The Melvins vs. George Thorogood: A War of Words Erupts Over Claims of a Record-Setting Tour
From the December, 1981 issue of Billboard
The Melvins are in the midst of an ambitious tour, performing in all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in only 51 days. Pretty impressive, considering the legendary band soon will be entering their fourth decade. One of the pioneers of the 1980s Seattle scene that later birthed Nirvana and Soundgarden, they're known for experimental punk, which incorporates some metal, sludge and grunge.
While much of the Melvins' pretour publicity insisted they would be the first to accomplish this feat -- a show a day in each state -- that might not actually be true. The claim has led to a war of words with the management of '80s blues-rocker George Thorogood, who assert he accomplished it in 1981.
What happened was this: Thorogood's longtime manager, Mike Donahue, took umbrage with an interview Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne gave to an Anchorage, Alaska, paper, where he admitted being familiar with Thorogood's attempt to pull the tour off but claimed he'd failed to complete it. Donahue said otherwise in a statement to Rolling Stone, and Osborne responded by mocking Thorogood's music ("I can only hope that some day I will be playing Bo Diddley covers at county fairs!" he tells us) and wondering why the Guinness World Records folks hadn't listed it.
So who's right? Putting on our investigative reporter's cap, we located an advertisement in the Dec. 19, 1981, issue of Billboard (page 79 to be exact -- it's also above), placed by the Rosebud Agency, congratulating its client Thorogood on completing the tour. We next reached out to Mike Kappus, president of the San Francisco-based booking agency, who confirms that Thorogood indeed finished it as planned.
"I've always been very proud of having organized that tour," Kappus says in an email. "Every date certainly happened as planned." He adds that Guinness' criteria does not allow for country-specific records, which is why Thorogood's tour was never listed in the book.
On the website for Spin, Osborne has apologized ... sort of. "Who knew they would get so ma ma ma ma ma mad," he wrote. "I suppose they could be right and if they are then we really are sorry. We're sorry we said you didn't do it if you really did."
In truth, Osborne doesn't seem too worked up about the whole thing. He tells West Coast Sound he's looking forward to their performance this week at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with a slightly modified lineup they've dubbed Melvins Lite.
Their cross-country romp is certainly impressive, regardless of whether Thorogood did it first. In fact, it inspires the question: How can they top it? "Death," Osborne quips. "We're going to kill ourselves. Actually, what we want to do next year is 52 shows, one show per week for the whole year. It will be the longest, slowest tour of the U.S."
The Melvins Lite play Hollywood Forever Cemetery tonight
Follow Jason Roche on Twitter @JasonRocheLAW.
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