By Brian M. Howle
For most music fans under the age of, say, 30 or so, chances are that their knowledge of one of the most-played songs on television and movie soundtracks consists of one tune above all others: “Bad to the Bone” … especially if they ever watched “Married with Children” on anything remotely approaching a regular basis. So for all you kids, listen up: There are more songs from the artist who made it part of your life’s soundtrack, and you’re going to love them all.
And better than that, you can see and hear that artist perform them – in person, no less – as George Thorogood and The Destroyers bring their brand of Delaware rock to House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Friday, March 19, 2010.
Here’s a little history of good ol’, hard rockin’ George from Wikipedia and Rolling Stone:
George Thorogood was born on February 24, 1950 and was raised in Naamans Gardens, a neighborhood in suburban Wilmington, Delaware, where his father worked for DuPont. He graduated from Brandywine High School in 1968, and played semi-professional baseball (on a team in Delaware in the Roberto Clemente League which was created in 1976; he was the second baseman and was chosen rookie of the year in the league), but turned toward music after seeing John P. Hammond perform in 1970.
As a blues rock performer from Wilmington, Delaware, Thorogood is universally known for his hit song “Bad to the Bone” as well as for covers of blues standards such as Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” and John Lee Hooker’s “House Rent Boogie/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”. Another favorite, in which Thorogood displays his impressive guitar skills, is a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” George Thorogood and the [Delaware] Destroyers have released 16 studio albums, including five that have been certified Gold. The band is credited with the early success of Rounder Records.
The band currently consists of George Thorogood – lead vocals and guitar; Billy Blough – bass guitar (1977–present); Jeff Simon – drums, percussion (1974–present); Buddy Leach – saxophone (2003–present); and Jim Suhler – rhythm guitar (1999–present).
Thorogood’s demo, Better Than the Rest, was recorded in 1974 and released in 1979. In 1976 he recorded his debut album: the eponymous George Thorogood & The Destroyers with his band, The Destroyers (sometimes known as The Delaware Destroyers or simply GT and D) and issued the album in 1977. Thorogood released his next album titled Move It On Over in 1978 with The Destroyers, which included the Hank Williams remake “Move It On Over”. “Please Set a Date” and their remake of the Bo Diddley song “Who Do You Love?” both followed in 1979.
George and the Delaware Destroyers were friends with Jimmy Thackery and the Nighthawks. While touring in the 1970s, the Destroyers and the Nighthawks happened to be playing shows in Georgetown (DC) at venues across the street from each other. The Destroyers were engaged at The Cellar Door and the Nighthawks at Desperados. At midnight, by prior arrangement, while both bands played Elmore James’ “Madison Blues” in the key of E, Thorogood and Thackery left their clubs, met in the middle of M Street, exchanged guitar cables and went on to play with the opposite band.
Though songs like “Move It On Over” and “Bad to the Bone” have established Thorogood as one of the preeminent jukebox heroes, he seems to take a certain pride in being a musical underdog for his thirty years, a badge after playing some lean years. Despite multiple of waves of boogie rock bands from the Allmans to ZZ Top, Thorogood and the Destroyers were regular players for more than several years before they landed their first record deal. “The timing was tough, because by the time we came around white guys playing the blues thing was going out,” he says. “Duane Allman passed away, Savoy Brown got dysfunctional and Canned Heat died one by one. By the time we got there, the stuff was outdated. I was pretty discouraged — I was not the person you’d wanna hang around with in those days. I saw Petty and Springsteen and Mellencamp, and they were all getting their shot and I wasn’t. I thought, ‘I can boogie as good as those cats.’ But it just wasn’t happening. I was just stuck in those dives.”
By 1977, Thorogood had signed with Rounder and released George Thorogood and the Destroyers. “I just wanted to do something that was my own,” he says. “I’m like [Tom] Waits in that I’m not a singer singer — he kinda growls it out there. But I thought this sound was unique to get noticed. Anbody can be a great guitar player. I gave that up years ago. I was never going to compete with Duane Allman or Ry Cooder or those cats. I just thought, ‘What you gotta do is get a tune, kid.’ We just kept plugging away and ‘that tune’ got on the radio.”
‘That tune’ is the collection’s centerpiece is Thorogood’s iconic rave up of the John Lee Hooker standard, “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” removed from the bluesman’s laid-back cool and injected with eight-minutes of guitar petrol. “It was a struggle to get a record company behind that tune,” Thorogood says. “But I held onto that song for years knowing it was the song that was going to break us. I knew it was a hit, because the first time I saw John Lee Hooker play it, people were dancing. Usually with the blues guys, nobody danced — they sat and watched, I guess out of respect, but it felt like church. But people were dancing to that song, and you know what stuck in my mind? They were all women. I thought, ‘That song’s a hit. And I better grab it before Tom Waits or Dean Martin does.’”
Thorogood gained his first mainstream exposure as a support act for the Rolling Stones during their 1981 U.S. tour. He also was the featured musical guest on Saturday Night Live (Season 8, Episode 2) on the October 2, 1982 broadcast. During this time, George and the Destroyers also became known for their rigorous schedule, including playing in 50 states in 50 days. After two shows in Boulder, Colorado, George and his band flew to Hawaii for one show and then performed a show in Alaska on the following night. The next day the band flew to Washington State, met their roadies who had their Checker car and a truck, and continued a one show per state tour for all fifty states in exactly fifty nights. In addition, they played Washington, DC on the same day that they performed a show in Maryland.
This increased visibility occurred as Thorogood’s contract with Rounder Records expired. He signed with EMI America Records and in 1982 released his best-known song, “Bad to the Bone”, and an album of the same name. The song has been used frequently in television and the big screen, including Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the comedy Problem Child, Stephen King’s Christine, and many episodes of the television sitcom Married with Children. This track also was used during the intro to the movie Major Payne. The same song is also featured in the game Rock ‘n Roll Racing. It is also played during football pregame festivities at Mississippi State University. Quincy Jones once said to Thorogood, “The three things important in a record is the tune, tune, and the tune”.
As mentioned earlier, Thorogood has been a huge baseball fan for most (if not all) of his life, as well as playing semi-pro baseball as a second baseman during the 1970s (drummer Jeff Simon played center field on the same team), when asked about his rigorous touring schedule – specifically his “50/50” Tour (50 states in 50 days) – his immediate response was “Well, it was in the off-season. So, it was nothing. Didn’t have to miss a single game”.
He took his daughter to Chicago for her first major league game (Cubs vs. Rockies), during which he sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. With obvious excitement in his voice, he said, “I told her, ‘You’ll see a stadium where Babe Ruth called his shot, Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run, and Milt Pappas threw a no-hitter!’”
Testament to Thorogood’s vision is that the songs that form the core of 30 Years of Rock — the aforementioned singles along with “If You Don’t Start Drinkin’ (I’m Gonna Leave),” “I Drink Alone,” “Gear Jammer,” “You Talk too Much” and “Get a Haircut” — never broke into the pop Top Forty, despite their enduring popularity. And Thorogood’s fan base fairly loyally sought out the long-players (four records broke into the Top Forty between 1979 and 1988).
So get a taste of loud, frenetic rock with lots and lots of killer slide guitar work at House Of Blues at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, SC, as George Thorogood and The Destroyers bring their hard drivin’ rock to town on Friday, March 19, 2010. Doors open 7:30 p.m. For info call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit http://www.livenation.com .
This article also appears in the February 11, 2010 issues of Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine (Page 25); and also online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com