People who didn't speak English just wanted me to solo for 15 minutes, and that's not what I do,'' he said. ''The rap in 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer' sets it all up. That's part of the joke, part of the performance.''
For all the musical accolades he's received, Thorogood seems just as proud about being told by comedian Sinbad, ''I like what you do. You're funny. You got it.''
''Jerry Reed was very funny,'' Thorogood said. ''Elvin Bishop is very funny. That's part of the Thorogood thing.''
But the music also is part of the Thorogood thing. Since the late '70s, the Delaware native has been playing his version of rockin' blues, still backed by his original rhythm section of Billy Bough on bass and Jeff Simon on drums (the other Destroyers are guitar player Jim Suhler and saxophone player Buddy Leach). Hooker might have written ''One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,'' but it's Thorogood's version that will be playing at last call on the bar jukebox.
That one of a few blues standards that Thorogood said he ''kind of owns.'' He compared himself to the J. Geils Band, which pluck a '60s soul song ''Ain't Nothin' But a House Party'' from obscurity, and the song now is associated with J. Geils more than The Show Stoppers, who originally recorded it. ''Tail Dragger,'' the Howlin' Wolf tune that was featured on his 2009 release ''The Dirty Dozen,'' is another song believes he's reworked in a way that he can lay claim to it.
And Thorogood has added to the canon as well. Thorogood's ''Bad to the Bone'' has one of the most recognizable riffs in music. In addition to being a classic rock radio staple, the song has been used in dozens of movies, movie trailers and television shows.
Expect to hear both the originals and the ones he ''owns'' when he plays outside the Covelli Centre, and expect Thorogood to spend as much time entertaining the crowd as a fast-talkin' frontman as he does as a fast-fingered guitar players. Six-string wizards may be called ''guitar gods,'' but lead singers get a better kind of attention.
Thorogood said, ''Tom Jones pulls in the chicks more than Chet Atkins.''