George Thorogood

George Thorogood occupies a unique space in the history of blues. To my knowledge, he may be the only rocker to not only record and tour but also alternate as a semi-professional baseball player. This was in the ’70’s at the height of his popularity, don’t know if he’s still doing it. (He’s a NY Mets fan.)

Thorogood started out as a solo performer in the ’70’s and went on to form a band with some high school friends who called themselves the Delaware Destroyers. (George is from Wilmington.) The band became known for their incredibly high-energy blues-rock fests, largely consisting of jacked-up versions of old blues tunes.

George traveled the blues circuit in the ’70’s and was friends with Jimmy Thackery of the Nighthawks. One night in D.C, per Wikipedia, “At midnight, by prior arrangement, while both bands played Elmore James’ “Madison Blues, Thorogood and Thackery left their clubs, met in the middle of M Street, exchanged guitar patch cords and went on to play with the opposite band in the other club.” It was that kinda scene.

Famously, George signed up with Rounder Records, a Massachusetts-based label founded by three college friends who had a love of folk, old country, and bluegrass music. (Since moved to Nashville.) I recall at the time that some accused Rounder of selling out as the Destroyers could not have been further from their stated genre. Their defense, if you will, is that George was trafficking in blues which fit their label.

“We’d released a few blues records, mainly field recordings, but George was as electrifying on stage back then as he is now,” says Rounder Music Group Vice President of A&R Scott Billington. “It was the same time that punk rock was becoming popular, and it was the right time for someone to come along with a true back-to-basics approach.

George was so passionate about the music he played and the musicians he respected so much, whether it was John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed or Hank Williams. Like the British Invasion before, he brought these songs to new audiences and made them come alive in a whole new way.”

Whatever the reason, George made Rounder and Rounder made George. Recorded in 1977 in Boston, where George and band were then located, the Destroyers hit the ground running with their eponymous debut album.

Radio back then was a mix of punk, disco, and bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Relatively speaking, blues was nowhere. But George put it back on the map and his cover of John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” was an FM staple. George combined it with another Hooker song, “House Rent Boogie.”

Spotify link

I tell you George was HOT back then. We saw him play at the now-defunct Harvard Square Theater one fine night. (Same place where Jon Landau a few years prior said he’d seen the future of rock and roll and his name was Bruce Springsteen.) The guy puts on a Springsteen-level show, not necessarily in terms of duration but every bit his equal in energy and showmanship. The two best live performers I think I’ve ever seen.

In a never-to-be-repeated situation, as we were leaving the show that night long ago, some guy working there said, “Hey I have some tickets for the second show. Want ’em?” So we bought them and went right back in and danced on the seats for another hour and a half. If I did that today I’d need a respirator, a nurse and a box of Wheaties.

Like AC/DC, George has two speeds – fast and faster. Hard and harder. Here’s George and company updating Hank Willams’ “Move It On Over.” To quote the Stones he is live’r than you’ll ever be:

Spotify link

In fact, George was fishing in the same pond as the British rockers and so it wasn’t too long before he came to the attention of the Stones. The Stones have (mostly) always had good instincts in who to have as their opening act and in 1981, brought the Destroyers on their US tour.

I didn’t go to this show for some stupid reason but I recall it being broadcast on pay-per-view and going over to some guy’s house to party and watch it. In that same year, George did his 50/50 tour, fifty cities in fifty days. And lived to tell about it.

If Lonesome George has a signature song it’s one he wrote called, “Bad to the Bone.” Let Thorogood tell the story: “I wrote that song for Muddy Waters. I thought it was perfect for him. I’m bad to the bone? What could be better for Muddy? But he passed on it, so I gave it to Bo Diddley. He didn’t record it because he didn’t have a deal with a label at the time.

Finally I recorded it myself, and eventually, it turned into what it’s become. But you don’t think I would have loved to have one of those do it? I never saw it as a song for me. As for how successful it became, well, I don’t know why. I mean, there was no “Terminator 2” when I wrote it. Hell, there wasn’t even a “Terminator 1!” (Also used in Steven King’s Christine.)

