Growing up in Ireland, Ricky Warwick was drawn to the music of Dublin rockers Thin Lizzy.
He is now getting the chance to sing the songs of the late Phil Lynott in a newly-formed version of Thin Lizzy, which is kicking off a U.S. tour at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Thursday, March 24.
Thin Lizzy is best known on this side of the Atlantic for its 1976 album "Jailbreak," which contains its biggest hit, "The Boys Are Back in Town," which reached number 12 on the Billboard Singles chart that year.
That album also featured other Lizzy standards such as "Cowboy Song," "Emerald," and the title track.
Thin Lizzy was famous for Lynott, its charismatic singer, bassist and chief songwriter, and its trademark twin lead guitar sound.
Lizzy had a revolving door line-up of guitarists over the years, usually pairing Scott Gorham with Brian Robertson, Gary Moore, Snowy White or John Sykes.
The band continued to release albums following "Jailbreak," including its signature concert recording "Live and Dangerous" (1978), as well as the studio albums "Johnny the Fox" (1976), "Bad Reputation" (1977), "Black Rose: A Rock Legend" (1979), "Chinatown" (1980), "Renegade" (1981) and "Thunder and Lightning" (1983) before breaking up in 1984.
Lynott passed away in 1986 at the age of 36. Since then, there have been various incarnations of Thin Lizzy through the years.
The current line-up came together in 2010 and includes Lynott-era Lizzy members Gorham on guitar, Brian Downey on drums and Darren Wharton on keyboards, as well as Warwick, who has served as frontman for the U.K. band The Almighty, on lead vocals, Def Leppard's Vivian Campbell on guitar and Marco Mendoza (who has played with Ted Nugent and Whitesnake) on bass.
Warwick related how he came on board.
"I've known Scott Gorham for a long time," he said in a phone interview. "(Def Leppard lead singer) Joe Elliott suggested it to him, so Scott called me up out of the blue in February of last year and asked me if I wanted in. It took me all of a millisecond to say yes.
"Thin Lizzy was one of my all-time favorite bands. Everything that they were about was what I was into as a kid, so this is a dream come true for me. As a kid, you dream of being in your favorite band some day, so I am very honored and very, very proud to be singing these great songs."
Warwick isn't the only long-time Lizzy fan in the line-up.
"Viv grew up learning to play those great solos," noted Warwick. "That double guitar sound is iconic, and Viv and Scott just sound great together."
The new Lizzy played its first live show in the U.K on January 6, and Warwick said the response was remarkable.
"It's been absolutely amazing," he related. "The tour was a sellout. People are digging this line-up, and it's been overwhelming and fantastic. We're very happy."
Ironically, while the band has a new lease on life, one of its alumni, Gary Moore, died on Feb. 6.
"That happened out of the blue, and it is just awfully sad," said Warwick. "Nobody expected it. We were playing a show in Vienna and were waiting for the soundcheck when Brian came down and broke the news to us. We were in shock. Gary was a real talent, and this is a great loss."
The loss of Lynott, who fronted the band and was a major part of its identity, is something any version of Lizzy must deal with, and Warwick is well aware of that.
"Phil is unique, and he is irreplaceable," he stressed."He is a one-off, one of the true rockers of the world. I can't even dream of trying to step into his shoes. All I can do is stand aside of them.
"I want to take these Phil songs and deliver them with intensity and passion as he did, but at the end of the day it's Ricky Warwick singing them. The biggest insult to Phil's fans would be a clone from a tribute band. We plan to pay tribute to Phil's songs, but it is me singing them. Any other way would be disrespectful to Phil."
The new version of Lizzy has received the blessing from members of Lynott's family, according to Warwick.
"Phil's widow and daughter came to one show and were blown away, and his mother, Philomena, came to the show in Dublin and said it was fantastic and that Phil would have been pleased."
The band currently has a repertoire of 25-30 Lizzy songs to choose from for its setlists.
"Some songs, like "Boys," "Cowboy Song" and "Emerald" have to be in there, because people need to hear them, but there is such a rich amount of material that we do songs like "Wild One" that haven't been done for awhile. We mix it up every night to keep it interesting," mentioned Warwick.
"The band is really tight, and we have great chemistry. We all get along well with each other, and we hope we can keep it going."
Warwick said its members are committed to continuing the legacy of Thin Lizzy.
"We'll be doing shows into next year and beyond," revealed Warwick. "We want to reestablish the band, and it is at the forefront of everyone's priorities."
Thin Lizzy will perform at Penn's Peak on Thursday, March 24. Doors open at 6 p.m with showtime at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 for regular reserved seating and $32 for premium reserved seating. Tickets are available online at www.ticketmaster.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, including Boscov's and Gallery of Sound, and at the Penn's Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant. Call (866) 605-PEAK for more information.