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King and his court grant an audience.

Byline: LEWIS TAYLOR The Register-Guard

TO GEORGE THOROGOOD, being on the same stage as B.B. King means a lot.

"He was the first blues performer I ever saw play live," Thorogood said, speaking by phone from Southern California. `It was a show at the Fillmore East in the fall of 1970. Elvin Bishop was playing with the Paul Butterfield Band.

`I watched them play, and there and then, that's when I said, `That's what I want to do.' '

Although Thorogood has shared the stage with Muddy Waters, been in a music video with Bo Diddley and rubbed elbows with too many old blues greats to count, the Delaware blues rocker has never toured with B.B. King - until now. He and his band, the Destroyers, have joined the B.B. King Blues Festival as an opening act, along with junior blues-rock artist Joe Bonamassa and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

The tour kicks off in Eugene on Saturday at the Cuthbert Amphitheater.

B.B. King was touring through Europe with his famous Gibson guitar Lucille and was unavailable for an interview, but Thorogood had plenty to say about the 76-year-old star, who is widely acknowledged as blues royalty.

"He's B.B. There's probably three entertainers in the world like him - entertainers who nobody doesn't like," Thorogood said. "The thing I like about B.B. is he's always stayed true to whatever it was he was about. He's always 100 percent devoted to his craft.

`The other thing is, he never forgot the black community, and I always admired that about him."

Unlike Thorogood, Bonamassa, the young kid on the tour, has a long history of performing with King. At the age of 12, the blues prodigy opened up a series of dates for King.

Now 25, Bonamassa credits King with teaching him how to be a true performer.

"It's not only about singing and playing well," said Bonamassa, speaking by phone from the hornet-plagued town of Pomeroy, Ohio. "You've gotta shake hands and sign autographs. He taught me how to conduct myself in a professional manner."

Bonamassa also has toured extensively as an opener for Thorogood. He said all the artists on the B.B. King tour were closely affiliated with one another.

"I don't look at them as old guys. I look at them as great acts, and it's just an honor to be on the same stage as they are."

Bonamassa and the other opening artists will play 45-minute sets. As the name of the tour suggests, King will be the highlight of the evening.

With his vocal-string bends and left-hand vibrato, King's guitar style is unmistakably his own. His playing mimics his voice, and his pleading vocals echo the sounds of his guitar.

King already has made his fortune and no longer needs to tour, but he continues to do so because he simply loves to perform. You might hear the multiple Grammy-winner play some of his concert staples, such as "Rock Me Baby," "Everyday I Have the Blues" or his 1970 crossover hit, "The Thrill Is Gone."

Thorogood, who hopes to release an album of new material in the fall, should play a bluesier set of music than usual to reflect the theme of the show. Still, don't be surprised if you hear a little rock thrown into the mix. You can expect to hear Thorogood's version of the Hank Williams classic "Move It on Over," or his breakthrough 1982 hit "Bad to the Bone."

Kim Wilson, co-founder of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, will bring his harmonica and his band's hybrid blues, which incorporates rock, soul and Cajun influences. The T-Birds are likely to play some slower songs along with some of their barn-burners from the 1980s, including "Tuff Enuff" and "Wrap It Up."

Bonamassa, who is about to release a new album, "So It's Like That," promises a bluesy set of music with a little bit of rock mixed in for the sake of Thorogood's fans. Joined by his trio, he will play a combination of new and old songs.

`Any time I'm able to go out and tour with B.B. King, I'll answer, `Yes,' ' Bonamassa said while running across the street to escape a swarm of hornets.

"It's great to tour with people who are good musicians and nice people."

Entertainment reporter Lewis Taylor can be reached by phone at 338-2512 and by e-mail at ltaylor@ guardnet.com.

B.B. KING BLUES FESTIVAL

WITH: B.B. King, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Joe Bonamassa

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Cuthbert Amphitheater, Alton Baker Park, Day Island Road

TICKETS: $49.50 through the Hult Center box office, 682-5000, or on the Internet at www.hultcenter.org or www.hob.com

ALSO: To hear music by Joe Bonamassa, call GuardLine at 485-2000 and select category 7664

CAPTION(S):

"I don't look at them as old guys,' Generation Y bluesman Joe Bonamassa says of the headliners. `I look at them as great acts.' The thrill is here
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 2, 2002
Words:833
Previous Article:Springfield gets down by the river.
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