I make a rich woman beg, I’ll make a good woman steal
I’ll make an old woman blush, and make a young woman squeal
I wanna be yours pretty baby, yours and yours alone
I’m here to tell ya honey, that I’m bad to the bone

Spotify link

George Thorogood, at the ripe old age of 67 is still out there on the road. According to his website, he’s hittin’ the road in the spring from Rhode Island up to the Great White North. I haven’t seen him in years but I think I might catch him this time. Hell, if he can stand up there and do it for a couple of hours, I guess I can boogie like it’s 1999.

Oh, one more thing. Can he do Chuck Berry? Please. “It Wasn’t Me.” Play loud for maximum impact:

Spotify link

 

 

 

 

20 thoughts on “George Thorogood

  1. Fifty cities in fifty days?? Holy Telecaster, Batman. I saw Thorogood in 1984… on the street. A friend and I were visiting famous Maxwell Street in Chicago, watching this old blues guy wail on the corner. George was standing about 10 feet from us. Black t-shirt, sunglasses, big toothy smile. We thought about talking to him, but decided it would be uncool. One of these days I’ll have to see him again (with a guitar around his neck).

    Like

    1. Yeah, I’d forgotten about the 50 city thing till I was reminded of it in Wikipedia. Don’t know how he did it or for that matter, why. That’s a good story about Chicago. I dunno. I might just have gone up to him.

      Like

  2. Absolutely bang on Doc. As far as I was concerned he was part of a bunch of bands at the time that got back to playing the kind of rock n roll, boogie, blues that was counter balance to all the other stuff that wasn’t doing it for CB (there was some really nasty shit playing back them). I wore out his first two albums and seen him at the time he released them. Great live like you said. Hank Williams pops up again and great version of ‘It Wasn’t Me’. Now this is no bull shit music!

    Like

      1. I remember the first time I saw him. It was a small venue and he had the place dripping with sweat and people going nuts, Up the street Rod Stewart was doing the ‘Do You Think I’m sexy” thing in a big venue. George said “Lets head over there and shake things up” i was with him. That kind of sums up where CB was musically at the time.

        Like

        1. You said it in your piece on what radio was like back then. The bands you mentioned were not on my radar (I think we’ve been down the Fleetwood Mac thing before) Rod did some good stuff but that wasn’t it. George (and others) at this time were dishing out some real goooood stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like the perfect music to experience live and loud! While I’m familiar with the man’s name, I hardly am with his music. I know the first two tunes you highlighted. I wasn’t aware of the other two tracks, which both sound great. Cool stuff!

    Like

    1. The man is a tried and true rocker with on pretense toward progressing in any way, shape or form. He is rooted in that blues-rock stuff and he kicks major ass. I promise you if you go see him you will not be disappointed.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Just listened to Thorogood’s 1986’s live album – makes for great background music to shovel snow, which I must have done twice as fast as it normally would have taken me!

        Coz, you know, I spent all my money on rock & roll shows, so don’t have no money for a snow blower – hey, almost could be a theme for a blues tune! 🙂

        I think your comparison to Springsteen’s energy level is well taken. Plus, Thorogood’s kick ass sax player, who I understand at the time was a guy called Hank “Hurricane” Carter, reminds me a bit of the great Clarence Clemons. Great stuff!

        Like

  4. Another little side note to tie George and your Nighthawks post together. When Thorogood played at Live Aid his bassist couldn’t make the show and the original bassist “Jan Zukowski” from The Hawks played bass for him. There was something about a broken foot either Jan played with it or the Delaware Destroyer bassist couldn’t play because of it. Great post I remember “One Scotch” was all over the radio and we would turn that bad boy up to maximum volume every time it came on.

    Like

    1. I didn’t know that about the Hawks bassist at Live Aid. Good Intel, thanks. I meant to mention Live Aid in my post, forgot. That show was, as you know, a Very Big Deal. “One Scotch” actually inspired this post as I heard it on the radio and said, Damn, why haven’t I done Thorogood yet?

      Liked by 1 person

What would you say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s